A rose by any other name may smell just as sweet, but good luck trying to find good results for “thorny red flower” on the first page of the SERPs! Until Google gets even better with their relationship-mapping (thanks Hummingbird, you’re a great start!), long-tail optimization will be a huge part of SEO. Whether your goal is to optimize content for the search engines or getting fresh new content ideas, using the right keywords and phrases is a big factor for success. The trick is knowing which keywords to incorporate in your content. If you’ve done a Google search for “keyword research”, then you probably know there are tons of methods, some using hardcore SEO tricks or simple keyword research tools. The most popular keyword tool by far is the one and only Google Keyword Tool called Keyword Planner. Conceived originally for AdWords, this once external keyword tool is loved by SEOs for the metrics it provides. It’s biggest shortcoming? It mostly reveals only head or body keywords, and you have to wrestle it out of an Adwords account. But what about those times you need more detailed, long-tail keywords?
Last week our team attended a local (Philadelphia) SEO meetup where there was a presentation from local wiz Sean Malseed of Circlerank. The presentation was called “Build Your Own Damn (SEO) Tools With Google Apps.” He showed us how to use Google Sheets for scraping and pulling API data to build your own custom tools. He also shared his own site that has some really incredible tools ready for free use: http://www.ranktank.org.
The folks at Mountain View made the conscious decision that keywords alone couldn’t deliver them the results they wanted to see (ahem, “their users wanted to see”). Google tried some different modeling, but ultimately came around to semantic search (that is, using semantic technology to refine the query results). Now I said much of the industry has picked up on it. Not all. I still see a lot of pretending Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird never happened. That’s unfortunate for innocent clients around the world. But for most of us probably reading this, we’re students of a new lexicon. With words like “triples” and “entities” and “semiotics” and “topic modeling.”
Ah, the SEO report. Embraced by some agencies and despised by others, an agencies’ level of interest typically dictating if the monthly report becomes a detailed monstrosity or just a quick export from whatever reporting tool being used. Note that neither of these scenarios address whether anyone has taken the time to do insights. Smart companies look for ways to use APIs and programming to speed up data pulling; gathering the necessary data in a timely manner.
Entity optimization as a big SEO play isn’t quite upon us yet. It’s a slow, growing Google addition. I know – it frustrates me too. So much potential, of which I believe will greatly improve search results in the future. Google isn’t nearly showing the fruits of everything it knows through entities, whether through cards or search results – at least not relative to the way they rank on keywords alone. But can knowledge cards help bring qualified traffic while considering searcher intent? SEOs always talk about searchers intent. Anyone who’s been doing SEO for a while knows that building for intent can be a challenge.
The link management function isn’t new to the SEO space. Many tools do it already, like Buzzstream and Raven – and they do it quite well. Additionally, link discovery is an existing feature of tools like Open Site Explorer, yet this is an area where I see opportunity for growth. I love the idea of these ‘new link’ reports, but honestly, haven’t found anything faster than monthly updates. I know it’s a tough request, but I mentioned this to François. By tracking “as-it-happens” links, you can jump into conversations in a timely manner, start making relationships, and maybe shape linking-page context. You might even be able to catch some garbage links you want to disassociate yourself from quicker.
I remember a few years ago blowing the mind of a boss with a theory that Google would eventually rank (in part) based on their own internal understanding of your object. If Wikipedia could know so much about an object, why couldn’t Google? In the end, I was basically describing semantic search and entities, something that has already lived as a concept in the fringe of the mainstream.
For one reason or another, plenty of sites are in the doghouse. The dust has settled a bit. Google has gotten more specific about the penalties and warnings through their notifications, and much of the confusion is no longer… as confusing. We’re now in the aftermath – the grass is slowly growing again and the sky is starting to clear. A lot of companies that sold black hat link building work have vanished (and seem to have their phone off the hook). Some companies who sold black hat work are now even charging to remove the links they built for you (we know who you are!). But at the end of the day, if you were snared by Google for willingly – or maybe unknowingly – creating “unnatural links,” the only thing to do is get yourself out of the doghouse.
Ever wonder how powerful some of the oldest SEO recommendations still are? With the birds and the bears (and a little caffeine) changing so much in SEO since 2011, I wanted to see first hand some of the results we can get from some moves like internal linking and title tag optimization. Using my own site as the proving ground, and moving quickly between tweaks and first results to try and exclude any other ancillary update or change, I decided to test some optimizations I still see recommended or used in the field. The set of competing pages I chose below don’t move very often, so I thought this might be a good group to experiment with.
As an SEO I bet your chest just tightened up reading that. We’ve all been there. Our lot in life will put us there again. When the spotlight is put on natural search performance, it’s almost always put on you as a performer (at least semi-consciously). Maybe you feel threatened or defensive. The counter-arguments start squirting through your neocortex.