Did you know that a good tree planter can plant up to 3,000 trees in a single day?
I know this because one summer when I was in college I planted trees to make money.
It’s backbreaking work.
Tree planters don’t carefully plant trees one at a time, they carry buckets of saplings on their bodies, and with a long sharp spade in one hand stab the ground, bend and use the other hand to shove a tree in the hole the shovel made, and then stomp the ground to seal the whole with their foot as they raise the shovel for the next stab.
It’s done in a sort of rhythmic walk and you need to do it at speed.
I remember the supervisor on the first day showing us how to do it and he said “don’t take short cuts because it takes just as long to plant a good tree as a bad one”.
What he didn’t say was that it took a few weeks of concentration BEFORE you could plant a good tree at a clip. Like learning to ride a bike, or swing a bat, once you got it, it was second nature. But getting to that point took energy, focus, and effort.
It’s Not Just Effort – It’s Doing It Right
This is what Google search optimization is like too. Companies that try to cheat the system will fail. (For tree planters, if a high percentage of your trees are not well planted, you don’t get paid that day.)
And companies just don’t make a focused effort to really learn to “plant a good tree” and their SEO flounders, never really finding a good fit with what will stick.
Certainly cheating is not the way to go. It doesn’t work.
And floundering – well, that’s probably where your competitors are. If you can do better, you can beat them.
Google Optimization is Not a Mystery
It’s amazing how wrong most companies are about what it takes to win the SEO game – especially since Google isn’t shy about telling people what it takes to win the SEO game. Google representatives talk and posts advice on a regular basis. Pandas and penguins, copy and code, great advice is out there.
I’ve visited Google in Mountain View California, and broken bread with some of those very smart people, including a few with PhDs in computer science and linguistics.
It’s this combination of deep expertise in computing and in language that is Google’s stock in trade. Which is why Google appears to be increasingly able to distinguish between content that adds real value and content that has been hacked together solely for SEO purposes. They want to a) connect people with content of value. And b) not (never) get tricked.
So before you start to post ‘just anything’ keep in mind that Google is looking for real, legitimate, uncompromising quality.
So here are ten of the more reliable cues the search engine is probably scanning for. Follow these to move up the ranks.
- Create ‘Quality’ Content – Remember those studies that say that an average newspaper is written at the grade 8 level? Well, if someone could tell that from scanning a newspaper by eye, Google can do it too. Quality content likely means content that is of a reasonably advanced level, is properly structured, not unnecessarily repetitive, grammatically intact, etc. In other words – don’t just throw up anything.
- Focused Pages – Most people think in terms of optimizing a whole website. But Google results come in the form of single pages, not full websites. Google is trying to find the very best ONE page that matches a search. So make your pages focused on one core topic – and you stand a better chance to reach the top of the leader board.
- Fresh Content – Quantity is not quality. However, frequently adding content does suggest that a site is active, involved, and more likely to have useful current content.
- Clear Titles and Text – For both your users AND for Google, use clear titles. Where your text is long, break it up with subtitles. This allows users to scan the page for content more easily, and my suspicion is that Google also uses these subtitles and maybe sees them as a sign of quality in an of themselves since professionals usually use them.
- Natural Links – Don’t buy links. Earn them. SEO professional and website managers who routinely buy links got a rude awakening with several of Google’s updates in recent years. It’s a fairly easy thing for Google to spot. Instead of spending money buying links, spend money or time to create useful content and it will get linked to. Create an infographic, or a checklist, a white paper, a discussion area or even a book. Give a free download of a font or blueprint or template. Create a useful step-by-step instruction or share a recipe. Anything truly useful will generate links.
- Social Media Buzz – Social media buzz now serves the same function as links did in the past (and still do). Social media chatter around your website tells Google this site is worth talking about. If it’s worth it to some, it’s probably worth it to many.
- Meaningful (Relevant) Links – Meaningful links are links that are not just links from ‘anywhere’, but links that are from other legitimate sites, especially those with related content. Links from strong sites in your area of expertise are the best votes of support you can have. While these may be generated from the ideas in point 5, you can also seek out relevant links on their own, if your site is worth linking to, others in your industry may be willing to do it just by asking.
- Media – Media (audio, video, PDFs, etc.) has double value because a site with a good media offering is more likely to be a quality site, and because media itself is searchable.
- Sound Technical Structure – There are many technical features that can influence your overall site quality score and if you have concerns there are specific checks that can be done for excessive script or slow loading pages, heavy graphics, etc. But generally technical issues are more able to hurt you than help you. If your site performs well and is not overly complicated (simple in this case can actually be better), you’re probably okay.
- No Tricks – Google doesn’t want to be tricked. Ever. Which is why shortcuts to SEO success are becoming harder to do. So don’t do it.
SEO and Internet marketing are getting more complex – and competitive – for small business. You’re going to need to fight harder and be smarter.
Don’t try to trick Google. Just be as structured as you can in serving up content that actually matters.
Plant good content trees and watch your client base grow.