The “On Page SEO” game is out of control, companies are trying to manipulate Google by “optimizing their on page SEO”.
As a result you have entire pages on the internet that look like some sort of SEO Automation Robot has gone wild.
According to the “SEO Experts”, you need to stuff your pages with the keywords you want to rank for, the more times the better!
Each page on your website should have multiple iterations of the keywords you want to rank for.
For example, if you were a company building artisanal platypus homes, and you want to rank for the high ranking term “Artisanal Platypus Abodes”, you would write your introductory paragraph on your revolutionary platypus abodes like this:
Platyplode Abodes is your one stop shop for artisanal platypus abodes.
Our pre-built artisanal platypus abodes are designed to give you the best artisanal abode for your platypus and will provide your platypus with the most beautiful artisanal platypus abode.
Our artisanal platypus abode will be sure to make your platypus the envy of all his peers.
The problem with this tactic is that while you’ve built something great for robots, you’ve done a horrible job of creating compelling copy for an actual human being.
“SEO Experts” will also caution you against changing any of the URL’s in your website.
If you happen to rebuild your website in another technology, or you review your current website and see that there is an opportunity to change the information architecture to make more sense…they’ll caution you against it.
These “SEO Experts” only care about getting you high rankings on search engines, but they don’t actually care about the quality of the traffic they bring in.
Whether or not that traffic actually does anything when they get to your website, and they will celebrate rising in the rankings.
Traffic that doesn’t convert only costs you money
You pay the SEO company to get a higher ranking.
You pay for more bandwidth to serve up more traffic.
You pay in goodwill when someone arrives at your website and has a poor experience.
Search Engine Optimization is About People
What these so called “experts” seem to forget is that it’s people who are doing the searches.
People search for things because they want to find information about those things.
People aren’t looking for optimized pages about Platypus Abodes in London Ontario, they’re looking for information about places they can keep their Platypus!
We use the term “Human Centred SEO” at NorthIQ.
We build pages that are made for human beings first. We think about what kinds of things that a human would want to know about your business, and then we make sure that those pages are structured so that they can figure out how to get the information they are looking for.
It turns out this is how search engines work too!
It’s amazing but true. Google’s “Hummingbird” update (way back in 2013) made significant changes to how the search algorithm worked.
A primary change Google made was around the quality of content on a search page. Search Engine Land had a great article on this – FAQ: All About the New Hummingbird Update.
Good Quality Content Pays Off
In January 2016, Craig and I decided that we would post a new topic to our website once a week, every week. I quickly overhauled our website to be “blog first”, and we began posting weekly content.
Immediately people started referencing a posting we had made during our conversations. Digital Sharecropping became a hot topic, but we also had people thank us for posting our Step-by-Step guide to Auto Responders, and more recently our summary of CASL – the Canadian Anti-Spam Law.
We also got tons of social media mentions for our Archangel Summit Overview, in which I drew “Sketchnotes” for each speaker we saw.
The NorthIQ website has seen more than double the traffic across the board in one year.
The growth we’re showing is sustainable, long term, and constantly improving.
We’ve done it without using spammy SEO tactics, and without writing content that looks like robot monkeys crammed it together.
We’ve based this on a ton of research, and it was recently validated by a study that BackLink.io did titled – We Analyzed 1 Million Google Search Results. Here’s What We Learned About SEO.
It’s a great read and I encourage you to check it out, but here are some of the highlights:
1. Backlinks remain an extremely important Google ranking factor.
This makes a ton of sense. The more links you have to your website, from high domain authority websites, the better your site will be recognized as an “authority” by Google.
2. A site’s overall link authority strongly correlates with higher rankings.
Again, this seems to be common sense. The more searches you rank for, and the more people using your site as a reference, the higher your entire site will perform.
3. Content rated as “topically relevant”, significantly outperformed content that didn’t cover a topic in-depth.
This indicates that a website that covers a specific niche will get higher rankings than a broad based website. Common sense dictates that this should be true. It’s sometimes nice to see that Google’s algorithm takes common sense into account.
4. Longer content tends to rank higher in Google’s search results.
This one was very interesting. Our average blog post is about 700 words, but this indicates that content with an average length of 1850 words is required to reach page 1 on a Google search.
5. HTTPS had a reasonably strong correlation with first page Google rankings.
We have heard this for a long time, Google is impressing the need for encrypted website traffic. This is a very simple fix to make on most websites, and we highly recommend you do this.
6. Schema markup doesn’t correlate with higher rankings.
I found this to be very interesting. Schema markup makes sites like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook present your links in a consistent way, but it was interesting to me that it has little effect on Google’s impression of content.
7. Content with at least one image significantly outperformed content without any images.
This is great news, I feel like every post should have an image. What is even more interesting though is that multiple images did not seem to make much of a difference.
8. There is a very small relationship between title tag keyword optimization and ranking.
Again, this is fascinating. Many people feel that your title needs to include your keywords, but this showed that wasn’t necessarily the case.
9. Site speed matters.
Another thing we have heard for anecdotally was that Google had begun penalizing slower websites.
10. Exact match anchor text appears to have a strong influence on rankings.
This is very interesting, especially since the actual article’s anchor text is significantly different than the link title.
11. Low bounce rate was associated with higher Google rankings.
This makes a ton of sense, if a user is going to a relevant website, they should then go to another page on that site. If the site is just faking it to get people to click on a link.
One thing this article doesn’t mention is that Google is beginning to crawl websites mobile first as the mobile search numbers edge up over 50%. Since many searches are done on mobile first, it makes sense that Google is ranking mobile sites higher.
Interestingly, in a conversation with a well known SEO company, we were informed that https, mobile views and site speed were not important to SEO, despite a ton of research we had found that indicated the opposite to be true.
The Bottom Line:
People have been declaring SEO is dead since the dawn of search engines, while others have tried to manipulate search engine rankings since the same beginnings.
The truth is SEO is here to stay, and the only way to reliably rank well is to create good content on subjects that human beings are searching for, and that will actually provide good value to them.
If you run your website’s content the same way you would run the rest of your business i.e. by creating the kind of experience you would want yourself, then you will be far ahead of the spammy Search Engine Experts.
If you are approached by an SEO company that wants to improve your “on page SEO”, we humbly suggest you run away. Run far, far away.
Brian Garside has been building websites for two decades and has worked on some of the largest websites in Canadian media. He focuses on creating good user experiences and building websites that make their owners money. Brian is certified in blogging and content marketing from Shaw Academy.