The following is an excellent video where Matt Cutts and other three members of Google Search review a dozen or so sites and discuss the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) issues. Below you will find my summary of it, which you might want to read instead if you don’t have a spare hour to watch the whole video.
Google I/O 2010 – SEO Site Advice From The Experts
I’d highly recommend watching this video if you’re interested in getting your site found on the Internet and not only when searched for the name of your site (which no one but you and your family would do unless you’re already very popular).
Here is the quick summary – If you follow the 80/20 rule SEO can be extremely simple.
The key point to remember: Build sites for users – not search engines. If your users like your site so will the search engines. You must understand that the only way for search engines to remain popular is for them to make sure they deliver results that users like and find useful – if your site isn’t made for users you will get nuked by search engines [or better said ignored?].
So here are the specific points that you want to memorize:
- Search engines can’t read pictures (yet) – Make sure you use text as much as possible – you can use a stylesheet to make plain text look very good.
- Use a good Title [<title>Healthy Herbs For Cats</title>] – Use relevant keywords in the title, but don’t spam. [my addition: Remember that whatever your page is about, it usually is about 1-3-5 main topics, which are the keywords you want to use. If you think you have more than that you probably want to split that article to stay more on-topic and have a better chance at competing with other sites. Google to learn how to write good titles – there are plenty of free tutorials out there.]
- Use a good URL [http://example.com/healthy-herbs-for-cats] rather than [http://example.com/brr/q3928/874/y] – Use relevant keywords in the url, but don’t spam [see the explanation above]. Separate the words with dots [.] or dashes [-] (not space or underscores as the latter have all kinds of issues). If you already have a weird URL and you have inbound links to it – leave it, otherwise you will loose what you have and try from scratch.
- You want at least one <h1> tag, but don’t overdo. [my addition: Use <h1>. <title>Healthy Herbs For Cats</title> doesn’t show on the page itself – instead it goes to your browser’s top – and usually users don’t look there. <h1> is designed to show the title of the page that’s seen by users at the top of each page. Typically <h1> and <title> are the same. Use relevant keywords in <h1>, but don’t spam. ]
- You must use a good and meaningful to a user description meta tag, since it shows up in the SERP ( Search Engine Result Position or simply Google search results listing) immediately after the title of the page. You want to have a unique and relevant description for each page of your site. You can automate the generation of this meta tag – just make sure it’s useful to the human beings.
- The “Keywords” meta tag is dead. Don’t use it. [my addition: Or at least don’t stuff keywords as you lose points there, as it’s easy to tell when you spam if your keywords meta tag contains 69 keywords. Why is this tag dead? Because too many people abused it].
- Don’t stuff keywords on your pages – you lose points here. Even if you put those at the end of the page. Even if you make them invisible to users.
- Design your site for the long tale search – most people don’t search for a single keyword, they search for 3+ keywords. Watch your server logs (e.g. via google analytics) to see how people found your pages and make more pages that fit the keywords in those searches.
- Don’t copy stuff from other sites – you will get deindexed (i.e. removed from Google Search) or not indexed in first place. [my addition: Of course just like with books, using some content from other sites if it enhances users’ experience is good. If however you want to quote too much – link to the site with the original content instead.]
- Don’t buy/sell links. Instead spend that money to build a better site that will be more useful to people – you will then get tons of links for free.
- Better build one big good site, rather than a 100 mediocre micro-sites.
- Try to think of an interesting unique brandable name, rather than chosing a name by appending words to the topic you’re going to write about. [my addition: Matt didn’t say it’d directly help with SEO, but it’d help to differentiate yourself from the crowd and thus have a much higher chance of recognition down the road and thus better SEO results in the long run]
- Have canonical URLs.
- redirect http://www.example.com/ to http://example.com/ [i.e. drop www] or vice versa
- have only one canonical url in case you have /index.html, index.php, /, etc., all delivering the same content. Otherwise you lose Page Rank as it gets spread across several pages – and then you can’t compete with other sites as well. You can also tell search engines which page is the canonical one via <link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.example.com/herbs.html” /> in the <head> section of the page.
- TLD of the domain name (.com, .info, .net, etc.) plays only a minor role in the SEO formula. Yet certain domains are considered suspicious by most users – e.g. .info which tends to host spammy sites.
- If you use stock software [wordpress, joomla, etc.] upgrade often or you will get hacked. Use Google Webmaster Tools to have Google tell you if your site was hacked and now sells things your grandma won’t have liked you to sell. The other good indicator of your site getting hacked is when you notice that Google stopped sending traffic to your site – they don’t want users find your site and get infected.
As you can see from the above listing, it’s not that difficult to do SEO for your site. Save your money paying SEO companies which promise to magically get your site to be number one in Google and instead spend it on building a better site. In the long run you will be much better off. Build for the future.
That’s said I can’t deny that there is not that 20% from the 80/20 rule. Yes there is advanced SEO, but you will have to invest 80% of your time/money to get those 20% of extra results, where you’d have to find some good SEO experts which are far and in-between. It’s your choice.