How SEO will change in 2021: Top 6 SEO trends to follow

Google makes hundreds of changes to its search algorithms every year. While most changes are minor and won’t have a significant impact on a site’s organic search performance, we have seen several changes and updates that are likely to affect how we plan, implement, and report on campaigns in the upcoming 2021 and beyond. 

In this blog, we have taken a look at these recent changes in the SEO landscape and explained how you can best respond to them in your future campaigns.

What is in store for SEO in 2021

Google December 2020 Core Update to weed out low-quality YMYL content

On December 3rd, 2020 Google rolled out the December 2020 core update, creating a 7-month gap for website owners who were negatively impacted by the May 2020 core update to attempt to recover their traffic and rankings.

This latest core update is a classic “broad core update” that Google releases every few months or so, and like all core updates, it was global and was not specific to any region, language or category of websites.

In the short-term, the timing of the update is likely to cause some devastating disruptions to certain businesses that make a lot of their sales right before the Christmas holidays. Also, early analysis shows major visibility drops and ranking volatility in Desktop search for health, real estate, travel, finance, law and government websites; and in mobile search for health, law and government, jobs and education, pets & animals, and real estate websites. 

In addition, the most striking aspects of this update appear to be the dramatic reversal in visibility amongst several of the best-performing websites in 2020 such as Amazon, Pinterest, CDC, Overstock, CNN, New York Times, and other sites that greatly benefitted due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Pinterest decline in visibility after the December 2020 Core Update: 

Image courtesy to Path Interactive

Amazon decline in visibility after the December 2020 Core Update: 

Image courtesy to Path Interactive

So what does this mean for you? 

While it is still very early to make concrete conclusions on how this update will impact businesses in the long-run, one thing is clear – high-quality content that fulfills Google’s E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) principle will be key in reversing the negative impact of this update and getting back in Google’s good graces.

This principle is especially relevant to business niches that fall under the “your money, your life” (YMYL) label, such as health care, law, and finance. As we highlighted above, these are precisely the industry categories that seem to be the most affected by Google’s latest core update at this stage.

According to Google’s Rater Guidelines, YMYL is a page or topic that gives advice to help people make an important decision or that “could potentially impact a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety”. 

In other words, the stakes are high for this type of content as they can affect a person’s livelihood. When people turn to search engines, they’re looking for the best person to give them an answer that they can trust. 

This means not only do you have to showcase your knowledge, but you also need to back it up with evidence. This is especially important for YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) pages in particular, as we stressed above. 

To give more authority to what you are saying, you need to show the expert behind it; Google’s Rater Guidelines state explicitly:

“The reputation and E-A-T of the creators of the MC [main content] is extremely important when a website has different authors or content creators on different pages.”

Below is an example of a low-quality page where the writer does not have enough expertise and/or the website is not trustworthy in relation to the topic at hand. 

They mention that “There is no evidence that the author has financial expertise.”However, since this is a YMYL topic, the author must have expertise in order to get a high-quality rating. 

In stark contrast, this page on the same topic is considered to deserve a high-quality rating:

The page comes from an authoritative site in the financial sector, the article has a satisfying amount of high-quality main content on the topic at hand, and the author has proven expertise in the field as evident from his profile description. 

To sum it up, this means that going into 2021, pages containing YMYL content will need to have specialised expertise behind them to ensure they send the right kind of quality signals to Google. 

And while you can’t optimise for E-A-T because it is not an algorithm, you can implement the following few changes to help expand your reach and authority in the eyes of your users as well as in the search algorithms of Google: 

  • Gather positive reviews on various online platforms
  • Backlink to and from authoritative sources
  • Get mentions on forums and other authoritative websites 
  • Include author names & biographies for all editorial content: for blog posts, this means that information about the author needs to be available in order to evaluate whether they are a suitable expert for the topic at hand.
  • Invest in Personal Branding through social media marketing to develop a positive reputation in your industry, connect with your online audience, and earn third-party endorsements.
  • Edit/Remove low E-A-T Content

E-A-T Success Story: Medical site sees great gains after beefing up author E-A-T

This business is a UK-based specialist private health care provider. The client came to us after a strong hit connected with a Google quality update in 2017. When we began working together, their website was between development cycles and was not E-A-T or YMYL-friendly. 

Most of the changes that we recommended centered around E-A-T:

  • Adding author profiles to each of their posts. Each profile boasted about the author’s E-A-T and provided information on specialist areas, credentials, qualifications, awards, etc. 
  • Developing high-quality backlinks from authority sites in the health field towards the homepage and other key pages. 
  • Rebuilding the site’s content hierarchy to improve navigation and overall site architecture. 
  • Trimming out/optimising thin content that was not compliant with Google’s guidelines, and providing content templates to ensure all new content was E-A-T and YMYL-friendly. 
  • Implementing Medical / Doctor Schema.
  • Taking advantage of any internal linking opportunities. 

As a result, the client saw a significant uplift in organic traffic of 170% just within the first year of our partnership; since then their organic traffic has almost quadrupled, leading to massive improvements in their visibility and other KPIs. 

Voice search will impact search queries

Current statistics show that in 2020, more than half of all smartphone users will engage with voice technology on their device. Moreover, the percentage of households predicted to own a smart speaker by 2022 is 55%. This suggests an enormous rise in voice search, as well as increased adoption of smart speakers.

Therefore, as voice search becomes increasingly popular, and connected devices keep adding and enhancing voice-enabled functions; marketers will have to regularly fine-tune their SEO strategy to optimise for voice search moving forward. 

A good place to start from is by creating voice search FAQ pages. Why? Firstly, because a good chunk of voice searches are long, question-based queries. Also, a Backlinko survey found that Google prefers short, concise, and easy-to-read answers to voice search queries, with the typical voice search result being only 29 words in length.

FAQ pages check both of these boxes. That’s probably why voice search results are 1.7x more likely to come from an FAQ page compared to desktop results.

For example, if you do a voice search for “How do home insurance claims work?”, this is the result that comes up:

It appears that the source of this answer comes from this FAQ page:

This is just one of the many ways you can optimise your site for voice search queries. Here are a few more ideas: 

  • use natural or conversational language when writing content: with improved and reliable voice recognition systems, voice technology is well adapted to follow everyday language use. 
  • implement long-tail keywords because spoken language usually isn’t as concise as the written word, and you would need longer keyword phrases in order to secure a conversion. 
  • Use question words: start some paragraphs with questions, using “what”, “how”, “why”, “when”, as these words are more frequently used when users perform voice searches;
  • Local information for your brand should be provided to meet the increased search volume for local businesses with voice. 

Featured snippets will become more prominent

Featured snippets, which were rolled out in 2017, provide a brief summary of an answer to a search query and are usually displayed in a special box at the top of the SERP result, above paid and organic content.

While featured snippets have been around for a few years now, they have been gaining more prominence lately since Google has started taking users directly to the answer. Instead of loading the webpage as normal, some browsers would now automatically scroll to the section of the webpage from which the content was taken, highlighting the text in bright yellow.

Although it is very useful and convenient for internet users, it is also detrimental to websites whose content does not make it to Google’s featured snippets. Data shows that around 55% of website clicks from Google’s search results pages come from featured snippets.

So if you’re able to get your content in the featured snippet, you can give your organic click-through-rate a serious boost. Furthermore, appearing in featured snippets can be extremely helpful for voice search SEO. According to a recent survey, 40.7% of all voice search results came from a featured snippet. 

With all this in mind, it is, therefore, crucial to know how you can make it so that your website stands a better chance of appearing as a SERP feature going forward. 

How to optimise for SERP features: 

Most importantly, you would want to use words that are likely to generate featured snippets.  A study by the STAT Search Analytics team revealed queries (grouped based on common themes) that returned snippets more often.

Queries with high featured snippet occurrence

In the same study, results also revealed words that were less likely to rank in the snippets.

Queries with low featured snippet occurrence

Other strategies you can work on include: 

  • Know the keywords your readers are using to ask questions (typically, inquiries that fall into the “how does”, “how to”, “how do”, “what is” categories). 
  • Work to provide the best answer possible: answer users’ questions in a brief form by breaking down each step in your answer and using visual content to back it up such as videos, infographics, and screenshots.
  • Use schema markup and tag your products with schema alerts to optimise for rich snippets and make your site more appealing in SERP;
  • Use Q-and-A pages featuring all relevant questions, where each is well-formatted with a complete answer.

Google my Business will play a larger role in local search listings

According to Safari Digital, 46% of all searches in Google have local intent. In addition to that, more than a billion people use Google Maps every month, and many of them do that to find businesses nearby, check their ratings, read customers’ reviews, find their contact information, and so on. 

The pandemic has only served to accelerate these trends as people are searching for local businesses more actively, making Google My Business (GMB) a crucial part of any local search optimisation strategy. Without a well-optimised GMB listing, your chances of appearing in Google features like the Local Pack and Maps are going to be slim. 

So, what does an optimised Google My Business profile look like? Before we get into our recommendations, let’s see what an optimised Business Profile looks like and versus an example of an incomplete and unoptimised one.

Here, the Tc.Dc Autos Car Wash Google Business Profile is a short box, but the Glasgow Apple store’s Business Profile would show even more when you scroll. When you compare the two, you can clearly see how much more attractive and engaging the optimised listing is, and that it definitely succeeds at building trust with the customers. Below you can find some useful tips on how you can achieve this for your own business as well. 

How to optimise for Google My Business: 

Once you have created a Google account, claimed your business, and verified it and its location, you should do the following:

  • Set up users with proper access to your account.
  • Optimise your business information (name, address, phone, opening hours, categories, etc.) and make sure to edit it as soon as changes happen. 
  • Add high-quality images, videos, and virtual tours.
  • Add products, services or menu as appropriate.
  • Write a complete, informative description;
  • Pre-populate Q&A on your listing.
  • Consider enabling Google Assistant and / or direct messaging.
  • Consider enabling Reserve with Google if appropriate.
  • Encourage, monitor and respond to reviews.
  • Check and update your listing regularly.
  • Get support for GMB questions, problems or suspensions.

Under-Optimised GMB Leaves Millions in Revenue on the Table 

The local team at Boyd Digital helped generate millions in real estate agency fees via GMB phone calls, while working on a project for Countrywide PLC.  

The project mainly focused on:

  • Creating and tracking hundreds of local branch Google My Business profiles to ramp up visibility.
  • Fully optimising all GMB accounts by populating them with clear and accurate business descriptions, location and contact information, and opening hours. (all of this appeared on Google Maps searches, allowing customers to quickly discover and contact the company).
  • Encouraging customers to share their experience via reviews and ratings. 

As a result, we were able to push competitors out of the Local Pack and increase Countrywide’s  incremental sales. 

If you have multiple business units and want to be best in your service areas, our local SEO team can help position your business to attract potential customers, increase your local authority and ultimately, grow your revenue. For more information, make sure to drop us a line in the form below.

Outstanding User Experience will become crucial to SEO

Along with high-quality content – which has been in the centre of the spotlight with every major Google update so far, you will also need great user experience (UX) in order to compete for the first positions in SERPs in 2021. 

But why is UX so important? Well, it has been proven that even a 1-second delay in page load time can result in a massive loss for your business. In fact, Web FX stats show that “89% of consumers shop with a competitor after a poor website user experience”. The same study also tells us that “75% of website credibility comes from website design.” 

In other words, no matter how good your content is, none of that matters if your web page doesn’t load quickly or if it has a complex user interface.

For the past few years Google has been moving away from solely ranking for search terms and is now seeking to provide users with the most relevant information that best answers their queries. 

The introduction of RankBrain in 2015 was a significant step towards rolling out UX elements into SEO practices. RankBrain is driven by behaviour metrics, including pages per session, bounce rate, dwell time, and organic CTR. Essentially, these metrics inform Google whether you provide a good UX, and as a consequence, your ranking will either improve or worsen. 

Furthermore, in 2019, Google rolled out mobile-first indexing, meaning the search engine looks primarily at the mobile version of a website, considering this the “primary” version instead of the desktop version. Having in mind that “72% of internet users will access the web solely via their smartphones by 2025”, this change makes a lot of sense.

We now also know that Google is set to launch another major update in May 2021 which is going to be geared towards providing more user-focused and user-friendly results by improving the UX on a particular page. When the Page Experience update goes live, Google said it will test various ways to display a “visual indicator” in the search results that will inform a searcher if a specific search result is expected to have a great experience. 

Page experience is made up of several existing Google search ranking factors called Core Web Vitals. The Core Web Vitals are user-centered metrics that give scores on aspects of your pages including load time, interactivity, and the stability of content as it loads. As a result, the websites at the top of SERP will be much better from a technical perspective in the future.

In a nutshell, it is clear that optimising for quality user experience will be key to the long-term success of any website in the future. 

What you can do about it 

We know that Google’s May 2021 core update will combine Core Web Vitals metrics with Google’s existing signals to determine the quality of UX a certain page provides.

This means that downloading the “Web Vitals” Chrome extension would be a good idea. The extension is very easy to use and it provides instant feedback on loading, interactivity and layout shift metrics.

In addition to this, you also shouldn’t forget to regularly check how quickly your webpages load through Google PageSpeed Insights. The tool will provide you with information about your site’s performance for desktop and mobile devices and show you useful tips on improving it.

Media-rich content will become even more popular

Following on from the rise of video optimisation for web and video marketing, media-rich content such as video and imagery (either photography or infographic-style images) will play a significant role in SERPs in 2021. 

According to a Forrester Research, video is 50 times more likely to show up on the first page of SERP than a web page with plain text. If it’s not enough, 62% of Google universal searches include video.

In general, videos are also believed to increase the time users spend on your website before bouncing out (dwell time), which is a key UX element and also an important metric that offers a great insight into the satisfaction of the web searcher. We expect search engines to place more crucial value on dwell time in 2021. 

How to use media-rich content in your SEO strategy: 

Adding product videos is perhaps the most common way that online retailers utilise video in their SEO strategy to increase conversions. According to Invodo, 52% of consumers say that watching product videos makes them feel more confident about going ahead and making a purchase.

This can be especially true for big-ticket purchases such as the Shark vacuum cleaner above, where the sleek product video serves to reassure the customer of the quality and value of the product. 

When it comes to service-focused businesses, explainer videos can be very effective in increasing conversions. For example, Dropbox found that they increased their conversion rate by over 10% by adding this video to their homepage. With their homepage receiving over 750,000 visitors a month, this means that the video helped to increase signups by several thousand every day and no doubt generated a huge ROI. 

Here are a few ways you can start using video and imagery in your own SEO strategy: 

  • Use high-quality, relevant images on your website. 
  • Add alt tags to your images and customise the file name, labeling the photo file so that it’s relevant to the content on the corresponding page. 
  • Add images to your site map, where they are even easier to crawl. 
  • Create a business YouTube channel and post videos regularly because YouTube recommends videos from active content makers. 
  • Design videos with a specific goal in mind and don’t forget to include Calls-to-Action. 
  • Embed videos on your website. 
  • Create high-quality thumbnails to encourage people to click on your videos.
  • Add key information for SEO: target keywords in the tags, links, description, and title to make it easier for users to find your content.
  • Analyse your performance, and plan future content. 

Don’t Let Your Video Work Go to Waste

With over 30 million regular daily users, YouTube is the world’s largest video hosting platform and also, the world’s second biggest search engine after Google. Using YouTube for your business can help you appear in Google top SERPs, increase your audience, drive traffic to your website, and help your business be found by people who are searching for your services. 

However, in order to see any results, your videos must be optimised. 

Here at Boyd Digital, our SEO experts make sure your lovingly created video content generates the conversions, traffic and views it deserves. 

We are experienced at safely integrating large video libraries with your websites while applying the relevant Schema and ensuring site speed is not affected. By combining the right video content with our advanced search engine optimisation practices, we can drive millions of Channel views and a constant stream of click-throughs. 

Conclusion

To sum it up, trends are changing day by day. This means that you can’t just optimise your website once and stay on top of SERP forever. SEO is an on-going process that requires a lot of effort and regular improvements. 

So, as we move towards 2021, make sure you go through this checklist:

  • Prioritise high-quality content by applying Google’s E-A-T principle where appropriate. 
  • Take advantage of existing SERP features by optimising your content. 
  • Optimise your site for voice search. 
  • Create a Google My Business account if you have a local company with a physical location and make sure to update it regularly. 
  • Measure your website’s user experience by using the new Core Web Vitals metrics.
  • Incorporate media-rich content into your SEO strategy. 

Though it may not be an overnight change, it is essential to start working on your SEO now, so your website will have better chances to rank higher in the upcoming year.

If you’d like support in responding to Google’s latest updates and SEO changes, our team can help you prepare an effective SEO strategy for 2021 that addresses your business’ unique needs.

For more information, please contact our team through the form below!

Effective SEO Budgets That Deliver

 At Boyd Digital we listen.

We understand there is no one-size-fits-all approach to setting effective SEO strategies, that’s why we focus on understanding our client’s needs and expectations from the beginning to help us devise bespoke strategies that are highly effective Read more

The Guide to SEO Quick Wins

 

A thorough SEO audit of a site will cover all aspects that could be optimised and improved and can take a considerable time to implement. If you have the time and money you can really improve your site and in turn it’s positions in Google when your target audience is searching. However, if you are looking to get a couple of quick wins to boost your traffic we may have the answer for you here. Read more

17 of the Best SEO Chrome Extensions

As specialists in search engine optimisation we use a wide range of tools to help us complete our daily tasks as efficiently as possible. There are a wide range of SEO tools available to marketers, some good, some great and many not so good.

In this blog post I will share with you my top 17 SEO extensions for Google chrome. The extensions listed below are in no particular order – I find it impossible to compare one against the other, as they all do something spectacular and are all very useful in their own way.

Read more

The Generation Game: Making Better Content

Google a phrase like ‘sharing content’, ‘make content be heard’, ‘share your voice’ etc. and you will be treated to wonderful stock images of children holding up megaphones, people shouting in fields without megaphones and lots of animated people holding up megaphones too. It’s what people like to envision every time they create and share content. The harsh reality though is that when you do create content, in most cases your megaphone will be a kazoo that will only be heard within a vacuum i.e. its won’t be very noticeable. Read more

Looking For Keywords In All The Wrong Places

Urban Cookie Collective once majestically said ‘I’ve got the key/I’ve got the secret/ I’ve got the key to another way/ Ah ah ah ah’. Now while that last beautifully crafted harmonic line might not be that relevant when we’re talking about keywords, the rest of the lyrics make for a great brief in describing how to better look for potential keywords. Read more

What You Should Know About SEO: Part 2

So earlier this morning I told you 5 key things you should know about SEO but were too afraid to ask. Not knowing the general in’s and outs of structuring a site in such a way to make it as user friendly as possible doesn’t mean you have to be an internet genius, you just have to know what to look at.  Read more

What You Should Know About SEO: Part 1

You’ve just redecorated the living room. You invite everyone round to have a look. They all say it’s great. One person though notices that the big expensive picture you have hanging up isn’t hanging straight, your sofa is facing the wrong way and a plug socket would be better set five inches to the left. Welcome to the mind of a digital marketer who has just come across your site for the first time. Read more

Your site’s midyear checkup

Running a business online can be extremely time consuming, and the rapid rate of change can often mean flitting from one new idea to the next without ever taking the time to review your older content.

Every once in a while it’s worth taking the time to step back and review the work you’ve done recently, looking for any possible improvements to your site which will help improve the overall user experience.

Read more

77 Best and Worst Practices in SEO

List of Best and Worst practices for designing a high traffic website

Here is a checklist of the factors that affect your rankings with Google, Bing, Yahoo! and the other search engines. The list contains positive, negative and neutral factors because all of them exist. Most of the factors in the checklist apply mainly to Google and partially to Bing, Yahoo! and all the other search engines of lesser importance. If you need more information on particular sections of the checklist, you may want to read our SEO tutorial, which gives more detailed explanations of Keywords, Links, Metatags, Visual Extras, etc.

Keywords
1Keywords in <title> tagThis is one of the most important places to have a keyword because what is written inside the <title> tag shows in search results as your page title. The title tag must be short (6 or 7 words at most) and the the keyword must be near the beginning.+3
2Keywords in URLKeywords in URLs help a lot – e.g. – http://domainname.com/seo-services.html, where “SEO services” is the keyword phrase you attempt to rank well for. But if you don’t have the keywords in other parts of the document, don’t rely on having them in the URL.+3
3Keyword density in document textAnother very important factor you need to check. 3-7 {262b22605905d7bdadc9d0423a4a46028d1c16e5c2069f052c9de36584b442a6} for major keywords is best, 1-2 for minor. Keyword density of over 10{262b22605905d7bdadc9d0423a4a46028d1c16e5c2069f052c9de36584b442a6} is suspicious and looks more like keyword stuffing, than a naturally written text.+3
4Keywords in anchor textAlso very important, especially for the anchor text of inbound links, because if you have the keyword in the anchor text in a link from another site, this is regarded as getting a vote from this site not only about your site in general, but about the keyword in particular.+3
5Keywords in headings (<H1>, <H2>, etc. tags)One more place where keywords count a lot. But beware that your page has actual text about the particular keyword.+3
6Keywords in the beginning of a documentAlso counts, though not as much as anchor text, title tag or headings. However, have in mind that the beginning of a document does not necessarily mean the first paragraph – for instance if you use tables, the first paragraph of text might be in the second half of the table.+2
7Keywords in <alt> tagsSpiders don’t read images but they do read their textual descriptions in the <alt> tag, so if you have images on your page, fill in the <alt> tag with some keywords about them.+2
8Keywords in metatagsLess and less important, especially for Google. Yahoo! and Bing still rely on them, so if you are optimizing for Yahoo! or Bing, fill these tags properly. In any case, filling these tags properly will not hurt, so do it.+1
9Keyword proximityKeyword proximity measures how close in the text the keywords are. It is best if they are immediately one after the other (e.g. “dog food”), with no other words between them. For instance, if you have “dog” in the first paragraph and “food” in the third paragraph, this also counts but not as much as having the phrase “dog food” without any other words in between. Keyword proximity is applicable for keyword phrases that consist of 2 or more words.+1
10Keyword phrasesIn addition to keywords, you can optimize for keyword phrases that consist of several words – e.g. “SEO services”. It is best when the keyword phrases you optimize for are popular ones, so you can get a lot of exact matches of the search string but sometimes it makes sense to optimize for 2 or 3 separate keywords (“SEO” and “services”) than for one phrase that might occasionally get an exact match.+1
11Secondary keywordsOptimizing for secondary keywords can be a golden mine because when everybody else is optimizing for the most popular keywords, there will be less competition (and probably more hits) for pages that are optimized for the minor words. For instance, “real estate new jersey” might have thousand times less hits than “real estate” only but if you are operating in New Jersey, you will get less but considerably better targeted traffic.+1
12Keyword stemmingFor English this is not so much of a factor because words that stem from the same root (e.g. dog, dogs, doggy, etc.) are considered related and if you have “dog” on your page, you will get hits for “dogs” and “doggy” as well, but for other languages keywords stemming could be an issue because different words that stem from the same root are considered as not related and you might need to optimize for all of them.+1
13SynonymsOptimizing for synonyms of the target keywords, in addition to the main keywords. This is good for sites in English, for which search engines are smart enough to use synonyms as well, when ranking sites but for many other languages synonyms are not taken into account, when calculating rankings and relevancy.+1
14Keyword MistypesSpelling errors are very frequent and if you know that your target keywords have popular misspellings or alternative spellings (i.e. Christmas and Xmas), you might be tempted to optimize for them. Yes, this might get you some more traffic but having spelling mistakes on your site does not make a good impression, so you’d better don’t do it, or do it only in the metatags.0
15Keyword dilutionWhen you are optimizing for an excessive amount of keywords, especially unrelated ones, this will affect the performance of all your keywords and even the major ones will be lost (diluted) in the text.-2
16Keyword stuffingAny artificially inflated keyword density (10{262b22605905d7bdadc9d0423a4a46028d1c16e5c2069f052c9de36584b442a6} and over) is keyword stuffing and you risk getting banned from search engines.-3
Links – internal, inbound, outbound
17Anchor text of inbound linksAs discussed in the Keywords section, this is one of the most important factors for good rankings. It is best if you have a keyword in the anchor text but even if you don’t, it is still OK. However, don’t use the same anchor text all the time because this is also penalized by Google. Try to use synonyms, keyword stemming, or simply the name of your site instead+3
18Origin of inbound linksBesides the anchor text, it is important if the site that links to you is a reputable one or not. Generally sites with greater Google PR are considered reputable. Links from poor sites and link farms can do real harm to you, so avoid them at all costs.+3
19Links from similar sitesGenerally the more, the better. But the reputation of the sites that link to you is more important than their number. Also important is their anchor text (and its diversity), the lack/presence of keyword(s) in it, the link age, etc.+3
20Links from .edu and .gov sitesThese links are precious because .edu and .gov sites are more reputable than .com. .biz, .info, etc. domains. Additionally, such links are hard to obtain.+3
21Number of backlinksGenerally the more, the better. But the reputation of the sites that link to you is more important than their number. Also important is their anchor text, is there a keyword in it, how old are they, etc.+3
22Anchor text of internal linksThis also matters, though not as much as the anchor text of inbound links.+2
23Around-the-anchor textThe text that is immediately before and after the anchor text also matters because it further indicates the relevance of the link – i.e. if the link is artificial or it naturally flows in the text.+2
24Age of inbound linksThe older, the better. Getting many new links in a short time suggests buying them.+2
25Links from directoriesCould work, though it strongly depends on which directories. Being listed in DMOZ, Yahoo Directory and similar directories is a great boost for your ranking but having tons of links from PR0 directories is useless or even harmful because it can even be regarded as link spamming, if you have hundreds or thousands of such links.+2
26Number of outgoing links on the page that links to youThe fewer, the better for you because this way your link looks more important.+1
27Named anchorsNamed anchors (the target place of internal links) are useful for internal navigation but are also useful for SEO because you stress additionally that a particular page, paragraph or text is important. In the code, named anchors look like this: <A href= “#dogs”>Read about dogs</A> and “#dogs” is the named anchor.+1
28IP address of inbound linkGoogle denies that they discriminate against links that come from the same IP address or C class of addresses, so for Google the IP address can be considered neutral to the weight of inbound links. However, Bing and Yahoo! may discard links from the same IPs or IP classes, so it is always better to get links from different IPs.+1
29Inbound links from link farms and other suspicious sitesPresumably, this does not affect you, provided the links are not reciprocal. The idea is that it is beyond your control to define what a link farm links to, so you don’t get penalized when such sites link to you because this is not your fault. However, some recent changes to the Google algorithm suggest the opposite. This is why, you must always stay away from link farms and other suspicious sites or if you see they link to you, contact their webmaster and ask the link to be removed.0
30Many outgoing linksGoogle does not like pages that consists mainly of links, so you’d better keep them under 100 per page. Having many outgoing links does not get you any benefits in terms of ranking and could even make your situation worse.-1
31Excessive linking, link spammingIt is bad for your rankings, when you have many links to/from the same sites (even if it is not a cross- linking scheme or links to bad neighbors) because it suggests link buying or at least spamming. In the best case only some of the links are taken into account for SEO rankings.-1
32Outbound links to link farms and other suspicious sitesUnlike inbound links from link farms and other suspicious sites, outbound links to bad neighbors can drown you. You need periodically to check the status of the sites you link to because sometimes good sites become bad neighbors and vice versa.-3
33Cross-linkingCross-linking occurs when site A links to site B, site B links to site C and site C links back to site A. This is the simplest example but more complex schemes are possible. Cross-linking looks like disguised reciprocal link trading and is penalized.-3
34Single pixel linkswhen you have a link that is a pixel or so wide it is invisible for humans, so nobody will click on it and it is obvious that this link is an attempt to manipulate search engines.-3
Metatags
35<Description> metatagMetatags are becoming less and less important but if there are metatags that still matter, these are the <description> and <keywords> ones. Use the <Description> metatag to write the description of your site. Besides the fact that metatags still rock on Bing and Yahoo!, the <Description> metatag has one more advantage – it sometimes pops in the description of your site in search results.+1
36<Keywords> metatagThe <Keywords> metatag also matters, though as all metatags it gets almost no attention from Google and some attention from Bing and Yahoo! Keep the metatag reasonably long – 10 to 20 keywords at most. Don’t stuff the <Keywords> tag with keywords that you don’t have on the page, this is bad for your rankings.+1
37<Language> metatagIf your site is language-specific, don’t leave this tag empty. Search engines have more sophisticated ways of determining the language of a page than relying on the <language>metatag but they still consider it.+1
38<Refresh> metatagThe <Refresh> metatag is one way to redirect visitors from your site to another. Only do it if you have recently migrated your site to a new domain and you need to temporarily redirect visitors. When used for a long time, the <refresh> metatag is regarded as unethical practice and this can hurt your ratings. In any case, redirecting through 301 is much better.-1
Content
39Unique contentHaving more content (relevant content, which is different from the content on other sites both in wording and topics) is a real boost for your site’s rankings.+3
40Frequency of content changeFrequent changes are favored. It is great when you constantly add new content but it is not so great when you only make small updates to existing content.+3
41Keywords font sizeWhen a keyword in the document text is in a larger font size in comparison to other on-page text, this makes it more noticeable, so therefore it is more important than the rest of the text. The same applies to headings (<h1>, <h2>, etc.), which generally are in larger font size than the rest of the text.+2
42Keywords formattingBold and italic are another way to emphasize important words and phrases. However, use bold, italic and larger font sizes within reason because otherwise you might achieve just the opposite effect.+2
43Age of documentRecent documents (or at least regularly updated ones) are favored.+2
44File sizeGenerally long pages (i.e. 1,500-2,000 words or more) are not favored, or at least you can achieve better rankings if you have 3 short (500-1,000 words) rather than 1 long page on a given topic, so split long pages into multiple smaller ones. On the other hand, pages with 100-200 words of text or less are also disliked by Google.+1
45Content separationFrom a marketing point of view content separation (based on IP, browser type, etc.) might be great but for SEO it is bad because when you have one URL and differing content, search engines get confused what the actual content of the page is.-2
46Poor coding and designSearch engines say that they do not want poorly designed and coded sites, though there are hardly sites that are banned because of messy code or ugly images but when the design and/or coding of a site is poor, the site might not be indexable at all, so in this sense poor code and design can harm you a lot.-2
47Illegal ContentUsing other people’s copyrighted content without their permission or using content that promotes legal violations can get you kicked out of search engines.-3
48Invisible textThis is a black hat SEO practice and when spiders discover that you have text specially for them but not for humans, don’t be surprised by the penalty.-3
49CloakingCloaking is another illegal technique, which partially involves content separation because spiders see one page (highly-optimized, of course), and everybody else is presented with another version of the same page.-3
50Doorway pagesCreating pages that aim to trick spiders that your site is a highly-relevant one when it is not, is another way to get the kick from search engines.-3
51Duplicate contentWhen you have the same content on several pages on the site, this will not make your site look larger because the duplicate content penalty kicks in. To a lesser degree duplicate content applies to pages that reside on other sites but obviously these cases are not always banned – i.e. article directories or mirror sites do exist and prosper.-3
Visual Extras and SEO
52JavaScriptIf used wisely, it will not hurt. But if your main content is displayed through JavaScript, this makes it more difficult for spiders to follow and if JavaScript code is a mess and spiders can’t follow it, this will definitely hurt your ratings.0
53Images in textHaving a text-only site is so boring but having many images and no text is a SEO sin. Always provide in the <alt> tag a meaningful description of an image but don’t stuff it with keywords or irrelevant information.0
54Podcasts and videosPodcasts and videos are becoming more and more popular but as with all non-textual goodies, search engines can’t read them, so if you don’t have the tapescript of the podcast or the video, it is as if the podcast or movie is not there because it will not be indexed by search engines.0
55Images instead of text linksUsing images instead of text links is bad, especially when you don’t fill in the <alt> tag. But even if you fill in the <alt> tag, it is not the same as having a bold, underlined, 16-pt. link, so use images for navigation only if this is really vital for the graphic layout of your site.-1
56FramesFrames are very, very bad for SEO. Avoid using them unless really necessary.-2
57FlashSpiders don’t index the content of Flash movies, so if you use Flash on your site, don’t forget to give it an alternative textual description.-2
58A Flash home pageFortunately this epidemic disease seems to have come to an end. Having a Flash home page (and sometimes whole sections of your site) and no HTML version, is a SEO suicide.-3
Domains, URLs, Web Mastery
59Keyword-rich URLs and filenamesA very important factor, especially for Yahoo! and Bing.+3
60Site AccessibilityAnother fundamental issue, which that is often neglected. If the site (or separate pages) is unaccessible because of broken links, 404 errors, password-protected areas and other similar reasons, then the site simply can’t be indexed.+3
61SitemapIt is great to have a complete and up-to-date sitemap, spiders love it, no matter if it is a plain old HTML sitemap or the special Google sitemap format.+2
62Site sizeSpiders love large sites, so generally it is the bigger, the better. However, big sites become user-unfriendly and difficult to navigate, so sometimes it makes sense to separate a big site into a couple of smaller ones. On the other hand, there are hardly sites that are penalized because they are 10,000+ pages, so don’t split your size in pieces only because it is getting larger and larger.+2
63Site ageSimilarly to wine, older sites are respected more. The idea is that an old, established site is more trustworthy (they have been around and are here to stay) than a new site that has just poped up and might soon disappear.+2
64Site themeIt is not only keywords in URLs and on page that matter. The site theme is even more important for good ranking because when the site fits into one theme, this boosts the rankings of all its pages that are related to this theme.+2
65File Location on SiteFile location is important and files that are located in the root directory or near it tend to rank better than files that are buried 5 or more levels below.+1
66Domains versus subdomains, separate domainsHaving a separate domain is better – i.e. instead of having blablabla.blogspot.com, register a separate blablabla.com domain.+1
67Top-level domains (TLDs)Not all TLDs are equal. There are TLDs that are better than others. For instance, the most popular TLD – .com – is much better than .ws, .biz, or .info domains but (all equal) nothing beats an old .edu or .org domain.+1
68Hyphens in URLsHyphens between the words in an URL increase readability and help with SEO rankings. This applies both to hyphens in domain names and in the rest of the URL.+1
69URL lengthGenerally doesn’t matter but if it is a very long URL-s, this starts to look spammy, so avoid having more than 10 words in the URL (3 or 4 for the domain name itself and 6 or 7 for the rest of address is acceptable).0
70IP addressCould matter only for shared hosting or when a site is hosted with a free hosting provider, when the IP or the whole C-class of IP addresses is blacklisted due to spamming or other illegal practices.0
71Adsense will boost your rankingAdsense is not related in any way to SEO ranking. Google will definitely not give you a ranking bonus because of hosting Adsense ads. Adsense might boost your income but this has nothing to do with your search rankings.0
72Adwords will boost your rankingSimilarly to Adsense, Adwords has nothing to do with your search rankings. Adwords will bring more traffic to your site but this will not affect your rankings in whatsoever way.0
73Hosting downtimeHosting downtime is directly related to accessibility because if a site is frequently down, it can’t be indexed. But in practice this is a factor only if your hosting provider is really unreliable and has less than 97-98{262b22605905d7bdadc9d0423a4a46028d1c16e5c2069f052c9de36584b442a6} uptime. Try using a reputed hosting provider such as Hostgator for hosting.-1
74Dynamic URLsSpiders prefer static URLs, though you will see many dynamic pages on top positions. Long dynamic URLs (over 100 characters) are really bad and in any case you’d better use a tool to rewrite dynamic URLs in something more human- and SEO-friendly.-1
75Session IDsThis is even worse than dynamic URLs. Don’t use session IDs for information that you’d like to be indexed by spiders.-2
76Bans in robots.txtIf indexing of a considerable portion of the site is banned, this is likely to affect the nonbanned part as well because spiders will come less frequently to a “noindex” site.-2
77Redirects (301 and 302)When not applied properly, redirects can hurt a lot – the target page might not open, or worse – a redirect can be regarded as a black hat technique, when the visitor is immediately taken to a different page.-3

 

Keyword Conundrums & Confusion

One of the most important factors for determining how well your website will perform online is through the keywords you want to use for it. Here at Boyd Digital we’re all about getting businesses to perform well online when we carry out thorough analysis in to which keywords would get the best results for their company. Read more

The Power of Title Tags – Onsite SEO Tips

Bart Simpson Learns About Title Tags

In this new and exciting series of onsite SEO tips we are going to educate wannabe SEO rock stars on how Google weigh the various onsite ranking factors in a short and easy to digest manner.

If you are an intermediate SEO specialist don’t worry, we will be providing you with hints and tips on the more technical side of SEO at a later date set in the not too distant future. For now we are going to focus on helping the new generation.

Why Google?

The reason we are focusing on Google and not Bing and Yahoo is simple, Google control the lion’s search market share in all English speaking countries, until that changes any search engine marketer worth their salt will be focusing on ranking websites in Google.

Ranking Signals

It’s well documented in the industry Google have over 200 ranking signals in their algorithm. In my opinion it must be climbing closer to the 300 mark as Google add more weight to social signals and schema formats. Anyhow, that hypothesis can wait for another day.

The Title Tag

Title tags are one of the 200+ ranking signals in Google’s algorithm and is the single most important piece of ‘on page’ information on a page, providing all the other elements are in place.

What the title tag does and should do

Your title tag will define to users, and search engines, what the page will talk about. It provides the link within search engines to pages. As such it must relate to the appropriate keywords and also help to inform readers of what the page contains.

Title tag length

Google displays title tags in their search engine results pages and should be formatted to fit. If your title tag is too long Google will truncate it. Google determines the length of title tags by pixels but you don’t need to worry about that, as a rule of thumb keep your title tags under 70 characters and you should be fine.

Keywords in title tags

Search engines also consider the title tag element to be the most important place to identify keywords. Rankings are heavily influenced by keyword usage in the title tag.

Google also passes more weight to keywords placed at the beginning of title tags. Best practice is to place one or two generic keyword phrases followed by your brand or website name.

Google best handles segmenting keyword phrases present in title tags by use of a pipe or a hyphen between keywords.

How a title tag should look

Good title tag example
As you can see the title tag above is short sweet and handsome and gives a clear indication to Google and users what the content will be about should they decide to click through to the page via search results.

How a title tag should not looktitle tag note

Poor title tag example
The example above amuses me. The chap who wrote the article titled ‘Title Tag Best Practices‘ fails to optimise his own title tag. He even mentions in his article:

Length: Title tags should be a maximum of 70 characters long, including spaces.

Yet his own title tag is 140 characters in length???

This is definitely a good example of what not to do.

Keynotes

  • Keep tag under 70 characters in length
  • Place important traffic driving keywords to beginning of tag
  • Keep keyword usage to two keyword phrases
  • Place brand or website name to the end of title tag
  • Segment keyword phrases by pipe or hyphen

So that’s it ladies, gentleman and future SEO rock stars. Keep your title tags short, crisp and lean and your title tags will be picked up with enthusiasm by the Google gods.

Should you need further assistance in optimisation title tags or have questions don’t hesitate to get in touch or leave a comment below.

Drop us a line!