Search Engine Optimization – Keep It Credible
I’ve written quite a bit about search engine optimization, or SEO, as it is commonly known. Search engine optimization is the tweaking of your site’s settings and your content to ensure that the search engines know what your content is about. Why would you want to do that? If your site is about dog training, you likely want people searching for dog training information in Google or Bing to find your site. Good search engine optimization practices will ensure that the search engines are aware that your content covers that topic so they can rank your site and send traffic your way.
While it’s possible to overemphasize search engine optimization, some SEO is necessary. The days when you could just stuff keywords into your page a few dozen times to hammer home the point are gone; it’s now necessary to gently persuade the search engines regarding your content. It is possible to over do it, though, and you have to realize that there are some boundaries regarding what the search engines are going to regard as credible.
Keeping Search Engine Optimization Real
Before I get into the details about what constitutes overdoing it, I’ll give a brief reminder of what basic search engine optimization can entail.
- Head tags – Try to use your intended keyword or phrase within head tags (H1, H2, H3) at least once on your page.
- Emphasis – Try to use your keyword or phrase at least once on each page in bold, underlined, and italicized text.
- Image attributes – Try to use your keyword or phrase at least once on the page within the ALT attribute of an image or graphic
- Links – Try to use your intended keyword or phrase at least once each within a text link to another page on your site and to another Website.
- Content – Your keyword or phrase should comprise 2%-5% of the text on the page.
This is basic search engine optimization, and if you do this, and do nothing else, you’ll likely give the search engines some idea of what your page is about. While search engines are capable of examining the text content of a site, they’re not yet capable of understanding written text, so it helps to use the suggestions above to make it perfectly clear what your page, post, or article is about. By using the keyword or phrase a number of times on the page, including it in headlines and in emphasized text, the search engines will get the point.
Of course, you can overdo it, and many people have tried that. Using a word in 25% of your text, or in dozens of links, or emphasizing the term in bold or italics every time you use it, is likely to suggest to the search engines that you’re working too hard on your search engine optimization and that you’re trying to “game” the system. People have tried to overdo SEO since the early days of the Internet and while it used to work, the search engines have gotten smarter.
Bing and Google are looking for content that will help their site visitors and they’re looking for good content that is really about what the page claims to be about, rather than one that’s simply trying to give the appearance of being about that topic for the purpose of making money online. Sometimes there’s a fine line between the two, but you should always err on the side of caution when you’re engaging in search engine optimization. And that’s what brings me to the point of this post, which is avoiding trying to overextend yourself.
In my experience, the best results in terms of overall site SEO comes from trying to build one site about one topic and building what’s known as an “authority site.” These are sites with a lot of content on one single topic or a couple of closely related topics. If you create a site with hundreds of blog posts about dog training, each of the posts will help reinforce the others with the search engines, giving Bing and Google a good idea about what your site is about as a whole. Sometimes, however, people try to stray outside of those guidelines or try to make a site that’s about a lot of things.
It’s harder to get a site that’s about a number of disparate topics to rank in the search engines, even if each of the pages, posts or articles has proper search engine optimization employed. In a recent online discussion, Gary Illyes of Google basically stated just that – you’re unlikely to get a page on your site ranked in Google for a particular term if your site as a whole doesn’t have quality content for that term.
That means that if you have a site that’s about dog training, you’re unlikely to be able to rank a single page in Google that you’ve built to promote a CPA offer for car insurance. This might seem obvious, and if you are building an authority site for a particular topic, you might not be inclined to even attempt that. But other people might be looking for a quick way to make money or might be attempting to create a site that simply promotes a number of unrelated products over a number of pages. If you do that, you’re unlikely to see good results in the Google SERPS.
On a related topic having to do with search engine optimization, someone recently asked Google rep John Mueller about linking to external sites and whether it helps with SEO. The basic answer was “not really.” So why do most people (including me) recommend that you include a link to an external site when optimizing a site for the search engines?
Because it looks natural. People who create content without a financial motivation often include links to other related sites with information on the topic. When you engage in search engine optimization, you really are sort of artificially tweaking the site’s content, so it helps to make that content look a bit more natural to the search engines. Plus, adding a link to related content might actually help your site visitors, and that’s part of why you’re building a site, right?
Search Engine Optimization Summary
When you engage in search engine optimization on a page, keep in mind that it needs to work within the flow of your site’s overall content. When you’re working on SEO, you need to think about your site in its entirety in addition to optimizing your individual pages. In the end, it’s more important that Google and Bing know what your site is about than it is to know what your page is about.