Google SEO Report Card: Some Important Take Aways

With all the focus clearly on links and link building in the search engine optimisation field it easy to forget about the importance of focused keyword content and a clean site architecture.

On page optimisation often gets left behind in the online marketing discussions but thankfully Google have given a huge and in my opinion very effective reminder.

Google have recently released an SEO report card based on improving the optimisation of their product pages.

Within the report are some vital insights and reminders to us all about page optimisation and URL structure.

If you want to read the report please download it here: Google SEO Report Card

I thought it would be a good idea to run through some of the points within the report as they are useful to both bloggers and webmasters in general.

Title Tags

I know you have heard it all before but here are few things you may not have heard of:

  • Only the first 60 characters of a title tag give any real ranking benefit
  • Sometimes users click links based on brand, so use your brand name in the title tag
  • Google wants you to use keywords users will search

I know the last point is a little lame, but there are still some ‘keep it natural’ fundamentalists out there. Just write it for users, don’t use keyword tools. Keep it natural.

News flash! Google wants you to use searched keywords. This is not writing for engines because who ultimately invents these terms?

Google go through the usual reminders about being descriptive and keeping the title tag accurate and to the point, but you’ve heard all that before.

As it’s only the first 60 characters that count it is important when writing blog posts to make your first 6 – 9 words as optimised as possible, or if you use thesis you can customise the title tag of each post.

Meta Descriptions/Keywords

Google made it official that META keywords don’t count at the end of last year, however they have now confirmed that the description is also a waste of time for ranking purposes. However, I and many other SEO’s always recommend using your main keywords in the description tag as they are bolded and this increases the chances of clicks.

Site links

These are the little links that appear below your main link in Google like so;

Please note that your site will only get these once Google trusts the domain and classes the info as authoritative

Google gives us some nice suggestions for optimising the type of site links we have appear in Google;

  • Use a strong hierachial Structure
  • Make use of descriptive anchor text
  • Avoid deep directories

Let’s talk about each of these points a little;

Structure

This is fairly straight forward, if you want an important/relevant page to appear as a site link in Google then you need to link to the page from your strongest pages, normally this means your top level domain. An ecommerce site should look to optimise their best selling product pages in the site links.

If you still find low quality pages are being used as site links, you can remove them directly from webmaster tools.

Descriptive anchor text

I have been shouting about this for years but it always gets brushed under the carpet, probably because it has a low ranking value.

The fact is that internal descriptive anchor text may not pass link juice but still pass relevance. I spoke some months ago about using descriptive internal linking to create indented listings and proved it with my ‘bing seo‘ page.

Don’t go silly with these and stuff target keywords in but try to use them whenever appropriate, Google clearly clarifies that “read more” and “click here” links are worthless and this is something the search giants do not recommend.

Deep Directories

Very simple don’t bury your best content in a deep file.

/file1/file2/file3/file4/my-great-content/ – Never going to be a site link

301’s vs 302’s

Ok if you have ever got in the world of redirects you will know there are a few different ways to do it.

301 = Permanent Redirect

302 = Temporary Redirect

You should always try to use permanent redirects, if not and you use a temporary redirect Google will consider both URL’s to be of use and index both. This can provide a bad user experience and cause duplicate content issues.

There is a load more detail in the report including advice on;

Alt tags = Yes they are still important, keep it descriptive and keyword rich

Canonical = Use the rel=”canonical” link to help Google know your main URL’s and also make sure internal links point to the canonical URL, this helps stop duplicate URL issues and content from arising.

If you find 30 minutes you should definitely read through the report, very interesting.

Embrace The Internet Or Die

OK sounds kind of dramatic right? But here’s the thing, if you are a business looking to expand or even remain profitable in your industry you need to start using the internet, you need to have business listings, SEO, an online industry presence and online solutions. If you don’t, your business is simply not going to survive.

I speak to many business owners every single week, interested in online marketing but not willing to make the investment. I try my best to convince them of the clear benefits but in their own words “they are doing OK without the Internet”. This maybe the case but if you are a business owner you seriously need to ask yourself, how much long will this last?

It was reported last week that search grew a massive 45% in 2009 with 131 billion searches in December 2009 alone. This is huge and it shows absolutely no signs of stopping.

If you are from the UK and thinking search is a US based phenomena, please think again. In Dec 2009 there were 13.3 billion searches in the US, however in the UK with a population nearly 4 times smaller than the US we nearly hit half the amount of searches the US had at 6.2 million and this figure is sure to rise significantly in 2010. Also let’s not forget Google’s 80 plus percent search share at this point.

Offline Marketing Will Eventually Die

It is true, more and more people are gaining access to the internet. If you are a local tradesman, advertising in the local yellow pages or Thomson directory is simply not going to be enough, if I need a plumber I hit Google! Along with thousands of others every single month, let’s just put this into perspective.

Are you a plumber?

– 201000 ‘exact’ searches on Google every month, not including other related terms such as “corgi plumbers” or “emergency plumber”.

Are you an accountant?

– 246000 ‘exact’ searches on Google every month, again not including “accountancy services”, “chartered accountants”, “accounting services”.

OK what about if you simply sell tyres?

– 550000 ‘exact’ searches on Google every month, “budget tyres” = 27000 : “car tyres” = 30000: “tyres online” = 27100!!!!!!!!

If you are not targeting this market not only are you missing out but you will eventually get out done by the competition that is willing to invest now.

The Time Is Now

As I have previously stated this is a super fast growing market place that I believe will eventually consume most industries. Despite this many industries have not yet reacted to changing times, this is why it is important to start now.

If you simply don’t have the time to learn and implement, then my advice is hire someone who can help you, a reputable online marketing firm.

This is not a sales pitch; it is a call to action. React or get left behind, it really is that simple.

New Year, New Challenges, New Goals, New Design!!

OK lets address the first issue, SEO wizz grew up! Yes I was up until 4 am this morning with David from Quixotic Media cleaning up the last few bits of the design. I know many of my readers use the thesis theme and if you want a top notch design for a reasonable fee you should head on over there and see what they can do for you.

The new design is all part of my strategy for 2010, 2009 has been a good building year for SEO wizz but it is now time to take things to the next level and make a challenge on the SEO big shots in the UK and anywhere else for that matter. I think the design incorporates commercial and social interests quite nicely and will be perfect for the marketing push I plan on rolling out in 2010.

So I guess now is as good a time as any to take a peek at what 2010 may have in store for us and how we should be approaching our online strategy.

Nothing Changes

Throughout all the years I have been working in the SEO industry the basics never really change;

1) Create a quality resource, product or piece of content

2) Ensure Google can access the site and deal with any broken link issues

3) Keep you site architecture as flat as possible, linking to your most important pages from the home page

4) Keywords need to be in all the major areas title tags, body, images and I would still utilise the h1 and 2 as good practice

5) Generate links through content distribution, link partnerships, viral content and blog entries

6) Do it over and over again until you win :)

These are the bones of SEO, sure there are a number of technicalities hidden within each area but don’t be led astray by the ‘just write great content crowd’ – you need links and you need to emphasise the relevance your site has to key phrases.

Define What You Really Want To Accomplish

This is particularly a problem for bloggers, I have lost count of the amount of people that have emailed saying “I am blogging about making money online and need loads of traffic, how do I get it?”.

First off I think how original, secondly I think well what is your business plan??? To publish low quality or regurgitated content and hope the links and traffic are going to come flooding in??

You need to be smarter than that if your plan is to build a business out of your site.

It’s not just bloggers though, how many derelict ecommerce sites are there out there floating about?? Tons!

So if the online business world is for you then I would start by asking myself the following questions;

How much do I want to make?

If you answer is ‘as much as possible’ then stop. You need a target, a goal, something to aim at or else the chances are you will fall apart in the first year when you’re barely making $10 a month with adsesne.

Set a goal of income, a reasonable amount, then if you make more you have over achieved.

How are you going to make it?

It is no good thinking content will win all, I’ll paste ads everywhere and be a ‘click’ millionaire!! Time for a reality check.

Search traffic takes time to build and social traffic will not click your ads or buy your affiliate products, it’s a fact unfortunately.

So decide what products you are going to promote, how you’re going to build an opt in list, are you going to promote services? If you’re going to use affiliate links don’t just simply paste them on, sell them in a few articles beforehand.

One word of warning on affiliate products, do not sell them if you haven’t used them and found them to be of good quality. Your readers will never forgive you for selling a scam.

Test the product, illustrate how you benefited from it, and show the results… your conversion rates will be far higher.

How are you going to get traffic?

Erm SEO??

Yes you are going to continually optimise your pages; however you may have a product to sell right away, why wait?

You could use banner advertising on relevant blogs, google adwords or even free ads, depending on the nature of your product.

Don’t sit back and wait for pure search engine traffic, go out and get it if you believe you have a product that converts.

Are you going to use social media?

This is a tough one for purely commercial sites, will it really do them any good? My opinion is no, unless they have something to offer the social scene, which in my opinion they should.

Social media is not going to drive home sales or even give you tons of links, however what it does is give you an ideal opportunity for users, clients and industry experts to interact with your brand. It allows you to answer concerns quickly and sell the benefits of your service or product easily.

Social traffic will not turn into sales, but if your brand is out there, this means there is a good chance your company will get mentioned within context and this could lead to a word of mouth referrals.

Many of you may think I am anti social media, I am not as you can clearly tell from some of the widgets on this site, I simply believe in using social time sparingly. Many webmasters indulge in the hope it will lead them to riches, this is not the case, social media is exactly what it implies, the opportunity for you to socialise with others in your industry and with those who share similar interests.

No Investment, No Reward

Something that I learned quickly all those years ago is that if you’re not willing to invest you have lost already. The investment doesn’t have to be huge but you have to be willing to take it.

So many webmasters don’t want to pay for a nice design, for tools that cost more than a dollar or for recurring membership fees; some even think it is a waste of time paying hosting and for a domain. Granted there are scammers out there that will sell you big piles of rubbish, this is one of the online learning curves I try and prevent people from feeling when I write this blog, it can be really harsh.

My advice here is to find a reliable resource, and then use reliable resources that the initial resource recommends. Also don’t just buy, look for reviews before hand and any reviews that simply sell the product are probably scams. It’s a tough world but you have to be willing to push through it to succeed.

Plan your budget before hand, how much can you spend per month on;

1) Hosting and domain name
2) Advertising
3) Link Building
4) Design and functionality

Once you have this sorted the only other investment is your time. Don’t try and cut corners, software cannot write you a viral piece of content. Put your all in this is your business now and the rewards are real.

Believe You Can

If you are thinking “I’ll give this online thing a try” you’re going to lose.

If you are thinking “If I can make some money free, then I’ll invest” you’re going to lose.

If you are thinking “I’ll just build it and they will come” you’re going to lose.

If you actually believe in your business model and are willing to invest your time, money and talents into making your online dream a reality then you will more than likely win, even if not at first your attitude will drive you there.

I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have had sites that have flopped and I have felt like jacking it all in, but every time I learned something new, I developed a new skill set and still am learning and developing monthly if not weekly. You have to be willing to keep betting on yourself, that’s the difference between those who do and those who don’t.

Making a living from your online business is not guaranteed however the possibility is a reality, in 2010 bset a goal to take your site to the next level, double your investment whether that investment be your time or your hard earned money.

Keep reading SEOwizz and have a fantastic new years eve.

All the best to everyone for 2010!!! See you at the top of Google!!

p.s. Sorry for the post length I got carried away.