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Best of 2013: No15 – SEO: Do’s and Don’t Do’s #bestof2013stod

23 December 2013 BY

During the holiday weeks we will be showing you the 15 best read posts of 2013. Except for on Christmas and New Years day, each day you can read the best articles again, going from number 15 back to number 1.

Today it’s number 15, originally posted on August 27 2013

Something that I love about SEO is that it is in an ever changing discipline. What worked for you last year may not work at all for you now, or in the near future. This is something that is often a bone of contention, causing disputes within the SEO fraternity, and further afield. However, this ‘ever-changing’ nature can lead to areas of confusion (and out-and-out dispute) with which tactics are the right ones.

This is completely understandable, but my recent experiences have frustrated me. If fact, they’ve pissed me off. While reviewing the incredibly poor work of a fairly well known UK agencies SEO work (I will not disclose which agency, however I can assure you that it is not Verve Search) and well as a somewhat off-putting remark from a web developer has forced me to set the record straight. In this post I share some essential do’s and don’t’s for SEO today.

The Problem

The problem that I’ve recognised recently (and that I have a particular problem with) is that the fast changes in the SEO field causes a confusion with related disciplines, such as:

  • Web developers
  • PPC consultants
  • PR firms
  • Online marketing consultants
  • Not to mention a large amount of senior decision makers…

These all struggle to understand what’s ‘in’ and what’s ‘out’ with SEO. This is just part of a contributing factor to many so-called ‘internet marketers’ claiming that SEO is dead *yawn*. Not to mention a very popular UK newspaper publishing an article on this very matter recently (no, I am not linking to it). For all those naysayers, I’ll just direct them to the brilliant recent post by Martin Macdonald. Is SEO dead? No, it’s not. Are you up-to-date on SEO? Not necessarily…

I recently experienced this first hand, when a web developer I was working with tried to inform me that he thought

“…using an XML sitemap was ‘old school’ SEO”

I of course profusely told him otherwise… The reason that I am writing this post is to, at least for now, put that and a number of other areas of confusion to bed. So through a collection of witty innuendoes,  terrible SEO memes and a dash of some genuine insight, here goes…

SEO in 2013: Do’s:

Technical SEO

Google (and other search engines) have increasingly sounded out their intention to serve the best possible user experience to their users. This doesn’t mean just quick loading times (although this is now widely viewed as a ranking factor) but also a technically-healthy website. The field of ‘technical SEO’ has developed a lot over the last few years, and for good reason too. A purely technical focus for some SEOs, particularly when working on large fast-moving sites, like eCommerce or news sites, can provide far greater return on investment than a team of ‘outreach’, or ‘linkbuilding’ specialists will. Getting the technical aspects of SEO right, should be a first step to most SEO strategies.

Knowing your differences between:

  • 302 and a 301 redirects - and their importance in transferring link authority
  • The importance of adding an XML sitemap to your site
  • Removing the infamous disallow: / from your robots.txt file
  • Or how best to handle pagination issues for SEO (and the implications of your decisions)

Should be considered absolute basics. There are many, many examples of technical SEO, however getting your site set up the best possible way for search engine crawlers will only benefit you in the future. Technical SEO is very worthwhile the investment of time and resource.

Technical SEO Meme

Content-Based Approach to SEO

The days of article spinning, link farms, and low-quality content are long gone. If you are still doing this, stop. If you are, and believe that you’re ‘beating the system’, you’re not. If you are selling this as a service, you’re an asshole (at least in my book). If you do not have a focus on the production of high-quality content, and a robust content strategy to support your SEO efforts. You will fail eventually.

Now don’t get me wrong on this, I actually believe that there are many genuine cases where investment in content is just too damn pricey to invest in for small (and even large) businesses. Being able to say no is not a bad thing. However, whether running your own shop, or working in an agency, you should be attributing value to your content creation efforts, and calculating an ROI, to prove it’s worth. If you’re not, then start asking questions.

The fact remains, that humans like good content. And when people like content, they share content, they start discussions about good content, and they link to good content. In essence, they do the leg work for you. It’s not easy, but crack this and you will please your client, and possibly increase your retainers or share of budget.

Content Strategy meme

SEO in 2013: Don’t Do’s

Link Spam

Very closely tied to the need for having a content-based approach to SEO, and trust me when I say this… If you are building links through spammy (what Google calls ‘unnatural’) practices, you will suffer the consequences. Many SEOs have been saying this for 2+ years now, but some just don’t seem to understand, link spamming is gaming Google’s algorithm, and they don’t like that. They will hunt you down and slap a penalty so big on your site that you won’t even remember your own name.

There is a reason that a number of fantastic link cleanup tools have come on to the market, such as: LinkRisk (personal favourite), Link Detox, Remove ‘em, Rmoov, SEOgadget’s Cleanup & Contact tool and even Google’s own Disavow tool. There is a market now for cleaning up dirty, spammy link profiles, so much so that people have built tools and are selling this as a service.

Link Building Meme

Duplicate Content

It’s old news to many SEOs worth their salt now, but since early 2011 (Panda update) duplicate content has been a big no no. This has changed a number of old school (read: crappy) SEO tactics like: spinning content, article submissions, advertorial abuse and more recently over-optimisation of press releases. There is one thing that I believe most short-sighted or under experienced digital marketers seem to overlook time and time again:

“Our advice for publishers continues to be to focus on delivering the best possible user experience on your websites and not to focus too much on what they think are Google’s current ranking algorithms or signals” (Source: Google Webmaster Blog)

If you are someone who is struggling to get over why the apparent overuse of the same (or very similar) content blur your vision, I implore you to read that sentence carefully. Now read it again, this time with your head removed from your arse.

Google, nor any other search engine for that matter, don’t want users searching for a term and being presented with 10 [7] links to the same content across several sites. The Panda update was geared towards changing this, and it makes absolute sense. Now deal with it.

Duplicate Content Meme

Ignore Other Media Types

Segwaying nicely from the previous point: stop relying on simply text-based content for SEO. Much like the publishing (and online publishing) industry, the web has come on leaps and bounds from simply providing dull, lifeless text-based content. Those that are seriously making inroads into ranking for search terms are utilising more engaging mediums and content types, such as:

  • Images
  • Video
  • Podcasts

You can optimise these for search too. So create this content and create something that provides value for the user.

Video SEO Meme

People are inherently lazy. The web only serves to amplify this further. The increase in broadband penetration and 3G [4G] speeds mean that users are far more likely to engage with richer content types. These should be helping to form an increasing proportion of your SEO and content strategy.

Try including high quality product imagery, video demonstrations or tutorials, or podcasts to support your SEO efforts. Not only will including (and optimising!) these assets give you visibility in universal search, but you’re likely to see a boost in engagement and conversion rates too. This helps to achieve harmony in you online marketing efforts. This enables you to talk to a wider audience, gets you working closer with your content team and provide results that far outreach your boring text summaries.

SEO in 2013: A Call To Arms

As SEOs it is our duty to provide our clients, or the companies that we work for, with up-to-date tactics based on campaigns that will capitalise upon the changes that the search engines have put in place. Many remain in the dark and offer poor insights into what can be achieved through creative thinking and great technically-minded execution. We must educate those that we work closely alongside to ensure that they are not thinking about old, ineffective tactics for their campaigns. Ensuring that they remain up-to-date and work synergistically to achieving the overall goal. Greater visibility, greater gains = happy companies.

I love feedback on all of my articles, and seeming as this article was produced (almost therapeutically) out of personal dissatisfaction of work that I have seen so-called ‘SEO specialists’ providing, I’d love to hear if you agree/disagree on my points above. Or, if you have any tactics that you’ve come across that you simply want to bitch about too…

Update:

While I will not disclose the agency in question in this article, I can assure you that it is not Verve Search. I have the utmost respect for Lisa Myers and her team, they produce great content and would have absolutely no hesitation to recommend them heartily.

AUTHORED BY:
h

Ned Poulter is the Co-Founder of AvitaDigital, a Digital Marketing Consultancy based in Copenhagen, Denmark. He specialises in all aspects of SEO, digital marketing consulting and PPC, amongst many other things.
  • http://www.chriscaptivate.com/ Chris Captivate

    I can’t even handle the amount of awesome in this post.

    • http://www.nedpoulter.co.uk/ Ned Poulter

      Ha, thanks very much Chris. You a fan of the SEO memes? ;-)

  • http://www.chriscaptivate.com/ Chris Captivate

    I can’t even handle the amount of awesome in this post.

    • http://www.nedpoulter.co.uk/ Ned Poulter

      Ha, thanks very much Chris. You a fan of the SEO memes? ;-)

  • Muhammad Saad Khan

    Awesome info Ned…!

    • http://www.nedpoulter.co.uk/ Ned Poulter

      Thank you Muhammad, I’m glad that it resonated!

  • Muhammad Saad Khan

    Awesome info Ned…!

    • http://www.nedpoulter.co.uk/ Ned Poulter

      Thank you Muhammad, I’m glad that it resonated!

  • fillingthepages

    Love this. Hope it got a weight off your shoulders!

    • http://www.nedpoulter.co.uk/ Ned Poulter

      Haha – “And… breathe”. It did certainly help battle some demons, yes. Glad you liked it!

  • fillingthepages

    Love this. Hope it got a weight off your shoulders!

    • http://www.nedpoulter.co.uk/ Ned Poulter

      Haha – “And… breathe”. It did certainly help battle some demons, yes. Glad you liked it!

  • http://www.irishwonder.com IrishWonder

    If we take the clueless types out of the picture for a minute, it all ultimately boils down to the business model and the strategy suitable for it. If you’re working on a large brand site, a retail business’ site, something where personality and PR (as in public relations) matter, then by all means these do’s and don’ts are to stick to. If you just need to push something generic for the sake of getting traffic and conversions and that alone, and it’s in a niche where people are not likely to share or be very public about their purchases, there is no way you can justify using all of the above as opposed to quick spammy spam. But you know it already Ned and surely are just playing your white and fluffy corporate-friendly self :)

  • http://www.irishwonder.com IrishWonder

    If we take the clueless types out of the picture for a minute, it all ultimately boils down to the business model and the strategy suitable for it. If you’re working on a large brand site, a retail business’ site, something where personality and PR (as in public relations) matter, then by all means these do’s and don’ts are to stick to. If you just need to push something generic for the sake of getting traffic and conversions and that alone, and it’s in a niche where people are not likely to share or be very public about their purchases, there is no way you can justify using all of the above as opposed to quick spammy spam. But you know it already Ned and surely are just playing your white and fluffy corporate-friendly self :)

  • Tara Dee West

    AWESOME post. If only I could copy and paste this part into my emails occasionally, so people might actually listen!!;

    “If you are someone who is struggling to get over why the apparent overuse of the same (or very similar) content blur your vision, I implore you to read that sentence carefully. Now read it again, this time with your head removed from your arse.”

    • http://www.nedpoulter.co.uk/ Ned Poulter

      Thank Tara :) glad that you enjoyed it! Certainly helped me writing it, I’d suggest doing the same. Also, please feel free to forward the post on to anyone you believe qualifies… ;p

  • Tara Dee West

    AWESOME post. If only I could copy and paste this part into my emails occasionally, so people might actually listen!!;

    “If you are someone who is struggling to get over why the apparent overuse of the same (or very similar) content blur your vision, I implore you to read that sentence carefully. Now read it again, this time with your head removed from your arse.”

    • http://www.nedpoulter.co.uk/ Ned Poulter

      Thank Tara :) glad that you enjoyed it! Certainly helped me writing it, I’d suggest doing the same. Also, please feel free to forward the post on to anyone you believe qualifies… ;p

  • http://www.michaeljessop.co.uk/ Mike Jessop

    Cracking post Ned!!

    “If you are selling this as a service, you’re an asshole (at least in my book)”

    I think Google have slowly turned SEOs (me included) into marketers. 8-9 years ago SEOs didn’t need to talk to their marketing guys for content ideas. We are now putting the users ahead of the algorithms. All a good thing IMO.

    • http://www.nedpoulter.co.uk/ Ned Poulter

      Very much agree Mike, I think the call for a broader skill-set is actually a very positive aspect of working in SEO. “Putting the users ahead of the algorithms” is a great quote too, I’m going to use that one myself! :)

  • http://www.michaeljessop.co.uk/ Mike Jessop

    Cracking post Ned!!

    “If you are selling this as a service, you’re an asshole (at least in my book)”

    I think Google have slowly turned SEOs (me included) into marketers. 8-9 years ago SEOs didn’t need to talk to their marketing guys for content ideas. We are now putting the users ahead of the algorithms. All a good thing IMO.

    • http://www.nedpoulter.co.uk/ Ned Poulter

      Very much agree Mike, I think the call for a broader skill-set is actually a very positive aspect of working in SEO. “Putting the users ahead of the algorithms” is a great quote too, I’m going to use that one myself! :)

  • http://www.perpettersson.nu/ Per Pettersson

    Lovely post, Ned!

    • http://www.nedpoulter.co.uk/ Ned Poulter

      Thanks Per!

  • http://www.perpettersson.nu/ Per Pettersson

    Lovely post, Ned!

    • http://www.nedpoulter.co.uk/ Ned Poulter

      Thanks Per!

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  • John Theofilis

    One of the best “SEO in 2013″ articles I have read. Well done and love the memes.

    • http://www.nedpoulter.co.uk/ Ned Poulter

      Thank you John, glad you appreciated the memes, seems to have split the audience that one! ;)

  • John Theofilis

    One of the best “SEO in 2013″ articles I have read. Well done and love the memes.

    • http://www.nedpoulter.co.uk/ Ned Poulter

      Thank you John, glad you appreciated the memes, seems to have split the audience that one! ;)

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  • http://sudungmac.com/ Jacob Lee

    Hope to read more informative post like this! Thank you

  • http://sudungmac.com/ Jacob Lee

    Hope to read more informative post like this! Thank you

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  • Mohammed Farooq

    Hi Ned,

    Thanks for your post. you are saying that if we post content on different article sites would be effect our search engine ranking due to duplicate content. But we are not posting same content on same site. than how it could be effect. Could you please guide me in this …..

  • Mohammed Farooq

    Hi Ned,

    Thanks for your post. you are saying that if we post content on different article sites would be effect our search engine ranking due to duplicate content. But we are not posting same content on same site. than how it could be effect. Could you please guide me in this …..

  • DEN

    Web Do and Don’t of 2013:
    Don’t do memes. What are you, a 12 year old?

    • http://www.barryadams.co.uk/ Barry Adams

      Leaving cowardly anonymous comments… what are you, an 8-year old?

  • DEN

    Web Do and Don’t of 2013:
    Don’t do memes. What are you, a 12 year old?

    • http://www.barryadams.co.uk/ Barry Adams

      Leaving cowardly anonymous comments… what are you, an 8-year old?

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  • http://www.TheeDesign.com/ TheeDesign Studio

    This is a great post and you have gathered a lot of useful information that webmasters should take to heart.

    You are absolutely right that many webmasters ignore the warning signs about link spamming and turn a blind eye. I can not imagine what it must be like to be on Google’s Webspam team to only deny a webmasters reconsideration request time and time again, because they try to justify the horrible links they built and want to keep.

    • http://www.nedpoulter.co.uk/ Ned Poulter

      Glad you like the post.

      I completely agree with your point on link spam, IMO the Penguin update was a blessing, it’s just meant that those that invested time in selling shitty services are struggling to re-focus. Their problem, not mine.

  • http://www.TheeDesign.com/ TheeDesign Studio

    This is a great post and you have gathered a lot of useful information that webmasters should take to heart.

    You are absolutely right that many webmasters ignore the warning signs about link spamming and turn a blind eye. I can not imagine what it must be like to be on Google’s Webspam team to only deny a webmasters reconsideration request time and time again, because they try to justify the horrible links they built and want to keep.

    • http://www.nedpoulter.co.uk/ Ned Poulter

      Glad you like the post.

      I completely agree with your point on link spam, IMO the Penguin update was a blessing, it’s just meant that those that invested time in selling shitty services are struggling to re-focus. Their problem, not mine.

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  • James Perrin

    Nice one Ned – great post! Totally agree, especially the content-based approach to SEO. I think you raise a good point in saying that if there’s little budget then your investment is best made elsewhere, but a content strategy of some sort must figure, and any SEO knows this. For any client with limited budget and are unable to invest in content my suggestion would be to utilise the resources they do have. For example, get all staff creating posts on a company blog – simple, effective and much cheaper.

  • James Perrin

    Nice one Ned – great post! Totally agree, especially the content-based approach to SEO. I think you raise a good point in saying that if there’s little budget then your investment is best made elsewhere, but a content strategy of some sort must figure, and any SEO knows this. For any client with limited budget and are unable to invest in content my suggestion would be to utilise the resources they do have. For example, get all staff creating posts on a company blog – simple, effective and much cheaper.

  • Lisa Myers

    For the record: Ned is not talking about Verve Search in this post. For all of those who would have googled Ned’s company (miinto) and SEO agency :p it wasn’t us!

  • Lisa Myers

    For the record: Ned is not talking about Verve Search in this post. For all of those who would have googled Ned’s company (miinto) and SEO agency :p it wasn’t us!

  • Matt O’Toole

    ;n)

  • Matt O’Toole

    ;n)

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  • David Freid

    You make your points very well and easy to understand. I was wondering your thoghts about “Reviews”? Any “Do’s and Don’t Do’s. Or do these links really matter?

  • David Freid

    You make your points very well and easy to understand. I was wondering your thoghts about “Reviews”? Any “Do’s and Don’t Do’s. Or do these links really matter?

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  • Peter C

    Can everyone..or ANYONE…in this discussion group, explain how thousands of websites, using the same ‘perfect SEO approach’ can ALL fit onto the first page of Google..which contains only TEN sites ? If not..then PLEASE stop talking about SEO as if it was worth something.

    • http://eltiro.tumblr.com/ Adrian Brambila

      Peter, I will happily answer your challenge. SEO is not a one time thing just like all marketing departments for businesses. You can never be like “ok we optimized all the titles and h1 tags and made sure the keyword is repeated 4 times on each site and are DONE.” That is only covering the fundamentals. SEO is an ongoing process. Let’s use your example and say a thousands websites have the same perfect SEO approach. What it then comes down to is to having these websites compete in creating new, rich, quality content. Google crawlers will come back and crawl all the sites and they will be able to see which sites are creating more new content, have more engagement, conversions, etc, and will start to rank them higher. Peter, in every business there are competitors, a marketing department would never stop just because they had set up all there marketing efforts once? If that was the case then other companies that would continue to keep marketing would become a higher competitor in the market. Tweet me if you want to keep this going @brambilabong I’ll take all your SEO questions on.

  • Manisha Thakur

    Very informative.. and interesting… specially Memes ;)

    • gaurav jain

      Manisha you have any odea any site how much time to recover from panda and penguin if all fix

  • http://www.ValleyHope.org/ Edgar Jameson

    Great article! Seriously… I meme it.

  • Mother of the Bride

    This article has to be one of the best that I have read. What is the point of being no. 1 on Google if your visitors just click off you as soon as they find your crappy content? Granted you need to be found to be given the click off – but there is only so much embarrassment one can take from having a repetitively boring web site. Back to the drawing board for me :-)

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