SEO presentation for Podcamp TO 2015 – How I rank #1 for “Search Marketing Expert” on Google
My name is Mike Allan, I am a search marketing expert. But don’t take my word for it. If you Google “search marketing expert”, the blog post I wrote about becoming a self taught search marketing expert ranks #1 on Google’s natural or organic search results.
How did I get to the number one spot for search marketing expert, which you would think would be occupied by a big name agency or one of the rockstars of the SEO world? Simple. I followed the same philosophy and techniques since I started working in search back in 1998.
My philosophy on search (or as most people still call it SEO) is that the purpose of search is to match User Intent with compelling content that is findable, crawlable and indexable.
What do I mean by User Intent?
Everyone user who sits down in front of Google, Bing or Yahoo is there to have a question answered, a problem solved or to find a product or service to fill a need. That is User Intent. If your content can answer a question, solve a problem or fill a need then you are matching their intent with your content. It’s really that simple.
Where it gets tricky is in making your site findable, crawlable and indexable. Search engines need to find your site, so you need to make sure you have some basic tools in place. These basic tools are a robots.txt file and a sitemap. You also need to register your site with Google Webmaster Tools (Bing has a set of WMT as well, but Google still owns 80++% of the market). By registering with the search engines you are pretty much guaranteed they will find your site and crawl it.
This takes me to my second point – making your site crawlable. It is not only important to have a site map, which is essentially a road map for the Google crawler, but you need to make sure your internal linking structure makes it easy for the crawler to do its job. A clean optimized URL structure is important, i.e. make sure your pages and posts have relevant names, i.e. video-production.html vs page-2.html. With WordPress this is relatively easy, but still an important component of SEO.
Finally, make your site indexable. This means meta data! Meta data is what the vast majority of people think of when they think of SEO and it is important, but as you can see it is but a piece of the pie. Search engines use meta data to find your site, so insure your meta data such as title tags, descriptions, H1 tags and image ALT attributes meet SEO best practices. SEO best practices is the under the hood stuff which makes SEO tick.
8 basic rules
Here are the same 8 basic principles I have followed since the late 90’s. The Google algorithm has over 200 factors, and like the Colonel’s secret recipe, no one person knows all 200 of them or even a fraction of them. It doesn’t matter because by the time you would have decoded all 200 factors, Google would have changed a vast majority of them anyway, as last year they made over 500 changes to the algorithm. But by following these 8 basic rules since day one back in 97 I have consistently achieved a first place ranking on Google for a far reaching array of keyword phrases. “Search marketing expert” is my most coveted though!
I realized there were 8 basic rules from my readings and studying highly ranked sites:
1. Name the page filename with the main topic of the page
2. Give the page a title using the topic keywords which corresponds with the filename
3. Briefly describe what the page is about and use the topic keywords in the description a couple of times at least,
4. Use the keyword meta tag to tell the search engines what topic keywords they should look for
5. If the topic is really important, putting the topic keywords in headlines is a good idea
6. To emphasize what the topic is, it’s OK to bold the first couple of times used on the page
7. Use the topic keyword liberally throughout the content but don’t saturate the page with it.
8. When linking to the page, use the topic keyword in the anchor text.
Let’s examine these in detail.
1. Name the page filename with the main topic of the page – the filename also becomes the URL for the page. It’s important to use the topic in the page as it helps guide the robots/spiders/crawlers in knowing what the page is about. This forms the base for your SEO efforts.
2. Give the page a title using the topic keywords which corresponds with the filename – the title tag is one of the most important signals you can send the search engines. Place your core keyword as close to the front of the tag as you can. Leave any branding messages, if you have them to the tail of the tag. You are now restricted to 55-57 characters, but the reality is that Google bases their displays of title tags not on character counts but on pixel width. I use a web based tool called SEO MoFo to insure I am staying within pixel counts.
SEO MoFo is a cool tool in that you can create a simulated SERP result. When I provide clients with my recommendations I always take a screen shot of the simulated SERP result, that way the clients can see what it may look like.
3. Briefly describe what the page is about and use the topic keywords in the description a couple of times at least – providing a description is recommended, but a word of warning. Google in particular may not use your description. They may craft a description based on the search query.
#4 is not a viable technique today. The search engines started ignoring the keyword tag a number of years ago after unscrupulous SEOs stuffed keywords into it as well as wrote copy that was unreadable to a human as they tried to cram as many keywords into a page as possible. Then there was the hidden keywords, but that’s a story for a session on Black Hat SEO.
5. If the topic is really important, putting the topic keywords in headlines is a good idea
Today we call these Header tags and they are just as important today as they were then. What a header tag does is draw a users eyes to a section of the page, similar to what headlines do in newspapers. The search engines figure that if you are highlighting the section with a headline it must be important, so they give extra points to properly used headers.
6. To emphasize what the topic is, it’s OK to bold the first couple of times used on the page. I’ve actually stopped using this technique and still been able to achieve and maintain a number one position. This made the page look over optimized. That was a factor that Google introduced a few years back. They started penalizing sites that looked optimized. They want organic or natural search to look as natural as possible.
7. Use the topic keyword liberally throughout the content but don’t saturate the page with it. Once upon a time there was something called “keyword density”. The myth says the ideal keyword density was somewhere in the range of 7 -10%.
10%. Think about it, for every 100 words, 7-10 of them would be your keyword phrase! The copy would be completely unreadable to a human user. So the search engines in their wisdom slayed the keyword density dragon and all the SEOs lived happily ever after.
8. When linking to the page, use the topic keyword in the anchor text. This makes a lot of sense. If you are providing a link to a page, it makes sense to provide the user with an idea of what the page is going to be about. This also cuts down on the “Click Here” links, of which the last time I searched there was 2.5 BILLION links.
One more point about links. Google values inbound links as a vote of confidence in your site. In years gone by this meant that unscrupulous SEOs would flood link farms, directories etc. with links to their site. Today Google still values links to a certain extent, but they have cut down dramatically on meaningless links. If you are going to do link building, which I don’t recommend, then try and stay with VERTICAL directories as every other directory is now poisonous. Links today need to be more natural, and this means you need again to make compelling content that people will want to link to.
So what type of compelling content am I talking about? On newmediamike the posts which generate the most traffic are the posts which fulfill User Intent.
Who is 760-750-8888 and why are they calling me? – Answers the question posed. It is a detailed account of where the number is coming from and what to expect. The user interaction via the comments adds to the discussion and makes the post even more valuable as it expands the keyword opportunities. This is also one of the most linked to posts on newmediamike. People like the content so they share it and then it gets shared again and again …
Remove AVG Secure Search Toolbar – solves the problem of what to do if you accidentally download the AVG Secure Search Toolbar. This blog post outranks the official AVG page with their instructions on removing the toolbar.
How to Bury Negative Search Results of Your Name on Google does double duty, it answers the question and fills the need for those of us who had negative search results show up in Google.
The blog posts on newmediamike which generate the most traffic for me are those which answer questions, solve problems and fill needs. Even a fun post I wrote about my vague connection to the Toronto Food Truck craze gives a history of catering trucks in Toronto.
If your site is for a business, you will of course have to have pages for your business offerings. Don’t cram all your services onto one page. Have one page for each of your business offerings. If you are in the video business for example; dedicate one page to writing, one page to shooting, one page to editing, etc. Incorporate the keywords from your keyword research into the title tags and copy of the pages.
But most important of all. If you have a business site, you need to have some form of a call to action on the site.
I also recommend you install Google Analytics (GA) in addition to the Google Webmaster Tools. Once you have “optimized” your site it is vitally important to measure your efforts and GA is free and the best tool for the job. This way you can measure how many visitors you get and what they see and do on your site, so you will know what to improve on.
One last point about SEO. It is not set and forget. But it doesn’t always require hours and hours of fiddling. If you are matching user intent with content that is compelling enough for them to want to share and Google can find, crawl and index your site then you are more than likely on your way to a #1 ranking on Google. Take it from me; I’m ranked #1 on Google for Search Marketing expert.