3 things you probably did not know about SEO

By: Ilkka Mäkinen | Published: 16 June, 2016 | In: SEO

What are the key things you need to know about search engine optimization? Learn how to get ahead in search engines, know the rules of the game and which common mistakes you'll want to avoid.

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Modifying title tags and meta descriptions in WordPress with Yoast SEO.

We all want to be on the first page of Google but a place there has to be earned. There are over 200 factors Google uses to rank websites but the most important factors it wants you to focus on are:

  • serving unique quality content on your site, written for people instead of search engines
  • number of backlinks that are relevant to your domain and resources on your website

Most people seem to be oblivious to what serving quality content actually means.

You can create the best possible static pages (eg. home page, products pages, services pages, about us page and so on) with exemplary high quality content that is engaging and useful, all targeting the perfect keywords, but it will not be enough anymore. This is because just serving static content  is not enough to get into the game anymore.

This takes us to my first point.

1. On-site optimizing static content will get you only so far

For those who are not familiar with search engine optimization, it consists of two dimensions:

  1. On-site SEO, which is about making sure your site is talking about the relevant topics to your niche and meets the requirements of Google and other search engines, like having quickly loading content that is accessible with all devices.
  2. Off-site SEO, which basically means getting quality links to your domain from other websites, which will grow your site’s ranking and visibility in search results.

While on-site search engine optimizing can significantly improve your chances in getting a better position in Google, it’s no golden ticket to the top of search results.

The truth is, those days are long gone when you could boost your search engine rankings with just targeting the right keywords in your static pages.

Yeah, the position at the top with brand-related keywords can come easy (meaning when people search something including your brand name), but it’s significantly more difficult to reach the audience who do not know anything about you or what you are all about.

We can do on-site SEO like crazy but that alone will most likely never land us in the top 10 with searches unrelated to our brand.

Why is that?

Well the main message from Google is that it wants to serve the best content available instead of pages targeted to the right keywords.

In the past, people doing SEO knew very well how to manipulate search results to their advantage with game of keywords and link building. This resulted often in having low quality content, even complete rubbish at the top of the search results.

Obviously Google has learned a lot from this.

After Hummingbird and RankBrain updates, Google has powerful capabilities to analyse your content and how people interact with it. To figure out who is serving the best content, Google is looking at things like the click through rate (CTR) in search results, dwell time on page and the share of users returning to search after visiting a page. If a lot of people quickly return to searching, it’s a clear indicator of content that is not serving to the goal of the search.

The fact that there's already so much content on every niche makes it difficult to convince Google to make changes in search results. You have to provide something better than your competition to gradually convince Google to make those changes. And you have to have a lot of it. This takes us to my second point.


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2. Active publishers get more organic search traffic

Today the only way to grow organic search traffic significantly is creating new content regularly, and as it happens, covering the topics in your niche is the single most effective SEO technique.

Success will follow content that is:

  • Helpful: solving your visitors’ immediate problems, pain points or questions right there on site
  • Informative: educating your visitors so they feel they gain something valuable
  • Interesting: something that is of real interest to your visitors
  • Entertaining: content that triggers emotions can be a powerful way to grow your audience

Don’t know where to start?

You are the expert of you products and services. People don’t know your stuff like you do. There are always possibilities, even in "boring" niches. You can write about

  • how to use your products and services or whatever it is you are offering
  • your unique benefits
  • the pain points you can solve
  • what your clients say about you, their experiences and thoughts
  • how regulation changes might affect people in your niche
  • things that display your expertise in your niche

This is also known as content marketing. The word marketing has a bad rep with some people, but it’s not really about selling anything, it’s about being useful.

It's also worth noting that per dollar spent, content marketing generates more than three times the number of leads than paid search does.

But just pushing out content without clear target audience or topic is not the best strategy. Even with the semantic capabilities Google has today, you'll want target relevant keywords to make sure you reach your target audiences.

When you do start publishing, what often happens is the following:

  • Strangers become followers: more first time visitors will return to your site also in the future when you have provided them something valuable
  • Followers become promoters: followers will start sharing and talking about your content elsewhere
  • More potential clients: followers and on promoters have higher chances turning into your clients when the need for your services arises

This is a very cost effective way to grow your traffic as all of those articles you create will generate traffic long after the publishing date. Hubspot has noted, that 76% of their blog page views is generated by old content.

But note that results will not be showing immediately. Depending on the competition in your niche, it might take from a few months to a year until you start seeing significant results.

Growing organic traffic and search rankings take time and a lot of work, so don’t expect things to change immediately after a few posts. Patience will be rewarded abundantly, as search engines, and especially Google, truly can make or break kings.

3. Breaking the rules will hurt your search engine rankings

Last, as a reminder, I'd like to point out the few rules everyone needs to remember so they don’t go hurting their search engine rankings. Google will punish you for things such as:

  1. Keyword stuffing: Stuffing pages with keywords means to Google that you are trying to game the system.
  2. Masking: letting search engines to believe your page is about something else than it actually is. For example: using brand names of your competitors to drive people to your site
  3. Hiding content: showing something to search engines and hiding that content from actual visitors
  4. Bad quality links from spammy or black hat websites. Bad quality links can really hurt your rankings.

It is also worth noting that meta keywords tag has not been supported for years due to widespread abuse back in the days. So there really is no point in adding tons of comma separated keywords to a meta keywords tag.

That is it for this article, to wrap it up, the most effective thing for growing organic search traffic is to create as much quality content about the topics you represent as you possibly can. The more the better.

Before heading off, I'd like to take the opportunity to mention that if you are interested in learning more about SEO with hands-on approach, feel free to check out our SEO course. We also cover SEO with WordPress on our WordPress basic course and on the WordPress Advanced course.

Until next time!

By: Ilkka Mäkinen | Published: 16 June, 2016 | In: SEO

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