Do what is best for users, not for the search engine algorithms.
What do Pandas, Penguins and Hummingbirds have in common other than perhaps sharing residence at your local zoo? If you answered, “they are all important Google algorithm-related terms for digital marketers to understand,” give yourself a gold star.
Google Panda and Google Penguin were a series of Google algorithm updates first introduced in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Google Hummingbird was a new search algorithm announced in September 2013. While each of these updates and new algorithm had an important impact on search engine optimization (SEO), digital marketers have to be careful not to put too much emphasis on them.
When developing and executing an SEO strategy, it is important to be conscious of these algorithms and updates, but digital marketers run into problems when they make SEO decisions solely based on what they believe will produce high-ranking results based on the algorithm. There may be a temptation to “beat the system” to move yourself up in the SERPS (search engine results pages), but search engines like Google recognize the tactics people use to try to “beat” their algorithms and are quick to make updates to combat against them.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some do’s and don’ts when it comes to SEO best practices and user experience:
Don’t: Stuff keywords into metadata and content just to “rank” or create keyword-filled content in hidden colors that a user can’t see
Do: Create awesome content—not just for the sake of filling in keywords—that people want to read and share
Yes, keyword research is an important part of creating content. You want to write about what people are searching for and answer common questions they have. But throwing in keywords just for the sake of boosting your rankings will create content that is unnatural and unappealing to readers. Include relevant keywords, but only when it makes sense to use them.
Don’t: Pay for links to inflate your domain authority or promote and share your content on any old site just to get noticed
Do: Develop a sustainable link-building strategy and follow link-building outreach best practices to generate inbound links from high-quality websites
When it comes to inbound links, quality is better than quantity. Don’t accept a guest-posting offer from the first site that comes your way. Whenever any opportunity arises, make sure to evaluate the site to determine its quality. If it looks questionable or seems spammy, it’s best to just say “thanks but no thanks.” Paying for links is also frowned upon by major search engines like Google. If you’re interested in learning more about what constitutes paid links, check out this video from Matt Cutts, Google’s head of Webspam.
Don’t: Generate content that is overly sales-y, unhelpful, irrelevant or only appealing to you
Do: Create consumable content geared toward your target audience
When creating any kind of content for your website, be sure to avoid common content marketing pitfalls like making assumptions about your target audience and producing content that is too esoteric. Whenever you generate a new content piece, ask yourself “what value does this provide to my target audience?” Your content should inform and educate your audience. There is a time and place for more promotional content, but be sure to pick your spots carefully.
4. Duplicate Content
Don’t: Take content from somewhere else and try to pass it off as your own or duplicate your own content on multiple pages (or multiple websites if you own them)
Do: Create content that is your own original work and be sure to properly cite any outside sources you use
Duplicating content from somewhere else will not only cause you to get penalized by search engines, it’s just plain wrong. The content you create should be your own thoughts, not something that is plagiarized. Sometimes, you may write content that unintentionally sounds like something you may have read or seen elsewhere. If you’re unsure about something—or alternatively, if you think something you’ve created is being improperly used by someone else—Copyscape is a great duplicate content detection tool you can utilize.
While duplicating your own original content across multiple pages is not plagiarism, it is still something you want to avoid because it may confuse search engines as to which is the most important page to show.
5. Web Design
Don’t: Design a website without taking user experience into account
Do: Design a website that does what you want, but also gives your visitors what they want
Your visitors want a website that looks good, loads fast and is easy to use no matter the device on which they are viewing it. You want a website that is SEO-friendly, presents your company well and generates leads and customers. Your website should be the perfect marriage of the two. For example, don’t create a bunch of subpages or menu options just for the sake of incorporating multiple keywords. This will overwhelm your visitors and make your site difficult to navigate. You want your important and relevant content to be above the fold, but don’t overdo it.
What are some of your challenges when it comes to balancing SEO and user experience? What other SEO tips and tactics have worked well for you? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
If you have any further questions about these SEO tips or would like to learn more about developing your SEO strategy, don’t hesitate to contact us today to speak to an experienced digital marketing advisor.