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SEO Best Practices Checklist: Mistakes, Keywords, Strategy and Trends

SEO best practices checklist

Keyword rankings are flawed.

Everyone’s search engine result pages (SERPs) are currently being personalized based on the following information:

  • Your past browsing history
  • Your physical location
  • And your social media connections

That means the individual keyword rankings are personalized too.

So you and I, searching for the same keyphrase, will undoubtedly see different results.

But wait, it gets worse…

Keyphrase-specific data is disappearing at an alarming rate.

That means when you login to Google Analytics (or any other popular analytics program), your organic keyword data is getting lumped under [not provided].

And Google is also stripping away the ability to target very specific keyphrases in their own AdWords platform — instead forcing you to target a broader group of related phrases (and thus paying more for less targeted results).

With all of this in mind, your SEO keyword strategy for future growth is Keep reading periodically to make sure that you don’t get caught by the ever-evolving world of most likely broken.

Here’s why, and how you can fix it.

What We Can Learn About SEO Keyphrase Strategy by Analyzing CodelessInteractive.com Organic Search Data

One of the primary roles of organic search is to provide new targeted visits to your website.

That means figuring out ways to bring new, interested people to your site with the (a) ability and (b) willingness to eventually give you money in exchange for something.

With that in mind, we analyzed our own website’s performance to determine which pages were the most successful, and why (in terms of Reach — i.e. impressions, clicks, and new visits). We looked at the 770 reported keyphrases in Google Webmaster Tools that sent us at least 1 visit.

From May 17th to Aug 14th of 2014, the two most popular blog posts were focused on:

  1. Launching a new website
  2. Generating website traffic
Top 2 blog posts receiving organic search traffic from May 17 to Aug 14 2004 for our SEO best practices checklist data
Top 2 blog posts receiving organic search traffic from May 17 to Aug 14 2014

But here’s the surprising (or not surprising) result… there wasn’t just one or two keyphrases responsible for all of the search traffic to these pages.

In fact, there were more than 10 individual, yet closely related keyphrases sending traffic to each of these pages.

Taking this a step further, here’s how much traffic the most popular keyphrase for each page sent (as a percentage of total new visits):

  1. “how to launch a website” – 6.67%
  2. “generate traffic” – 6.50%

So what does this all mean?

3 Takeaways to Update Your SEO Keyword Strategy

Tip #1. Instead of over-prioritizing individual keyphrase data, we should focus more on overall landing page and content performance.

That includes:

  1. Researching groups of relevant, related keyphrases
  2. Figuring out where these might apply to potential customers in the buying cycle
  3. Setting up and tracking relevant business or marketing KPI’s (like revenue, leads, or pageviews) for these pages, instead of “leading indicators” like keyword rankings.

Tip #2. Increase “Reach” by expanding your website to target and engage people earlier in the buying cycle through popular, unbranded topics.

To increase Reach (i.e. Impressions, Clicks, and New Visits from organic search), you typically have to research and incorporate more “unbranded” keyphrases (and pages!) that target users earlier in the buying cycle (like in the Awareness stage).

These people won’t convert immediately, but are cheaper and easier to reach than the more competitive, commercial topics.

Tip #3. Successful SEO today doesn’t just mean SEO.

Google continues to remove or reduce important keyphrase information because these changes (a) make it harder for other companies to compete with Google AdWords, and (b) forces their own customers to spend more money on the aforementioned AdWords.

Effective? Yes. Evil? Probably.

But it can actually work in our favor.

Because while great SEO hasn’t changed all that much in the past few years… Bad SEO has.

Search marketing shouldn’t exist on it’s own in a silo or vacuum from the rest of your organization.

The SEO process is dynamic and interrelated with other various inbound marketing methods. And it’s not something you “set and forget”.

There’s a constant need to research, analyze, create, optimize, promote. And then do it all over again.

So even though Google’s changes make it a little harder to figure out the minutiae of search engine optimization, it also forces you to be more holistic and focus on the big picture…

Forget PageRank. Forget backlinks. And forget keyword rankings for a minute.

Because none of that stuff really matters.

What matters at the end of the day is whether (a) you’re bringing in new, targeted people to your website on a consistent basis, (b) if these people are having happy first experiences and (c) if — and how many of these people — are becoming a lead or customer.

Ultimately, improving those three simple things are what separates most companies from profitable growth and stagnating sales.

Not PageRank. Or backlinks. And definitely not keyword rankings.

4 Little-Known SEO Trends Impacting Your Business

SEO best practices checklist

Google makes over 200 algorithm changes a year according to some reports.

And many of those updates have the potential to lift you up, or wipe out your traffic literally overnight.

Some large updates, like Panda and Penguin, are big shifts that are well publicized.

But many times, Google makes small incremental improvements on a daily basis.

These might not be as noticeable, but they’re always designed as part of a larger trend that will one day heavily influence search results (and they influence how companies should position to protect and capitalize).

Today we’re going to look at 4 key SEO trends impacting your business.

And then we’re going to look at how companies can take advantage of these trends.

Let’s dive in…

Trend #1 – Personalization

SEO best practices checklist when dealing with personalization

(Image Source)

The biggest trend we’ve seen over the past year or two is how search engine results are becoming more personalized.

Looking at this amazing data gathered in the photo above by SeoTrainingLondon.org, most users don’t even know that their results are personalized.

The effects of personalization are already extremely pervasive, and it’s evidence of a much broader, macro-trend that encompass a few other items we’ll discuss below (like localization and social signals).

For example, your past browsing history now dictates which results (and websites) move up or down accordingly.

(So the reason your own company’s website is now showing up on the first page — sorry to say — probably has more to do with personalization and the fact that you visit it every single day, and not the work you’ve done over the last month.)

The impact of this one trend is staggering.

Because things we used to prioritize — like keyword rankings — now mean much less.

When everyone’s search results are personalized to their unique tastes and preferences, the idea of a standardized, uniform “keyword ranking” becomes absurd.

Trend #2 – Localization

One of the key drivers behind personalization is the profound impact your physical location has on the search results you’re seeing.

Think of it this way…

Google’s goal is to make search results as personalized as possible (because it provides a better user experience that other search engines — like Bing, Facebook and even YouTube — can’t compete with.)

The only way to tailor your results specifically to your tastes is by layering in other contextual information.

And your physical location is a big piece to that puzzle.

Because now Google knows when you type in a generic, informative query like “Pizza”, that you’re most likely looking for local pizza places (and not just a Wikipedia entry about the origins of pizza).

Google is increasingly using this contextual data to infer what you’re looking for (and what you’re NOT looking for).

Trend #3 – Social Signals

The other piece of contextual information that Google uses to tailor results for everyone is their social media influences.

That means they use direct relationships (i.e. who you follow, like, and circle) as well as indirect relationships (i.e. the likes, mentions and +1’s from the people who your friends may follow).

Unfortunately for consumers (but fortunately for companies), privacy online is a thing of the past.

Every single thing you put on a free service, like Facebook, will be used against you by advertisers and corporations.

And search engines are increasingly pulling in this data to make sure that they don’t just show you the local pizza shops around your location, but also prioritize your friend’s favorite places first.


Trend #4 – Quality & Qualitivative Signals

Another key shift in search engine algorithms over the past year is the emphasis on qualitative metrics.

Historically, search engines used quantitative information and algorithms to determine the number of backlinks, quality of those backlinks, PageRank, and more.

But Google is also using other means now — like your website statistics and even manual surveys — to measure vague things like “trust” and “user satisfaction” with each result.

The push towards qualitative data came out of the Panda update, where Google actually used real live human beings to look at different websites and write down their thoughts, experiences, and feelings.

These people would answer questions like “Would you feel comfortable giving this website your credit card information?”, or “Would you trust medical advice from this website?”.

This trend hints at the broad scope SEO now tries to encompass, which also tries to value soft-assets like branding with hard ones like backlinks.

3 Easy Ways to Capitalize on the Future of SEO

SEO best practices checklist: Here are 3 easy ways to capitalize on the future of SEO to grow your business and stay ahead of the competition.

SEO tactics frequently die out.

But SEO will always be important.

So the key is to always look forward, to where the trends are heading, and see if you can position your business to be ahead of the curve (and the competition).

Today we’re going to look 3 easy ways to capitalize on the future of SEO to grow your business and stay ahead of the competition.

How to Capitalize on the Future of SEO

“Googling” something today is vastly different than it was just a few years ago.

The actual search engine result pages (SERPS) themselves are pulling in extra data and detail to return comprehensive results.

So instead of just seeing a bunch of blue links (like years past), we’re now also seeing things like:

  • Knowledge Graph (Instant answers)
  • Localization (customer reviews, store/office hours, etc.)
  • Google+ Authorship
  • Other rich media (photos, videos, etc.)

All of which is good.

As long as you know how to take advantage.

Let’s take a look at 3 easy ways.

Tip #1 – Inbound Marketing Trumps Isolated Tactics: “SEO” isn’t an isolated function or tactic that happens externally.

It’s powered by content creation, fueled by social media, and accelerated through PR, advertising and distribution.

Which brings up the key difference between “inbound” marketing vs. “outbound” marketing…

The ROI of inbound marketing grows indefinitely because the tactics complement and optimize each other.

Meaning the the more you invest in content creation or social media, the better your SEO will be (and vice versa).

Compare that to “outbound” channels like radio or print, which very rarely improve the value of one another exponentially.

So you want to improve your search visibility and SEO performance?

Then start by improving your content creation and social media presence.

Tip 2 – Optimize Your Website for Leads, Not Just SEO Does your website do a good job of generating demand, leads and sales?

Or are you guilty of some common website mistakes?

Because the best SEO strategy is always improving the customer’s experience.

That means investing in a contemporary design that works well on all devices.

That means improving landing pages and how visitors navigate your website to boost conversions.

And that means looking at engagement metrics to make sure users are viewing multiple pages per visit and aren’t bouncing immediately after arriving on your site.

If you can build a website that people willingly visit frequently, then you won’t have to obsess over keyword rankings…

…Or worry about sales.

Which brings us to our last point.

Tip #3 – Build Brands, Not Links: One of my favorite recent SEO marketing mantras has been RCS — Real Company Shit.

Which basically means, the best SEO strategies… are always the best marketing strategies.

Forget about links for a minute, and think about how big brands approach marketing.

Stop looking for loopholes, and start doing the work.

Go back to the basics.

Return to the 4-Ps.

Run campaigns that coordinate publicity, outreach, advertising, and distribution or placement.

Focus on driving real business goals (like leads), build brand equity around your products and services (like loyalty and community) and the little things like “more links” will take care of themselves.

Because you can’t manufacture word-of-mouth. It happens, or it doesn’t. Depends on your brand equity.

And if you don’t have millions in the bank to splash on flashy mass-media advertising, then brand equity will come as a byproduct of your operations and customer satisfaction.

Once those things are working properly, then SEO becomes 1000 times easier.

The future of SEO belongs to brands, not links.

3 Killer Local SEO Tips for New Google Changes

3 Killer Local SEO Tips for New Google Changes

Last year, Google released over 17 algorithm updates according to one unofficial report.

Each algorithm update shuffles the deck on which factors should be emphasized or de-emphasized (and thus raising or dropping websites which adhere to them), which sometimes leads to a loss of traffic.

But while these large updates get all the news and attention, Google continues to constantly roll out updates for how they display information.

And these changes to the search engine result pages (SERPs) highlight key trends to how users and search engines are evolving.

So if you want to use SEO to drive real business objectives like revenue and customers (not just “vanity metrics” like rankings), then here are 3 local SEO tips to take advantage of…

Tip #1. Diversify Your SEO Efforts for New Local SERPs

The SERPs (search engine result pages) of local results (i.e. any results containing location-based keyphrases) have evolved tremendously over the past year.

The natural, organic results (i.e. SEO results) have been pushed down the page to make room for more local data being pulled in from Google+ and AdWords results.

To make matters worse, most of the natural, organic results are topped by large aggregators like Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc..

That means if you want to have a big presence on these influential SERPs, then you need to diversify your SEO efforts into these other places as well (i.e. Google+, Google’s Hotel Finder, AdWords, Yelp, and TripAdvisor).

That way you can maximize the amount of people who will find your brand when “evaluating” their options, and take advantage of Google’s new layout.

Here’s an example of the SERP for “Monarch Beach Hotel” where you’ll notice a lot of these changes already occurring:

SEO best practices checklist google search results


Tip #2. Capitalize on Branded Searches

Recent changes made by Google also affect “branded” searches, where someone types in your brand name, or branded product and services.

For example, look at the featured Google+ section of the search engine result page (SERP) when I do a “branded search” for the St. Regis in Monarch Beach, CA:

SEO best practices checklist for branded searches

They have a TON of extra additional information about the brand.

This helps users get a quick snapshot of basic information (like when to call) but also the more important elements to influence an eventual purchase (like beautiful photographs, upcoming fun events, and reviews).

And now if we flip back to the local SERP, we’ll see how all of their reviews help St. Regis to be listed FIRST in the featured “local section” at the top of the page:

These reviews not only get them prime placement, but also drive real revenue because they help assure and persuade prospects trying to decide where to book.

Tip #3. Optimize Influential “Satellites”

Most local SERPs are filled with popular sales channels or review sites like Yelp.

They usually dominate the first few organic results for ANY type of search, because they’re so influential, respected and highly used.

Why spend money on reaching these people specifically? Because these are the “taste makers” who influence everyone else.

People using these tools are the innovators and early adopters who’ll inform the majority where they should go — or avoid. (Read about the Age of Excellence for more.)

Another popular “satellite” that we all use is Tripadvisor.

It’s obviously one of the most important online travel destinations, both in terms of people referencing their reviews and also their strength in showing up at the top result for nearly every major travel SERP.

So one way to capitalize on their strength is to pay for higher placement through normal advertising or sponsorship.

But you should also explore new opportunities to increase conversions like TripConnect which help you increase new sales within each destination.

influential satellites are big for seo best practices

On the surface, it appears to be a pretty compelling idea, because it offers a few great benefits:

  1. Increase conversions from people already on TripAdvisor
  2. Increase revenue by using upsells on your website for new bookings
  3. And by completing more bookings on your website, you pay less money out for commissions to other online sales channels

Where to Start?

The BEST way to come up with new marketing strategies is to go back to your customers point of view.

How are they already finding your website? (Ask them.)

How do similar people find, locate, and evaluate their alternatives when deciding to purchase?

Then retrace their steps, and use a diversified approach with specific tactics for each major stage.

Most new BUYERS (not just visitors) find businesses online through paid and organic search — i.e. Google AdWords and SEO — according to Forrester’s research of over 77,000 online orders.

Many of these people will start by Googling local keyphrases to get a feel for the landscape.

Then they’ll go check out a popular “satellite” like TripAdvisor to narrow down the field of top alternatives for their purchasing criteria.

Finally, they’ll begin researching each individual business through Google using “branded” keyphrases.

That’s a typical sequence of how NEW BUYERS make purchases online.

Your strategies should mirror their behavior, and this alignment will begin to produce real business results (like new leads, new customers, and new revenue) and not just “leading indicators” like rankings or backlinks.