Platforms as a Business1

The Art of SEO

Author – Eric Enge

Google Power Search – Stephan Spencer

PageSpeed Insights

SEO is one of the highest ROI channels available to an organization.

Search: Reflecting Consciousness and Connecting Commerce

Users perform navigational searches with the intent of going directly to a specific website.

Informational searches involve an incredibly broad range of queries.

  • primarily nontransaction-oriented.
  • the information itself is the goal
  • in many cases no interaction beyond clicking and reading is required for the searcher’s query to be satisfied.
  • are often lower converting but good for building brand and attracting links.

Transactional searches don’t necessarily have to involve a credit card or immediate financial transaction.

  • tend to be the highest converting.

Local searches relate to users seeking information as regards to a specific location.

  • where they currently are
  • a location that they reference in the query
  • many are transactional

Although informational queries are less likely to immediately convert into sales, this does not mean you should forgo pursuing rankings on these queries; getting your informative content in front of users seeking information can be incredibly valuable and can turn users into potential customers.
Users who find useful informational content on your site are 131% more likely to come to you to make a related purchase at a later date.
They may also decide to share your information with others via their own websites, or through social media engagement—an indirect but potentially more valuable result than converting the single user into a paying customer.

Part of your task in performing SEO is to maintain a high level of relevance in the content placed on the pages you manage, to help minimize this level of waste while still attempting to maximize your overall presence in the SERPs and gain brand exposure.

Visitors that come to your site from a search engine may be at any stage of the customer journey. This is why ecommerce sites should consider creating content for each and every stage; capturing visitors when they are in the initial stages of discovery and research can significantly increase your chances of making the sale when they are ready to buy.

The majority of traffic to websites today comes from mobile devices.

Desktop search still delivers the most total time on site “dwell time“.

The great majority of sites are indexed mobile-first.
This means that the majority of your SEO focus needs to be on the mobile version of your site.

It means that website design should start with mobile functionalitydesign, and layout.

It also means that for most queries, you should be studying the structure and format of the mobile search results from Google.

Nearly 80% of all search queries consist of 4 words or fewer.

Generative AI and Search

GPT prompts:

  • “Generate a list of 10 popular questions related to building furniture that are relevant for new woodworkers.”
  • “Generate an article outline about”
  • “Generate 10 unique title tags, of a maximum of 60 characters for the following text. They should be descriptive and include the term fine wines in them.”
  • “Generate 6 unique meta descriptions, of a maximum of 150 characters, for the following text. They should be catchy with a call to action, including the term fine wines in them.”
  • “Generate a list of X frequently asked questions based on the following content.”
  • “Generate a list of the top five facts and statistics related to the battle of York, including their sources.”

Successful prompts guidelines:

  • Be clear and direct about what you want the generative AI tool to do.
  • Provide an example of the type of output you’re looking for, using a very similar topic. For example, if you’re looking to get a brief description of the history of each of the teams in the NBA, provide an example of the output for one of the teams and ask the tool to use it as a template.
  • Define your target audience, including whatever criteria make sense for your purpose (age, gender, financial status, beliefs, etc.). The tools will adapt their output accordingly.
  • Try something and see if it works. If not, modify it and try again. You can re-enter your entire prompt with modifications, or chain prompts together, as discussed in the next point.
  • When you get output that doesn’t meet your needs, tweak your prompt by adding a supplemental instruction in a follow-on prompt. For example, if you get a response that is partially correct, provide some corrective input such as: “Thanks for your response, but instead of focusing on the male lead in the play, please focus on the female lead.” Chaining prompts together in this way is often an easier way to refine the output than typing in the whole prompt again, with modifications.
  • “Describe how you want your output formatted. Do you want paragraphs? Bulleted lists? A two- or three-column table? The more specific you are, the better.
  • Provide context instructing the tool to “act as if.” For example, you could start your prompt with “ChatGPT, you’re an experienced B2B marketer who deeply understands technical SEO.”
  • Expanding on point 7, the general idea is to provide the generative AI tool with as much context as you can. This can include who the response is coming from (as per point 7), who the intended audience is (with as many specifics as you can provide), the desired style of writing, whether you want an expansive or narrowly scoped response, and more. These types of prompts are referred to as super prompts.

Generative AI will not bring about the end of SEO.

Search Fundamentals

Search engines enable us to connect efficiently to information, people, and actionable online activities.
They don’t just help us find things; they connect people to their interests by way of sites, pages, and services.
The internet is a system comprising purposeful connections among disparate components and resources.

To be an SEO professional is to be a master of organization and connections between searches and products; web content and search engines, users, and influencers; and even between you and the people and organizations responsible for developing, maintaining, and promoting the site you're optimizing.

As a starting point, it is essential to begin to think of SEO in the following terms:

  1. search queries map to topics
  2. which map to keywords and proposed articles
  3. a search engine’s index maps to all aspects of technical SEO
  4. and a given set of search results maps to content creation, content marketing, and user behavior

Be wary of overoptimizing for a keyword. If it’s obvious that a website has thin content that repeatedly and awkwardly users keywords, Google will penalize the site by lowering its rankings or even removing its pages from the index.

When someone searches for a specific kind of content(images, videos, events, news, travel, products, music, etc) this is called vertical search.

Web crawling: The process that search engines use to discover content on your site and across the web.

Making your site easy for search engines to crawl(crawlable, or crawler-friendly) is a critical area of focus for content development to support your ongoing SEO efforts.

Reasons search engine crawlers may not crawl areas of your site:

  • The crawler never finds a link to the URL, and it does not appear in your XML sitemap file(s). (Perhaps you actually do link to the page, but it’s only accessible via JavaScript that does not render some of the content on your page until a user clicks on a page element.)
  • The crawler becomes aware of the URL, but it is far down in your hierarchy (i.e., the crawler would have to crawl several other pages to reach it), so it decides not to crawl the URL.
  • The crawler has crawled the page at some point in the past, and based on the search engine’s interpretation of the page’s content or other characteristics, it decides that there is no need to crawl it again.
  • Your site may be assigned a limited crawl budget, and there may not be enough available for the crawler to reach all of the site’s content. This can happen for various reasons, such as if there are issues with the server hosting your site at the time of the crawl or if there are multiple URLs that contain the exact same content.

When we say a site is indexed, that means that

  1. a search engine has connected to it through some means (e.g., a link from a page already in the index, or a sitemap submitted through the search engine’s backend channels),
  2. crawled it with a script that discovers all links to find new content, fully rendered it so it can see all of the page contents, performed semantic analysis of its contents to understand the topic matter,
  3. created some descriptive metadata about it so that it can be associated with the words and intentions of searchers,
  4. and then stored it in a database (often referred to as “the index,” though as you will see it’s really a set of indexes) for later retrieval in response to a related user search query.

SERPs are dynamically rendered based on many different signals of user intent, such as

  • the search query itself
  • current trends/events
  • the user’s location, device, and search history
  • and other user behavior data.

Organic search results are any results within a SERP that aren’t paid ads or content owned and published exclusively by the search engine.

When a query is straightforward and has a definitive answer that Google can provide without sourcing that information from a third-party website, it puts a OneBox answer at the top of the SERP, followed by universal results.

When the query is straightforward, but the answer is too nuanced or complex to deliver in a OneBox result, Google will put a knowledge panel on the right side of the SERP, alongside the universal results. Knowledge panels are tables of common facts about a well-documented entity or concept from the Knowledge Graph.

Map pack: a block of three local business results displayed under a map graphic that shows where they are.

If you see a map pack in a SERP for any of your keywords, that’s proof that Google has detected local intent in your search query, even if you didn’t explicitly define a location.

Rich snippet: the snippet is enhanced or replaced by an image thumbnail or review star rating that summarizes or represents the originating content.

If there are multiple relevant rich results, Google may show them in a carousel at the top of the SERP.

Google is also likely to show enhanced results when it determines that videos may be more useful results for users. The SERP may include one or more videos, as well as links to specific key moments within the video content.

If Google determines that your query should have been executed on a specific site’s internal search engine instead of Google, then you may see a search field below that site’s snippet within the SERP.
If you use that secondary search field for a query, then the search scope will be limited to that site (this is identical to using the site: operator, discussed in “Search Operators”).

To trigger a sitelinks search box, the site in question has to have its own publicly accessible search feature and rank highly in the results, and the Google search query has to be relatively broad.

The PageRank algorithm uses the link text(the text between a/a HTML tags) as an extra layer of descriptive metadata for sites, pages, keywords, and topics, then evaluates each page’s rankings based on the quantity of those links and the quality of the source pages containing the links.

In general, Google gives more weight to links from sites that it trusts and are linked to or from other trustworthy, topically related websites:

  • Relevance
    This always will be the largest ranking factor.

Inbound links that originate from highly relevant sources are generally more valuable, in isolation, than links from partially or tangentially related sites.

Links from sites that have no relevance to yours are generally less valuable, but if the sites are quality sites they still have some value.

SEO fundamentals: conduct good keyword research that includes natural language queries, build web content that is accessible to search engines, and create high-quality, useful content that attracts high-quality links to your responsive, cleanly structured website.

  • EEAT
    Experience | Expertise | Authoritativeness | Trustworthiness

How to create backlinks: This is not conceptually different from the process of moving to a new town and establishing a new social network; you identify people you can trust, then expand outward from there (because trustworthy people usually associate with other trustworthy people). But as you get further away from the original trusted source, you have to reduce the level of inherited trust. Using this theoretical approach, a site that is one click away from a highly trusted source will inherit a lot of trust; two clicks away, a bit less; three clicks away, even less; and so forth.

  • Local signals and personalization
  • Timing and tenure
  • Legitimacy
    Potential factors that search engines use to qualify content:
    External links to the linking page
    Does the external page containing the inbound link have its own inbound links? If the page linking to your site is benefiting from incoming links, then this will make the link to your site more valuable.
    Page placement
    Is your link in the main body of the content? Or is it in a block of links at the bottom of the right rail of the web page? Better page placement can be a ranking factor. This is also referred to as prominence, and it applies to on-page keyword location as well.
    Nearby text
    Does the text immediately preceding and following your link seem related to the anchor text of the link and the content of the page on your site that it links to? If so, that could be an additional positive signal. This is also referred to as proximity.
    Closest section header
    Search engines can also look more deeply at the context of the section of the page where your link resides. This can be the nearest header tag, or the nearest text highlighted in bold, particularly if it is implemented like a header (two to four boldface words in a paragraph by themselves).
    Overall page context
    The relevance and context of the linking page are also factors in the value of a link. If your anchor text, surrounding text, and the nearest header are all related, that’s good. If the overall context of the linking page is closely related too, that’s better still.
    Overall site context
    Another signal is the context of the entire site (or possibly the section of that site) that links to you. For example, if a site has hundreds of pages that are relevant to your topic and links to you from a relevant page, with relevant headers, nearby text, and anchor text, these all add to the impact, so the link will have more influence than if the site had only one page relevant to your content.
  • Source Diversity
    You should also try to get links from pages that have different content and serve different purposes.

If all your links come from blogs, then you have poor source diversity.

  • Keywords in anchor text
    If you have 20 external links to your page and 19 of them use anchor text that matches your main keyword exactly, that is likely to be seen as unnatural, and these links may be discounted.
  • Negative ranking factors
  • User behavior data

Your SEO Toolbox

The first and most important tool is a simple spreadsheet.
This is a requirement for maximum SEO productivity and efficiency.

You must be comfortable working with data tables, basic formulas, filters, and pivot tables.

If nothing is currently deployed, then free analytics packages such as Google Analytics and Open Web Analytics are an excellent starting point.

This is a long journey, not a one-time event.

You can test your site for:

  • indexing
  • view inbound search query data (keywords, impressions, click-through rate, rank)
  • generate and test XML sitemaps
  • test mobile compatibility
  • analyze page performance
  • measure the performance of structured data elements that generate SERP features such as enriched results and OneBox answers

Google Search Console should almost always be the first service you configure for an initial site audit, because it offers a quick way to identify low-level problems.

Web server log can be useful for SEO:

  • Determining how often search engines are crawling the site and each of its pages (and which pages they aren’t crawling at all)
  • Determining how much time is spent crawling low-value pages (ideally, the search engines would spend this time crawling more important pages on your site)
  • Identifying pages that redirect using a means other than a 301 redirect
  • Identifying chains of redirects
  • Identifying pages on your site that return status codes other than “200 OK”
  • Backlink discovery
  • Finding missing pages/bad links
  • Measuring site performance
  • Determining visitors’ platforms (device, operating system, and browser version)
  • Determining visitors’ locales

Logfile analysis tools:

  • Splunk
  • BigQuery
  • Datadog
  • Screaming Frog
  • Oncrawl
  • Botify
  • Sitebulb

Google Ads Keyword Planner

  • Can analyze your site content and deliver a list of relevant keywords that are likely to be converted to click in a Google Ads campaign. It’s free to use.
  • The CPC data is much more precise than the other metrics.
If you only pay for one keyword research tool, Semrush should be a top candidate.

SEO Planning

Your SEO strategy is only as valuable as your ability to execute it.

Questions to ask when you’re creating your personas:

  • What age range is each persona?
  • Where do they live?
  • What is their job title (or role within the organization you’re selling to)?
  • What are their hobbies?
  • How much money do they make (or what is their net worth range)?
  • Are they married or single?
  • Do they have kids (and if so, how many)?
  • Do they primarily search from a mobile device, or a computer?
  • What do they spend annually on industry products and services?

Next, consider some broader, more subjective questions, such as:

  • How late do they work?
  • What do they do on the weekends?

A good persona includes psychographics in addition to demographics. In other words, it peeks into the customer’s heart and mind to glimpse what motivates them and what keeps them up at night:

  • What are their fears?
  • What are their frustrations?
  • What are their wants?
  • What are their aspirations?
  • What problems are they trying to solve? (Go deeper and identify the unspoken problem, not just the obvious, spoken problem.)
  • What does success look or feel like? Failure?
  • Who are their mentors, heroes, supporters? Detractors, enemies, critics?

The more details you can think of, the better. Record all of this information in a text file, then give the persona a one- or two-syllable name that is easy to remember. Create a persona to represent each different type of ideal customer.

Once you have your site architecture mapped out, here are things to consider:

  • Cross-link your cross-references
  • Use descriptive anchor text
  • Implement breadcrumb navigation
  • Refactor your architecture to minimize link depth

Keyword Research

  • is the most important aspect of search engine marketing.
  • enables you to predict shifts in demand.
  • respond to changing market conditions.
  • provide new products, services, and content that web searchers are actively seeking.
You should never go more than a year without a full keyword review.

Seasonal keyword research should be tracked and scheduled separately from your regular keyword reviews.

  1. If possible, begin at the lowest level, then go up one step at a time. What are the topics that apply to every search query that you want to rank highly for?
  2. Think of these root-level topics as domains.
  3. Next, ask yourself what the related topics are. Why do people buy smartphone accessories? What are their concerns? What purposes do these products serve? What are the alternatives? What are the most important features or qualities?
  4. Make a classification of keywords.
  5. Are there any other high-cardinality topics that you might want to drill down into and sort by?

Columns for your keyword excel sheet:

  • keyword
  • monthly search volume
  • priority
  • relevance
  • difficulty
  • rank
  • CPC
  • superset
  • topic
  • persona
  • URL
The most valuable web visitor data from Google comes not from Google Analytics but from Google Search Console, in the form of clicks and impressions data from search queries.

Review your competitors’ websites, and try to determine the keywords and phrases they’re targeting for the products and services that compete with yours. Look for unique variations.

Some basic questions:

  • What are the words and phrases that define our business and its products or services?
  • What words and phrases do customers use when they talk about our products or services?
  • What are the questions that prospects and customers ask us?
  • What are the questions that people ask before they connect with us?
  • Do you see gaps in how we talk about our products or services and how customers see their needs?

Generate an initial list of terms and phrases that you think are relevant to your industry and what your site or business offers. Include all of your various past and present brand names, products, and services.

Try to have at least one corresponding natural language questions for every keyword in your list.

Natural language questions third-party tools:

  • AlsoAsked
  • AnswerThePublic

The hierarchy of importance for keyword valuation:

  • Priority. Keywords that serve a major business objective, sales goal, branding initiative, or other critical marketing purpose should be considered above everything else.
  • Relevance. You only want to rank for keywords that are highly relevant to your site’s content. Low-relevance keywords are not necessarily bad, but they should be moved to a separate list in case you need them later.
  • Popularity. You only want to optimize for keywords that are used in a measurable number of actual searches. High-relevance but low-popularity keywords should be filtered out (hidden in your spreadsheet) but not deleted, because they may become popular in the future.
  • Difficulty. If the cost of acquiring traffic is higher than the benefit of converting it, then you’re wasting money. High-difficulty keywords that are highly relevant to your site can be broken down into variations that represent more efficient opportunities.
Conversion rate is directly related to how accurately your content matches searcher intent.

Are there certain keywords you want to rank highly for, no matter how difficult or costly it is?
All other things being equal, are there certain topics or keywords that are a top priority for your business?

Develop a basic rating system for your topics and keywords that reflects your company’s current priorities.

The best time to start optimizing for the next back to school season is shortly after the previous one ends, when the competition for traffic has died down.
Don't be afraid to consult a thesaurus.

At the very least you should create a new column for seasonality, or a new worksheet that enables better sorting and filtering for multiple seasons.

Sometimes there are so many trends and seasons that impact your business that it makes sense to step back and focus on the big picture first. For instance, a costume shop is busy year-round supplying local and traveling actors, theater production companies, makeup artists, models, musicians, clowns, and a wide variety of private parties and special events. Halloween might be a busier time of year than normal, but it might also be prohibitively expensive to optimize for the Halloween season due to broader competition and low conversion rate.
If you specialize in expensive high-quality costumes and professional stage makeup, then it might not be worth the effort to compete against low-margin, high-volume retail juggernauts like Walmart and Amazon for sales of cheap Halloween costumes.
School semesters might also be “seasons” because of school plays, ballets, and operas. The common theme here is that most of the costume shop’s business is local, so even though the national Halloween season might seem like an obvious choice for seasonal optimization, it’s likely that focusing on smaller local trends and non-Halloween customers will be a more efficient and profitable effort.

Seasonal optimization is a year-round process, and thus so is seasonal keyword research. If you want to target the Halloween season (from August to October), you can’t expect to start the process in July—or if you do, don’t expect to get very far with it this year.
Search traffic tends to start going up two or three months in advance of major holidays and events, but Halloween costumes and Christmas gifts both draw heavily from pop culture fads, trends, movies, TV shows, and news events from the previous year, so there’s no such thing as “too early” to start collecting keywords for the next holiday season.

Traditional cost/benefit analysis:
opportunity score = (number of potential conversions x conversion value) / cost of optimization

Reframing cost and benefit in terms of effort and traffic:
opportunity score = ((relevance x priority) x search volume) / (difficulty x current rank)

From unranked, the next threshold is the top 100.

It’s worth the effort to get into the top 100 because most SERP platforms only provide data for the top 100 sites for each keyword.

To get minimal value out of a keyword, you have to place within the top 20 results.
Only 5% of organic clicks go to results beyond the first page.

Key activities to drive traffic:

  • Improving pages in striking distance
  • Optimizing title tags
  • Optimizing meta descriptions
  • Improving site contextual interlinking
  • Building out your editorial calendar

Developing an SEO-Friendly Website

A search engine friendly website, at the most basic level, is one that allows for search engine access to site content and having your site content accessible to search engines is the first step toward prominent visibility in search results.

It is strongly recommended to take time to build an internal linking structure that spiders can crawl easily.

Making a sitemap file automatically seems like a minimal baseline for any serious website.

XML sitemap tools:

  • Slickplan
  • Dynomapper
  • SourceForge
  • Inspyder

When your sitemap file is complete, upload it to your site in the highest-level directory you want search engines to crawl(generally the root directory ex: //

There is no need to update the XML sitemap when you’re simply updating content on existing URLs, but you should update your sitemap file whenever you add any new content or remove any pages.

If your sitemap file grows to be larger than 50 MB, it will be necessary to create multiple sitemap files.

Good information architecture dictates:

  • As few clicks as possible to your most important pages.
  • Avoiding overly deep link architectures to the rest of your pages.
  • A logical, semantic flow of links from the home page to categories to detail pages.

Site architecture simple protocol:

  1. List all of the requisite pages (blog posts, articles, product detail pages, etc.).
  2. Create top-level navigation that can comfortably hold all of the unique types of detailed content for the site.
  3. Reverse the traditional top-down process by starting with the detailed content and working your way up to an organizational structure capable of holding each page.
  4. Once you understand the bottom, fill in the middle. Build out a structure for sub-navigation to sensibly connect top-level pages with detailed content. In small sites, there may be no need for this level, whereas in larger sites, two or even three levels of sub-navigation may be required.
  5. Include secondary pages such as copyright, contact information, and other nonessentials.
  6. Build a visual hierarchy that shows (to at least the last level of sub-navigation) each page on the site.
For nearly every site with fewer than 10,000 pages, all content should be accessible through a maximum of four clicks from the homepage and/or sitemap page.

Avoid excessive pagination wherever possible.

Pagination: the practice of creating a list of elements on pages separated solely by numbers (e.g., in an ecommerce site where the product catalog has more products than the site owners wish to show on a single page), is problematic for many reasons:

  1. First, pagination provides virtually no new topical relevance, as the pages are each largely about the same topic. Therefore, search engines might see this as poor-quality or “thin” content.
  2. Second, when the content on the paginated pages shifts because new articles or products are added and/or old ones are deleted, search engines have to recrawl and reanalyze the paginated pages from scratch, which can have a detrimental impact on rankings.
  3. Finally, pagination can create spider traps and potentially hundreds or thousands of extraneous, low-quality pages that can be detrimental to search visibility.

Solutions to pagination:

  1. Use simple HTML links to connect paginated pages.
  2. Create a view-all page and use canonical tags

Site elements that are problematic for spiders:

  • search and web forms
  • JavaScript
  • iframes

Although subdomains are a popular choice for hosting content, they are generally not recommended if SEO is a primary concern.

12 indispensable tips for selecting a great domain name:

  1. Brainstorm five top keywords.
  2. Make the domain unique.
  3. Try to pick from .com available domains.
  4. Make it easy to type.
  5. Make it easy to remember.
  6. Keep the name as short as possible.
  7. Create and fulfill expectations.
  8. Avoid trademark infringement.
  9. Set yourself apart with a brand.
  10. Limit the use of hyphens and numbers.
  11. Don’t follow the latest trends.
  12. Use a domain selection tool.

Guidelines for selecting optimal URLs for your pages:

  • Describe your content.
  • Keep it short.
  • Static is the way.
  • Descriptive text is better than numbers.
  • Keywords never hurt.
  • Subdomains aren’t always the answer.
  • User fewer folders.
  • Hyphens separate best.
  • Stick with conventions.
  • Don’t be case-sensitive.
  • Don’t append extraneous data.

The first step in the keyword targeting process is uncovering popular terms and phrases that searchers regularly use to find the content, products, or services your site offers.

Title Tags

is the only piece of meta-information about a page that directly influences relevance and ranking.

9 rules for best practice for title tag construction:

  1. Communicate with human readers.
  2. Target searcher intent.
  3. Incorporate keyword phrases.
  4. Place your keywords at the beginning of the title tag.
  5. Limit length to 65 characters(including spaces).
  6. Target longer phrases if they are relevant.
  7. Use a divider.
  8. Focus on click-through and conversion rates.
  9. Be consistent.

Meta Description Tags
6 good rules:

  1. Tell the truth.
  2. Keep it succinct.
  3. Write soft sell copy.
  4. Analyze psychology.
  5. Include relevant keywords.
  6. Don’t employ descriptions universally.

Heading Tags
Search engines have shown a slight preference for keywords appearing in heading tags.

Many publishers assume that they have to use an h1 tag on every page. What matters most, though, is the highest-level heading tag you use on a page, and its placement. If you have a page that uses an h3 heading at the very top, and any other heading tags further down on the page are at the h3 or lower level, then that first h3 tag will carry just as much weight as if it were an h1.
The first heading tag is typically intended to be a label for the entire page (so it plays a complementary role to the title tag), and you should treat it as such.

It’s more important to focus on creating high-quality content than it is to keep repeating the main keyword.

Where the keywords are used on the page also matters. Keywords that appear in the left or right sidebar, or in the footer, are likely given less weight than they would be if they appeared in the main content of your page.

With HTML5, new markup exists that allows you to explicitly identify the section of your page that represents the main content. You can use this markup to help make Google’s job easier.

Let your writers focus on creating great content, and they will naturally use many different ways to the page subject.

It’s important to provide readers with additional information.
2 basic elements that you can control to give search engines information about the content of images:

  1. The filename
  2. The alt attribute text

You should not use image links as a substitute for text links with rich anchor text, which carry much more weight from an SEO perspective.

Google places a high degree of emphasis on sites that have many individual pages that demonstrate a high level of EEAT. Some specific Google suggestions:

  • Use page titles that capture the essence of the content, but in a non-clickbait fashion.
  • Include compelling, high-quality images in your content, especially large images that are more likely to generate visits from Discover. Large images need to be at least 1200px wide and enabled by the max-image-preview:large setting, or by using AMP. Avoid using a site logo as your image.
  • Avoid tactics to artificially inflate engagement by using misleading or exaggerated details in preview content (title, snippets, or images) to increase appeal, or by withholding crucial information required to understand what the content is about.
  • Avoid tactics that manipulate appeal by catering to morbid curiosity, titillation, or outrage.
  • Provide content that’s timely for current interests, tells a story well, or provides unique insights.

Some additional recommendations to follow if you want your content to appear in the Discover feed:

  • Produce great content that appeals to users.
  • Analyze your results and find ways to continuously improve that content.
  • Continue to improve the EEAT for your site.
  • Avoid clickbait-type titles.
  • Leverage high-quality images as a core part of your content.
  • Try implementing web stories.

You can help Google understand which content you would like people to follow by including a link element of this form in the head section of your web pages.

Main components of web page copywriting that your writers must understand with regard to SEO:

  • Search engines look to match up a user’s search queries with the keyword phrases, their synonyms, and related concepts on your web pages. If some combination of all of these does not appear on the page, chances are good that your page will never achieve significant ranking for those search phrases.
  • The search phrases users may choose to use when looking for something are infinite in variety, but certain phrases will be used much more frequently than others.
  • Using the more popular phrases you wish to target on a web page in the content for that page is essential to SEO success for the page.
  • Make sure that the writers understand the concepts of co-occurrence and entity salience, discussed earlier in this chapter, so they don’t create content that uses the main keyword excessively. They need to focus on creating semantically rich content that stays on the topic of the main target keyword phrase for the page, while still writing naturally.
  • The title tag is the most important element on the page. Next is the first header (usually h1), and then the main body of the content.
  • There are tools that allow you research and determine what the most interesting phrases are.

Verdana is one of the most popular of the fonts designed for on-screen viewing.

Google has ignored the keywords meta tag for years and currently there is no need to change that policy.

Also, markup continues to be no evidence that it has been made a ranking factor.

Search engines place a great deal of value on robust, unique, value-added content.

The best potential fix for scenarios where you can’t eliminate the duplicate pages is to apply the rel=canonical link element to all versions of the page to indicate which version is the original.

One good application for noindex is to place this directive on HTML sitemap pages. These are pages designed as navigational aids for users and search engine spiders to enable them to efficiently find the content on your site. On some sites these pages are unlikely to rank for anything of importance in the search engines, yet you still want them to provide a crawl path to the pages they link to. Putting noindex on these pages keeps these HTML sitemaps out of the indexes and removes that problem. Bear in mind that these pages may not pass PageRank, as Google tends to block the passing of PageRank on pages for which it believes the content is of low value; however, they may still aid Googlebot in discovering more of the pages on your site.

You can change hosting companies without impacting any of the URLs used to find content on your site, in which case no redirects are required.
However, for any scenario in which your URLs change, you need to implement redirects.

One of the ways companies grow their organic search presence, traffic, conversions, and ultimately, business profits is by targeting audiences across more countries or different languages.

The first step is to create specific URLs to feature new language or country page’s content and ensure their crawlability and indexability.

Dynamic solutions that show different translated versions of content under the same URL won't be independently crawled or indexed to rank in their target markets, and therefore it's not recommended to use these.

The least recommended approach for targeting different languages or countries is the use of URL parameters in gTLDs. You can’t use GSC’s geolocation feature or rely on the translation:

  • ccTLD
  • subdirectories
  • subdomain

If you’re targeting languages, ccTLDs are not the best approach, as they’re geolocated to a country by default. In this case you can choose from subdirectories or subdomains. The advantages and disadvantages of these two approaches are similar to in the country targeting scenario, but without the geolocation considerations; you won’t need to geolocate the subdirectories or subdomains to a specific country through Google Search Console.

Most important international SEO actions:

  • Publish website versions with content translation and/or localization and optimization supported by native speakers.

Despite the improvements in automated translation systems that you might want to leverage for the content translation process, it’s always recommended to have native speakers validate the results and optimize the content.

  • Use URL translation/localization when using Latin characters.

Ideally, URLs should be translated into the relevant language of the featured page.

If the page information is in Spanish, the URL should be translated into this language too.

Avoid using special characters(like accents) and to make use of transliteration to keep using Latin characters in them.

  • Avoid automatic IP or language-based redirects

This might prevent search engines from being able to effectively crawl all language/country versions.

It’s recommended that the user to go to the alternate relevant page version that is in their language/country using a nonintrusive banner or notification.

  • Cross-link between language/country web versions.
  • Attract local backlinks to each of your international website versions.
  • Specify your page’s language/country with relevant tags.
  • Use hreflang annotations when you have a website in more than one language.

Google NLP algorithms:

  • Hummingbird
    is paying more attention to each word in a query, ensuring that the whole query, the whole sentence or conversation or meaning is taken into account, rather than particular words.
  • RankBrain
    tries to match up a given query with other queries that use different words but that are otherwise similar in intent.
  • BERT
    enables bidirectional processing of text which considers the words that appear both before and after the keyword.
  • MUM
    allows Google to seamlessly process information across languages and mediums such as video, images, and text.

Who is your audience?
What are they looking for that you can provide?
Why are you one of the best organizations to provide it?

SEO today is all about establishing that brand identity, especially from a business point of view.

Structured Data: the label applied to a number of markup formats that allow Google to better understand the data it is indexing.
You can think of it as metadata(data about data) implemented for search engines rather than people.
At its core, is about standardizing and simplifying the process of adding semantic markup to your web pages, and providing tangible benefits for doing so. The most visible such benefits come in the form of rich snippets, such as the star ratings and price range.

If all other signals are nearly equal, then having a materially faster page may be the extra push you need to move in front of the competition. In addition, faster pages provide a better experience for users and even increase conversion rates.

Dynamic rendering provide server-side rendered content to search engines and client-side rendered content to users. Google considers this a “workaround” and does not recommend it as a long-term solution.

Things to consider to speed up your server:

  • Dedicated vs VPS vs shared servers
  • Server processing power and memory
  • Caching
  • Gzip compression
  • Content delivery networks
  • Database server optimizations
  • Defragmenting the database
  • Multiple servers

The types of site changes that can influence your site’s organic search performance include:

  • changing your domain name
  • changing your content management system
  • changing your ecommerce platform
  • redesigning your site
  • altering your site’s architecture
  • altering your site’s functionality
  • changing your blog platform
  • and many others.
    Basically, anything that fundamentally alters your site’s frontend or backend visual or functional elements can potentially influence your organic search performance.
Only a 301 redirect will result in the rapid deindexation of the old URL and indexation of the new one.

You should always use 301 redirects when you move content permanently.

How long will it take to get your organic rankings and traffic back after a change? Depends on:

  • The size and complexity of your site
  • The complexity of the move
  • The perceived authority of the site
  • The addition of new links to the new pages

When all is said and done, a reasonable estimate is that a significant dip in traffic from the search engines after a move should rarely last longer than 60~90 days.

Engaging in a project to change the URLs on your site to insert keywords is not worth the risk and effort. So do it right the first time.

Making your website readable by search engines and taking advantage of the rich features available(such as markup) are cornerstones of the overall SEO process.

Mastering this part of SEO is the first step in a robust overall program.
Once you’ve dealt with this, you can then begin to focus on how to scale your site’s visibility further through creating great content for users and promoting it effectively.

SEO Analytics and Measurement

It is important to establish a baseline measurement for your activities:

  • Quantifying organic search traffic by search engine
  • Determining which site content areas are getting organic search traffic and quantifying this per area and per search engine
  • Quantifying conversions, user behavior events, and other metrics search engines track
  • Identifying poorly performing pages (e.g., low-converting, high bounce rate)
  • Identifying best-performing pages (e.g., high traffic, high conversion rate)
  • Tracking search engine crawler activity on the site
  • Determining the number of indexed pages
  • Determining whether the indexed pages are getting search traffic
  • Determining whether best-selling product pages are indexed and getting search traffic.

Commonly used web, data, and customer insight analytics platforms for digital marketers:

  • Google Analytics 4
  • Adobe Web Analytics
  • Adobe Marketing Analytics
  • Woopra Customer Journey Analytics
  • Clicky
  • Matomo
  • Webtrends Analytics for Web Apps

List of trackable user behavior events:

  • add to cart
  • complete checkout
  • save to wishlist
  • share/send to a friend
  • subscribe to a newsletter
  • contact form submission
  • email link
  • post comment
  • social bookmark/share
  • register as a user
  • sign up for a subscription or membership
  • contribute content
  • vote/rate
  • social engagement metrics

Most common types of conversions:

  • sales and transactions
  • newsletter signups
  • subscriptions and memberships
  • content downloads
  • contact form submissions and phone calls
  • users sharing your content
  • users linking to your content

SEO software packages:

  • Conductor’s Organic Marketing Platform
  • BrightEdge
  • Searchmetrics
  • seoClarity

Marketing attribution tools:

  • Adobe Analytics Attribution IQ
  • Branch
  • C3 Metrics
  • Attribution
  • Dreamdata

Tracking conversion data in different ways, by:

  • keyword
  • referrer
  • web page
  • initial entry page

Conversion rate optimization(CRO) tools:

  • Optimizely
  • VWO
  • Mouseflow
  • Plerdy
  • Unbounce
  • Attention Insight
  • UserTesting
  • Hotjar
Typical conversion rates for a website might be between 2~5%.

Example formula for calculating ROI based on revenue:

  1. SEO revenue = people searching for topics related to your content (e.g., identified keywords and/or queries) * click-through rate * average conversion rate * average transaction amount
  2. For example: 10,000 per day * 10% * 5% * 100=3,000 per day
  3. SEO ROI = SEO revenue / SEO cost (use total $ spent for salaries, consulting, and development, and/or number of hours spent)
  4. For example: 3,000������/500 per day = an ROI of 6x

Calculating SEO revenue can be modified as follows:
SEO revenue = increase in (pages/content getting search clicks * search clicks per page) * average conversion rate * average transaction value

Google Algorithm Updates and Manual Actions/Penalties

You need to have a working understanding of how the Google ecosystem works, how Google recommends that you operate your website, and the various scenarios that can lead to visibility and traffic losses.

With knowledge of what Google is trying to achieve through these mechanisms, you can not only reduce your exposure to them but potentially even set yourself up to benefit from the updates.

BERT – Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers: a neural network-based technique for NLP natural language processing.
Analyzes the text before and after the keyword to understand its meaning.

SMITH – Siamese Multi-depth Transformer-based Hierarchical Encoder: understand longer passages within long documents.

Panda algorithm: designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites, or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites with original content and information such as research in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis, etc.

Google announced its intention to release two new search algorithms in October 2020:

  1. Enable Google to divide search results into topics and subtopics.
  2. Enable Google to identify and index specific passages within a web page separately from the content of the rest of the page.

MUM – Multitask Unified Model (NLP): capable of working with multimodal data; it can seamlessly search across 75 languages as well as multiple media types(text, images, video, audio).

Page Experience
LCP – Largest Contentful Paint: a measure of how long it takes for the main content elements of the page to be displayed.
FID – First Input Delay: a measure of the time form when a user first interacts with a page to the time when the browser is actually able to begin processing event handlers in response to that interaction.
CLS – Cumulative Layout Shift: a measure of visual stability.
Secure browsing
No intrusive interstitials or dialog boxes

While page experience is important, remember that content relevance and quality are always the most important signals.

Google continues to consider links to your website as important ranking signals; high quality links.

It’s important to ensure that all your content is written with the primary goal of serving users.

GSC Google Search Console is an invaluable free tool, it provides:

  • Detailed information on the search queries sending traffic to your site, including clicks, rankings, impressions, and click-through rates
  • Crawl rate statistics, including crawl rate data
  • A record of crawl errors found on your site
  • The ability to validate your robots.txt file’s behavior
  • Tools to submit and check a sitemap
  • Page indexation status information
  • Site speed data from the Chrome User Experience Report (CrUX)
  • A list of external links that Google sees pointing to your site (note that this list is not comprehensive and is heavily filtered)
  • Notifications and messages from Google, including about any manual penalties assessed by Google
  • Details on any security issues that have been identified by Google, such as a hacked site or if any malware has been found
  • Access to the Google Data Highlighter tool, which can be used to mark up structured data on pieces of your site
  • The ability to analyze your structured data
  • A URL Inspection tool that can be used to see how Google renders your page

Setting up your GSC account is a foundational part of any SEO program.
Access to this data can provide you with rich information about what Google sees and how your site is performing in Google search.

It’s valuable to develop a strong understanding of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

Basic principles that Google wants webmasters to follow are:

  • Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.
  • Don’t deceive your users.
  • Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings.
  • Think about what makes your website unique, valuable, or engaging.

Google recommends avoiding the following:

  • Automatically generated content
  • Participating in link schemes
  • Creating pages with little or no content
  • Cloaking
  • Sneaky redirects
  • Hidden text or links
  • Doorway pages
  • Scraped content
  • Participating in affiliate programs without adding sufficient value
  • Loading pages with irrelevant keywords
  • Creating pages with malicious behavior such as phishing or installing viruses, trojans, etc
  • Abusing structured data markup
  • Sending automated queries to Google

Best practices in site hygiene:

  • Monitoring your site for hacking and removing hacked content as soon as it appears.
  • Preventing and removing user-generated spam on your site.
  • Take the time to read through the Google Webmaster Guidelines.
  • Provide high-quality content.

Content that Google considers to be poor:

  • Thin content
  • Unoriginal content
  • Nondifferentiated content
  • Poor-quality/inaccurate content
  • Curated content
  • Too-similar content
  • Database-generated content
  • AI-generated content
Weak content in even a single section of a larger site can cause Google to lower the rankings for the whole site.

When addressing thin content, it’s best to dig deep and take on hard questions about how you can build a site full of fantastic content that gets lots of user interactions and engagement.

Study how to create engaging content that people will love, and apply those principles to every page you create.

Measure the engagement you get, test different methods, and improve your ability to produce high-quality content over time.

Pure barter links are valued less or ignored altogether.

Google will not place any value on the links from user-generated content sites, such as social media sites.

Google has invested heavily in developing techniques for detecting poor-quality links.

Links Google does not like:

  • article directories
  • cheap directories
  • links from countries where you don’t do business
  • links from foreign sites in a different language than the page content
  • comment spam
  • guest post spam
  • guest posts not related to your site
  • in-context guest post links
  • advertorials
  • guest posts
  • widgets
  • infographics
  • misleading anchor text
  • sites with malware
  • footer links
  • links in a list with unrelated links
  • links from poor-quality sites
  • press releases

While reviewing your backlinks, you may find yourself at times trying to justify a link’s use. This is usually a good indicator that it’s not a good link. High-quality links require no justification; it’s obvious that they are good links.

Contacting sites directly to request that they remove links shows good intent to Google.

Auditing and Troubleshooting

Some good reasons for an unscheduled audit:

  • A Google algorithm update
  • Unexpected organic search traffic drop
  • Unexpected rankings drop
  • Site changes
  • Site redesign

SEO platforms:

  • Ahrefs
  • Bright Edge
  • Conductor
  • Moz
  • Searchmetrics
  • Semrush
  • seoClarity

SEO audit checklist:

  • Incorrect or missing canonical tags
  • Broken internal links
  • Use of nofollow, sponsored, or ugc attributes on internal links
  • Pages blocked in robots.txt
  • Bad redirects
  • Missing title or heading tags
  • Duplicate title or heading tags
  • Missing or generic meta descriptions
  • Missing images
  • Missing/inaccurate image alt attributes
  • Nondescriptive image file names
  • Uncrawled pages
  • Important pages that are crawled with low frequency
  • Duplicate content
  • Suboptimal anchor text
  • Content on your site that has no links pointing to it
  • Content on your site that is too many clicks from the homepage
  • Overreliance on PDF file content

Does the title tag include the main keyword related to the topic of the content?
Does the content naturally use related keywords and synonyms that indicate it has thoroughly covered the topic?
Does the content link to other related content on your site or other sites?
Are they linking t0/citing sources that support your claims?

If you support multiple languages on your site, it’s important to use hreflang tags to help search engines understand the relationships between the various versions of your international content.

One of the first areas to investigate is whether or not your hreflang tags are properly implemented. Proper implementation requires including tags that cross-reference all of the translations of the page, and a tag that points to the page itself.

hreflang tools:

  • Merkle’s hreflang tags testing tool
  • hrelang tag checker chrome add-in

Promoting your Site and Obtaining Links

Creating a site with content that is high in value to users. This should always be your primary focus.
Establish yourself as a leader in your marketplace, cultivate an image of your brand as trustworthy and authoritative, and publish lots of top-quality content and resources.

Link building shouldn’t be a one-off event or a time-limited process; it should be integrated into your company’s culture.

Google’s search algorithms continue to place material vlaue on links, as they represent endorsements of your content and site.

Especially when you get them from highly respected and trusted people or organizations that operate in the same topical domain as your organization.

You need to be purposeful in getting high-value sites to link to your site.

In general, a link to an external page is a vote for its relevance (to the topic that pertains to the page you’re linking from) and authority (on that topic) and creates an association between it and the page that links to it.

Google typically doesn’t value links and citations from sites where all the contet is user genreated (such as SNS) as these are easily gamed.

The goal is not to get links, or even to get traffic; it's to increase sales, conversions, ad revenue, or visibility by drawing the right kind of attention to your content, services, or products.

The simplest way to find high-quality sites is to search for your target keywords, make a note of the top 20 sites, then analyze them to determine for which of these you may be able to provide value to their users with your content.

Examples of the kinds of sites tha tyou should keep an eye out for:

  • Noncompeting sites in your market space
  • Media sites
  • Blogs (on host sites such as or the domains or subdomains of other sites)
  • University and college sites
  • Government sites
  • Sites that link to your competitors
  • Related hobbyist sites
  • Review sites (such as Trustpilot or ConsumerAffairs)
  • Streamer/vlogger channels
  • Sites for large events, conferences, and expos

This entire exercise should be focused on lifting the visibility of your brand as much as possible.

Identifying the influencers

No matter what you do or where you do it, one of your easiest paths to success will be through the support of an influencer.

The more popular an influencer or their site is, the more you should consider their second and third degree connections. Who influences them? Which bloggers or social media accounts do they follow? Who do they trust? It may be cheaper and more effective to target these second and third degree connections instead.

With enough money it’s possible to get a link from nearly any site on the internet.

Your discussion with these sites needs to be about the value that you can bring to them/their audience and the benefits of a partnership with your organization, not what you want from them(to be clear: your initial pitch should not ask them for a link.)

Define your limitations:

  • How many concurrent visitors can your web server handle?
  • How many transactions per hour can your payment processor handle at your current level of service?
  • How many phone calls can you answer in an hour?
  • How many orders can be fulfilled per day?
  • For non-sales conversions such as mailing list sign-ups and opt-ins, do you have a target number to reach? Is there a hard limit, beyond which you’d have “too many” conversions?
  • If you’re collecting leads, how long will it take to qualify them? Will they get “cold” before you can follow up?

Some other questions to consider include:

  • Which areas of the business will be impacted by increased traffic and sales or conversions?
  • What is the cost and process for upgrading your server resources and network bandwidth, on both a temporary and a permanent basis?
  • Can you hire temporary employees to help? Can some of the work be outsourced?
  • Will your shipping service provider be able to handle more orders? Will you have to upgrade your level of service? Would you need another shipping scale or label maker?
  • Can you reliably obtain more materials? Will you be able to order in bulk?
  • Are there any policies or promises that you can alter now so that you don’t have to apologize later?
  • Are your service providers reliable? Could your bank or payment processor suddenly put your account on hold?

Before you spend money on developing new content, take inventory of what you already have.

Good research backed up by good data is often a marketing gold mine, as the press and influencers love original research.

Ways to produce interesting data:

  • Survey one thousand consumers about their opinions on a related topic (or a smaller number of B2B buyers if that applies better to your organization).
  • Leverage data on the buying trends of customers on your site over time.
  • Test how a variety of products work, and assemble data that shows how they compare.
  • Assemble a group of case studies.
  • Mine data from other resources and then provide unique analysis or an interesting data mash-up. Better still is if you can supplement this with some of your own data.

Create an interactive where the user gets to see how input they provide(their guess) compares to real-world data.

While you are working on your campaign, keep your eyes open for potential collaborators with whom a deeper relationship may be desirable.

Ask visitors for input on what they would like to see in your product or service.

Infographics are only highly effective when this is the best medium for representing the information that you are trying to convey.

The purpose of your content should to be address user needs; to a problem they want to solve or something that they want to do, and they may not involve buying your product or service just yet.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

To achieve long-term success in the 21st century, you should also be building your own personal brand.

Guidelines for pitch email and link outreach:

  • Recognize that you’re not the only one pitching them.
  • Remember it’s a small community.
  • Contact the right person.
  • Be brief.
  • Don’t ask for a link.
  • Don’t ask for a link to be changed from nofollow.
  • Show that you know who they are and what their site is about.
  • Be friendly, but don’t be too friendly.
  • Be helpful.
  • Ask for (a little) help.
  • Offer something new.
  • Don’t be a clown.
  • If appropriate, brag (a little).

Same subject line:

  • Is this unreleased Beatles clip legitimate?
  • More recent data to consider RE: mortgage defaults
  • Quick question RE: your latest home brewing video
  • Would this work for low-noise hothouse ventilation?
  • Projected damage from named storms
  • Something to consider RE: Microsoft’s Surface product roadmap
  • Full list (with map) of Florida scrub jay sightings this year
  • Anything you’d add to this video on jewelry photography?
  • A few things to think about for your next piece on corn subsidies.

Specific tips for influencer outreach:

  • Start by engaging with them on social media or by posting comments on their articles—meaningful comments that add value to the discussion and show that you read their article or watched their video, not quick throwaway stuff like “Great video!” Asking a question tangential to one of the topics they’ve covered is an excellent opener.
  • Ask them to provide a quote for an article you are writing. Make this easy for them, so it’s more likely they will agree. (This might not work if you don’t have a history of publishing trustworthy articles, or if your article doesn’t have enough reach to make it worth their while.)
  • If you have a podcast, stream, or other regular content channel, offer to interview them on or for it.
  • If they will be attending a conference, go to that conference yourself and find a way to meet them in person. One great way to do this is to attend a session where they’re presenting and go up and speak to them afterward.
  • Monitor their article and social postings and take note if they ever ask for help in some fashion (“I wish someone would show me how to…”) Then, offer them that help; even if you have to spend a few hours learning how to do it yourself first.
  • You’re probably not over two degrees of separation from them. If you know someone who knows them, ask for an introduction. LinkedIn is a great way to find the shortest path to creating a new professional connection with someone, as you can see what people you know in common.
    Basically, just be of service without seeming desperate or sycophantic.

Don’t ask for a link, just focus on building a relationship, and at the right point in time, the person you built that relationship with will decide on their own to link to a fantastic piece of content you have created that is of high interest to them.
Better still is if you can find a way to help them with some of their content by doing research or contributing key data to something they’re working on.

Influencer outreach is a delicate, long-term process that should be completed slowly and carefully.

Linking out to well-curated pages that are on highly relevant and authoritative sites will offer more value to your users, and it may cause search engines to see your site as more valuable as well.

“Build great content, tell everyone about it, and motivate them to share.”

Quality content will naturally attract and earn inbound links.

You should view content development and marketing as an ongoing activity, ideally with an editorial calendar optimized for seasonal strategies.

Vertical, Local, and Mobile SEO

There are three search categories that require extra consideration in SEO:

  • Vertical search: Refers to queries for specific content types that are separately indexed.
  • Local search: Refers to queries that are explicitly (as part of the query) or implicitly (via location data or search settings) determined to be within the scope of a certain locale.
  • Mobile search: Refers to queries executed from a mobile device (or, more specifically, from a mobile browser, search app, or widget).
    In other words, local is about where you search (or the locale that you want to focus on), mobile is about how you search (from a specific device, or using a specific input method), and vertical specifies the kind of content you’re interested in finding.

Any entity that does face-to-face business with customers should be optimizing for the local algorithms.
Whether you’re a business with a brick-and-mortar storefront or a business that services customers at their location.

Respond to every review you recieve.

When you respond to negative reviews, remember that your response isn't for the person who left the review; it's for every potential customer who reads the review in the future.

Common myths about increasing your local search presence:

  • Google My Maps is a ranking factor
  • Embedding your Google Maps listing on your website affects rankings
  • Geotagging images impacts rankings
  • Paying Google Ads improves rankings
  • Call tracking will hurt rankings
  • Keywords in review replies help rankings
  • Keywords in your Google Business Profile description impact rankings
  • Having a defined service area impacts rankings

Instead of having the best content on the internet for that search query, you only need the best content in your local area.

In local search, links from others in your community carry more weight.

Most common local link acquisition tactics:

  • local sonsorships
  • local volunteer opportunities
  • local meetups
  • local blogs
  • local clubs and organizations
  • local business associations

Most important ways to optimize an image:

  • Make sure the image filename or img src attribute contains your primary keyword. If it is a picture of Abraham Lincoln, name the file abe-lincoln.jpg and/or have the src URL string contain that keyword, as in (// The filename is also a useful place to include your keyword, though how much weight it may carry is unclear. If your content management system relies upon a gobbledygook ID number for images, you may be able to set it up to include the primary keyword first, followed by the ID number, as in (//
  • Always use the alt attribute for images. This attribute helps vision-impaired users to understand your site, and search engines use it to better understand what your images are about. Our recent research indicates that this feature is still not used for lots of sites’ images, and that many sites have tried to use it with invalid HTML. Make sure the alt parameter is valid, as in this example: (img alt=”Abe Lincoln” src=”//”/)
  • Use the quotes if you want to include spaces in the text string of the alt attribute. Omitting the quotes is a common problem; without them, all words after the first will be lost, if any are used at all. (Note that many CMSs automatically generate alt text content. It is important to use HTML entities or properly escaped characters for symbols that appear within the alt text. A common error occurs when unescaped quotation marks or apostrophes are replicated within this text, invalidating the HTML.)
  • The title attribute may optionally be used for images, but it’s likely unnecessary if you are using the alt attribute. If you do specify a title, use the same words as the alt text. Some systems implement the title with spaces replaced by dashes. This still works for search engines but is off-putting for human users who may see this text when using certain interfaces or browsers.
  • Avoid query strings in the src URL, just as you should for page URLs. If you must use URLs that include query strings, use no more than two or three parameters. Consider rewriting the query strings in the URLs so that they do not contain an excessive number of parameters, which could cause spiders to refuse to crawl the links. Although Google claims to no longer have problems with these types of situations, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
  • Use good-quality pictures, which will display well when shown in thumbnail format. Good contrast is typically the key here. Lower-contrast images are visually harder to process, and it’s common sense that if the thumbnail image doesn’t look good, it will not invite a click.
  • The content of the image is also a key factor. Google does try to process image content, and the more relevant it is to the content of the page, the better.
  • Do not save images as graphics files with embedded thumbnails, turn this feature off in Photoshop and other image editing software. Search engines may copy your image, reduce it in size, save it in compressed format, and deliver up a thumbnail of it for their results pages. An embedded thumbnail can wreak havoc with some compression software, and it increases your file size slightly, so just leave that feature disabled.
  • Don’t store the images in a sidebar column with your ads or inside the header/footer navigation elements; if you do this, the search engines will ignore them, just as they ignore page decor and navigation graphics. More important images should ideally be placed higher up on the page and above the fold, meaning they should be visible when the page first loads without requiring scrolling to see them. (Be aware that “above the fold” means different things with regard to how web pages are designed for mobile versus desktop devices. You likely will need to design your mobile interface to display images at a different size than for the desktop view of your web pages.)
  • Include structured data or IPTC photo metadata for your important images. Structured data for images used on pages containing those images can enable overlay badges to appear in Google image search, enabling users to readily recognize content they may be seeking. For example, you can incorporate structured data for recipes, videos, and products to elicit the added treatment. This also allows Google to show more details about the image in the image search results, such as the name of the creator/photographer, how people can license the image to use it (the “Licensable” badge), and credit information.
  • Take care with asynchronous image delivery (“lazy loading”) on your web pages, where AJAX or JavaScript will load the images after the main page elements as the user scrolls down the page; this can delay Google’s absorption of images, or result in Google failing to index the images altogether. Image sitemaps (discussed in “Deciding what to include in a sitemap file”) can help mitigate this effect, and following the latest responsive image techniques can help. Incorporate responsive images via (picture) elements that may contain multiple (source) versions of the same image, enabling browsers to select the optimal image to use for a particular device and screen. The (picture) element should include an (img) element as a fallback to display for older browsers that do not recognize this element. An alternative to using (picture) is to use the (img) element with a srcset parameter, enabling you to provide multiple copies of an image, each associated with a different screen size.
  • For articles (news, blogs, etc.), Google recommends including a few high-resolution images in three different aspect ratios: 1×1, 4×3, and 16×9. Google also recommends this for a number of other schema types, including LocalBusiness, Recipe, Product, and Event.
  • Have a proper copyright license! You need to have a license to display other people’s images that you use on your site, so that you don’t get sued. Be careful about trying to use images from Wikimedia Commons or other public stock photo sites, as you cannot be sure that those images really are in the public domain. When you “purchase” an image from a stock photo site, you are not purchasing the copyright—you are purchasing the right to use the image. Be sure to understand the terms of the agreement well, as some of the time these arrangements require that you link back to the copyright holder. While copyright approval is primarily a legal consideration, note that Google is now assessing how many copyright removal demands are associated with websites, and if a website has too many, it will potentially cause a ranking reduction in Google search results.
  • Ensure that your server configuration allows your site’s images to be displayed when called from web pages on other domains. Some system administrators have disabled this setting to keep people from displaying their images on other sites, and this could cause problems if you want your images displayed in search engines’ image results pages. Likewise, make sure that your robots.txt file does not block the crawlers from accessing your image file directories, and that the HTTP header for your site’s images does not block crawlers.
  • Ideally, your images should be hosted on the same top-level domain as the web pages where they are displayed. Your images ideally could be on the same domain, or on another subdomain that shares the same top-level domain, such as
  • If it is a fit for your business, specify that others are free to use your images for online display as long as they link back to your website from a credit line below or adjacent to the image, where they display your copyright notice. Enabling others to use your photos invites more promotional attention when people wish to write about you in blogs or in news articles.
  • Page speed is a factor that is affected by images themselves, so it is important to specify the size that images are used at within web pages, and also to compress your images efficiently to have the smallest file size while not degrading quality too much.
  • Avoid delivering images via CSS only! Google parses the HTML of web pages to index images but does not index CSS images. Display images on your web pages via (img) tags, not via style parameters for (div), (span), or other elements.


  • When you upload images to Pinterest (Pinterest uniquely refers to photos as “Pins”), always add a title. The title is the most influential element, so use great keywords to describe your images. Pinterest allows up to 100 characters in the title, but only the first 40 characters will appear in feeds and other interfaces that display its content. It’s fine to use the full 100 characters, as this will appear in the photo page’s title when indexed by Google; just be aware that the first 40 characters need to convey what the picture is about.
  • Add a description—this is essentially a caption for the photo, which Pinterest displays to the right of the picture on desktop, and below the picture in mobile. Use good description text that reiterates the primary and secondary keywords about the image, but be aware that only the first 50 characters will appear to users when they land on the image page; further text will be hidden and therefore of lower importance when Google indexes it.
  • Include specific alt text. Pinterest allows you to supply text for the alt parameter, and this should again reinforce the main topic and keyword to be associated with the picture. Annoyingly, Pinterest adds the text “This contains:” at the beginning; keep this in mind when writing your alt text.
  • Link the photo to your website. You can associate a photo with a link, and this is a worthwhile connection to make with your website.
  • Create thematic “boards” for your photos (as in “pinning images to a bulletin board”). You must associate each photo with at least one board to display it on your profile. Boards should be designed as categories for your images with themes that end users will readily understand. Having these topic-specific boards to categorize your photos facilitates browsing and interaction with your images. Boards should be given short, clear names, and a brief description should be added as well, although this is optional. A representative image may be used to represent the board; this should be one of the best from that particular set in order to attract visitors. For those boards that are geographically specific, you can specify a location to associate the board with.
  • Pin images to multiple boards. This improves the chances that users will see them and save them, increasing their exposure and distribution potential. To associate an image with multiple boards, once you have initially saved it, view the image’s page and click the board name drop-down beside the Save button in the upper-right corner (on desktop) or the Save button below the image (on mobile). Select a board name from the list (or choose “Create board” to create a new one), and click Save.
  • You can upload images directly to Pinterest, but it also allows you to add images directly from a web page where they appear. On a desktop, click the + button at the bottom of your home feed, select Create Pin, and choose “Save from site.” Enter the URL, then select the image and click “Add to Pin” once Pinterest identifies it. The process is similar on mobile. One benefit of this is that the interface will already have the page URL to associate the image with. In some instances, however, Pinterest may be unable to parse the web page to locate the image, or the image could be in a format that Pinterest cannot grab and use. In those cases, you’ll need to upload it yourself. If the format is an issue, you could screen-grab the image and then upload the cropped, screen-grabbed version that has been saved as a JPG. When uploading images from a web page, also be aware that the content Pinterest associates with the image from that page may override any title, description, or alt text you hand-enter.


  • Try using filters. Naturally, you should use good-quality images in the first place, but Instagram has some fairly sophisticated filters that can make your images look even better. Experiment with these to see what produces the best effect, or use the custom image adjustment settings to improve the image’s appearance. Most images benefit from some slight tweaking of the contrast, brightness, and color saturation.
  • Crop your images to fit. Images do best on Instagram with a one-to-one ratio. It is possible to upload a single image with a longer vertical ratio, but be aware of how Instagram may automatically crop it when it generates the thumbnail view to display on your profile.
  • Write a good caption that includes keywords. The caption field provides a very generous space for long text. However, generally shorter descriptions perform better if you craft them well and include vital keywords—unless you can craft a caption that intrigues the viewer enough that they want to click to see the full text description. When more viewers click to expand the text, the engagement generated is a ranking signal, indicating to Instagram that that image is more interesting than other images that are also relevant for the same keywords.
  • Include good hashtags. Instagram particularly revolves around hashtags, so add them for your keywords using the format (a leading hash mark followed by a word or set of words with no spaces). You can include multiple hashtags. As you start typing one into the Instagram interface, it will show you some of the hashtags beginning with the same letters as you are typing, and a count of how many times that hashtag has been used. This is great for discovering additional keyword hashtags to add.
  • Tag other people related to the image you are adding, such as people appearing in the photo who also have Instagram accounts, or accounts that you reasonably believe might find the image particularly interesting.
  • Add location data to the image as you submit it, if the image is associated with a specific place. This feature enables people to discover all the images associated with a location, including your image if you add this information.
  • Make the images available to appear in Google SERPs. Make sure your account is not set to private so that Google can access and crawl the photo pages. Linking to your profile from your website can help the images be discovered and indexed. Also, embedding your more important photos into your web pages or blog posts can help expedite indexing and enhance their ability to rank in search.


  • Think ahead: while you’re shooting the video, take still images to use for thumbnails.
  • Don’t violate YouTube’s content policies (sexually suggestive images, profanity, etc.).
  • Create a different thumbnail image for every major screen size and/or display ratio.
  • All thumbnail images should be high-resolution. Google’s minimum requirement is 60×30 px, but you should use the highest reasonable resolution for each display ratio.
  • If possible, try to incorporate brand colors, images, and other visual elements. If there are no brand considerations, then select a thumbnail that features a close-up of the subject’s face, or an image that uses bright colors.

Practices to avoid, such as:

  • Using hashtags that are overly long. No one searches on those.
  • Going overboard with your hashtags. Using four to six hashtags is reasonable for most videos. Definitely do not exceed the limit of 60 hashtags, as this will cause YouTube to ignore all of them.
  • Using tags that are not highly relevant to your video.
  • Picking hashtags that are not phrases that users search on.
  • Including hashtags for your personal name or business name.

SEO Research and Study

Content written and curated by industry experts:

  • Search Engine Land, owned and operated by Third Door Media
  • Search Engine Journal, owned and operated by Alpha Brand Media
  • The Moz Blog, owned and operated by Moz, Inc.
  • Search Engine Roundtable, owned and operated by Barry Schwartz
  • Moz also provides a wide range of tools and resources for SEO practitioners.

online community sources:

  • r/SEO
  • r/bigSEO
  • r/TechSEO
  • BigSEO Slack channel (sign-up form)
  • Backlinks Slack group

Useful resources:

  • Google Search Central Blog
  • Google Search Central YouTube channel
  • Google’s Search Off the Record podcast
  • Microsoft Bing Blogs

Testing specific tactics one at a time:

  • Modify just the HTML (title) tag and see what happens. Depending on your site’s crawl frequency, you will need to wait a few days to a few weeks to give the search engines enough time to recognize what you have done and respond.
  • Continue making further iterative revisions to the (title) tag until your search engine results show that you’ve arrived at the optimal text.
  • Move on to address the use of heading tags (they do provide emphasis, when and where used), tweaking those and nothing else.
  • Watch what happens. Optimize in multiple iterations.
  • Move on to the body copy, then the breadcrumb navigation, and so on.

You can test many different elements in this scenario, such as:

  • The (title) tag
  • Headline ((h1), (h2), (h3)) tags
  • Placement of body copy in the HTML
  • Presence of keywords in the body copy
  • Keyword prominence
  • Keyword repetition
  • Anchor text of internal links to the page
  • Anchor text of inbound links to the page from sites over which you have influence

If you’re testing title tags, continue trying different variations to see what works best; shorten them, lengthen them, move words around, substitute words with synonyms.

If your competition appears to be implementing a strategy that is working for them, consider using it as a model for your own efforts.

Choose to focus on an area that appears to be a weak spot in their strategy and/or one that leverages your current resources most effectively.


  • Ahrefs Academy
  • Coursera
  • Market Motive
  • Moz Academy
  • Semrush Academy
  • Udemy

An Evolving Art Form: The Future of SEO

SEO is about leveraging your company’s assets through search engine-friendly content creation and website development and targeted content promotion to increase exposure and earn targeted traffic from organic search results.

Your aim should be to create content that outshines that of your competitors in your topic areas, and then promote it effectively to let the people who care about what you do know about it.

Organizations almost universally continue to design their websites for desktop devices first, but logic would strongly suggest that taking the opposite approach provides more opportunities to enhance the user experience and improve conversions for both mobile and desktop users.

Internet penetration is 67% for Asia and 43% for Africa. This data tells us that a lot of internet growth in the coming decade will be outside of Europe and North America, providing unique new business opportunities for those who are ready to capitalize on that growth.

Reasons why SEO is growing in popularity:

  • The web outperforms other sales channels.
  • Paid search drives interest in SEO.
  • SEO is losing its stigma.
  • Marketing departments are in a brainstorming cycle.
  • Fluctuations in the economy don’t tend to impact search traffic.
  • Web budgets are being reassessed.
  • Someone finally looked at the web analytics.

Becoming a rich source of noncommercial informational content can bring a lot of relevant traffic to their sites.
This builds loyalty with site visitors, fills the top of the sales funnel, and can even drive direct conversions.
It also keeps potential customers away from the competition.

SEO has 5 major objectives:

  1. Make content accessible to search engine crawlers.
  2. Determine the questions and needs that prospective customers have, find the keywords that they employ (understand your target audience), and make your site speak their language.
  3. Build content that users will find useful, valuable, and worthy of sharing. Ensure that they’ll have a good experience on your site to improve the likelihood that you’ll earn links and references.
  4. Earn votes for your content in the form of editorial links and social media mentions from good sources by building inviting, shareable content and applying classic marketing techniques to the online world.
  5. Create web pages that allow users to find what they want extremely quickly, ideally in the blink of an eye.

Smart marketers now focus on content marketing instead of link building.