Search Engine Strategies change all the time, and to stay on the cutting edge of SEO you need to be constantly keeping your finger on the pulse of these changes. At Virtually Ignorant, we’ll walk you through the basic to intermediate strategies and direct you to the top resources to follow the more advanced strategies.
But for those who don’t want to be continually honing your SEO to keep up with the latest trends, we have a simple rule of thumb that will get you 80% of the say there with 20% of the effort.
Virtually Ignorant Rule of Thumb:
If it’s good for the visitors, it will be good for the search engines.
Why is Google by far the largest search engine? It’s not because they were first, there were plenty of search engines before them. It’s because they did a better job of ranking the sites people most liked at the top of their results. Searchers felt they were more likely to quickly find what they were looking for on Google than on the competition. Google’s success comes from getting the sites that people like to the top.
So think of all the factors that distinguish sites you like from those you don’t like. Most of those factors are already being taken into account in the Google and Bing algorithms. Some of these factors are not yet taken into account because they’re complicated to quantify, but the engines are getting more sophisticated and more and more of these factors are being included.
For example, I was recently asked “are images good for SEO?” I responded, “do you like going to pages with text and images better than pages with just text?” It turns out that images can be very good for SEO. The search engines have a hard time reading images on their own, so they’ve given us instructions on how to label them so that their computers can take them into account.
I was also asked, “are videos good for SEO?” Same response, “do you like videos on a website?” Like images, videos are difficult for a search engine to interpret, so they give us instructions for how to tell them what they’re about.
Over the years, I’ve seen many SEO tricks come in and out of fashion. These were things that provided no benefit to the viewers, but took advantage of weaknesses in the Google algorithm. A couple of these were 1) writing meaningless text rich in keywords that was the same color as the website background so the viewers wouldn’t see it but the search engines would take it into account; and 2) creating links on a page that just brought the visitor back to the same page in an attempt to create more incoming links to that page. Often times these tricks will work for a time, but if it doesn’t benefit the visitors, sooner or later Google will adjust for them and then they will no longer help and might very well hurt your site.
This rule of thumb can also help you see what SEO changes will come down the line. Remember, I didn’t say that if it’s good for the visitor, it is good for the search engines, rather that it will be. There are many factors that Google and Bing are not yet taking into account, but at some point in the future they will.
We recently saw an adaptation like this for page load speed. The speed that a page loaded has certainly always been important to visitors, but until recently Google did not take it into account. Now they do.
The beauty and design of a site is something that historically was not factored into a site’s ranking. After all, beauty is very subjective. But beauty is now measurable. With Google Preview, you can see what a site looks like before going to it. Google can measure what percent of those who preview a site go to it. If these results are not yet part of the algorithm, I expect that before long they will be.
Conversion rate is another factor that I expect will soon be taken into account for ecommerce websites. If a higher percent of customers buy on site A than site B, that’s a good indication that site A is better and Google will probably soon start taking that factor into account.