I love using short, one-line zinger phrases to communicate key points about any given topic, and SEO is no exception. I have accumulated tons of these and decided to compile them into a single post!
To supplement my list, I posted on Google+ to crowdsource more of them; for each of those provided to me, I’ve given credit to the author. Each of these is meant to address common myths and misconceptions about SEO (and digital marketing) or to simply help you focus more clearly on one aspect of it.
The reason I find these valuable is that they can help people better understand a key point. In this attention-challenged world, a single catchphrase can create unique understanding and value when it is properly integrated into your day-to-day behavior.
I won’t promise that these cover all aspects of SEO, but many are covered — and I invite you all to add your own one-liners in the comments!
Top Down Viewpoints On SEO & Digital Marketing: Tips 1-20
These tips focus on global perspective when thinking about SEO and its place in your overall digital marketing strategy.
- Discovery, Relevance, and Importance are still the three basics of SEO.
- Learn what Google and Bing want you to do, and then do that exceedingly well.
- Stop worrying about the details of Google’s algo — obsessing about that will only hurt you in the long run.
- SEO is not a cloak-and-dagger profession, it is a basic part of your marketing plan.
- If you wouldn’t do it offline, don’t do it online. (Nick Ker)
- Optimize for business objectives and people first, search engines second. (Ben Fisher)
- There is no inherent value in the existence of a webpage. (Evan Davis)
- Remember, it is a webpage, so don’t be a perfectionist. You can update it later.
- You only have a few seconds to establish who you are, why you have value and what you want the user to do. (Evan Davis)
- Find the real voice of your business’ personality and use it across all your online marketing and communication efforts. (David Amerland)
- Create the kind of online presence that resonates with your target audience. Everything else associated with SEO will flow from that. (David Amerland)
- Embrace usability — this is good SEO.
- Stop assuming you know what your customer wants. Pick up the phone and ask them. (John Rampton)
- Implement one-question surveys on the site to gather information about user experience without inconveniencing the user. (Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré)
- When there is no “first page” to rank on, success will come from those who are really looking for your products and services finding you. (David Amerland)
- SEO is a tool not a business model. (Claude Pelanne)
- Always be running experiments. Continually test, retest, and even when you have results, test again. (Ben Fisher)
- Adapt or be irrelevant. (Jason Darrell)
- Transitions in process: From Keywords to Concept, From Webpages to Authority, From Links to Endorsements (Cyrus Sheppard via Tom Coleman)
- Build a brand; that will make every part of SEO (and marketing in general) easier. (Rick Molenaar)
Basic On-Page SEO: Tips 21-33
On-page SEO remains important, but the continuing evolution of Google’s algorithms must prompt us to take a deeper and broader perspective. Out with the tactical and in with the strategic view.
- Learn the language of your customer — keyword research tools can help you do that!
- Target the keyword, optimize the intent. (AJ Kohn)
- Optimize for the click, not the keyword. (Brian Jensen)
- Keywords: Less is More (Michael Mason)
- Create a unique title tag for each page. If you can’t, then why does that page exist?
- Create a unique page for each benefit / usage / intent that your product or service addresses.
- Myth Busting: No, it does matter if you have an H1 tag. Search engines will place the most weight on the highest level heading tag you use.
- Search engines associate value with domains and URLs. Don’t change them unless absolutely necessary (even to make them keyword rich)!
- Site navigation first priority: What links will actually be helpful to the user on that page?
- Site navigation second priority: Treat internal links as a way to distribute the external link juice your site gets. Use them to tell the search engines what content on your site is the most important.
- Understand that a key part of SEO is that search engines need our help to better understand your site. This is why schema and other types of markup exist.
- On-Page SEO Classic: You can do it right, or you can do it over.
- Leverage your locality by using digital photos, events and interactions as proof of your local relevance and authority. (Jeremy Reivera)
Creating Great Content: Tips 34-50
Without great content, you are probably lost. People so often get confused about the role of content. Here are some zingers to help frame how you should approach it.
- Be an expert or go home! Or at least, employ an expert.
- Semantic search rewards authenticity. You really need to find your own audience and your own voice. (David Amerland)
- Authenticity is hard to fake. (David Amerland)
- Produce great content, promote yourself effectively and be SEO aware. Know more about your target space than anyone else.
- Share what you know, share it again (no NOT duplicate content, but the knowledge in different contexts), and then share it one more time.
- Do what it takes to get your peers to acknowledge you.
- Strive for extreme differentiation in the content you produce.
- Don’t be afraid to mention and link to your competition. If you are creating amazing content, it should provide other resources. (Jesse Wojdolo)
- Better to spend five days producing one epic piece of content than five average pieces that say nothing new or memorable. (Mark Traphagen)
- Don’t rush. Take 100 steps to create and deliver the best content you can. (Martin Shervington)
- Adopt an altruistic approach to your content. Content written with the intent of providing significant value to others has the potential to provide a markedly greater SEO value when shared than self serving content. (Warren Chandler)
- Create content that is: *S*hareable; *E*ngaging; *O*ptimized. (Krithika Rangarajan)
- Do not hire a random writer and ask them to write that content after spending an hour or so on web research. Just don’t.
- Don’t hand writers a list of keywords and ask them to write an article using them. Give them a proposed title and then let good writers write good stuff. This will naturally give you semantically rich content of the kind that search engines love.
- Article spinning = the spiral of death.
- Learn to use many different types of media and platforms. Your customers are in many different places, and you need to be there too.
- Give content away for free that everyone thinks you are mad for not selling. (Martin Shervington)
Link Building: Tips 51-69
You could argue that the concept of link building is outdated. I’d argue that only the way it has been traditionally viewed is outdated.
- Matt Cutts on the phrase link building: “It segments you into a mindset, and people get focused on the wrong things.” (Stated in this 2012 interview.)
- Matt Cutts on link building: “No, link building is not illegal.” (Stated in this 2013 interview.)
- Learn how to do link building the way that Google and Bing want you to do it.
- Links must be valid citations — this is where understanding link building starts, but make sure you truly understand the use of the word “citations” in this context.
- Links are the result, not the goal. (AJ Kohn)
- If you don’t know what links your SEO is getting for you, be prepared for your site to get penalized.
- The dark corners of the web (where “no one” goes) are gone. Assume every link you get will be used to evaluate the quality of your brand.
- Classic bad phrase: “Link bait”
- Absorb and understand why it is that Google does not like widget and infographic links — it’s because the creators don’t care where the link goes.
- Two critical concepts: “Authority” and “Editorial Integrity.” When these are combined, you have found a great place to develop a relationship.
- Manage the relevance chain in all your link building efforts.
The Link Building Relevance Chain
- You can’t vote for yourself.
- Why does Google not like links in Press Releases? Look at the prior zinger.
- Don’t look natural — be natural.
- If you can argue that it’s a good link, it’s NOT. Truly good links require no justification.
- Would you show that link to a potential customer right before they are about to place an order?
- Myth Busting: .edu and .gov links don’t have any inherent value over other TLDs. They tend to be associated with valuable sites, but the value is in the link profile of those sites, not the TLD itself.
- Directories: Don’t ever get more than 7 directory links to a site you own… I mean it, don’t do it.
- Everyone has a weakest link — find your weakest link, and get rid of it. And keep repeating until your link profile is as near perfect as it can be. (Kristi Kellogg)
Content Marketing & Social Media: Tips 70-96
Content marketing is the new king. A good link building strategy is largely, or entirely, content marketing driven.
- Myth Busting: Social signals do not drive (non-personalized) SEO (yet).
- However, the influence of social signals on SEO is coming.
- Strong social media presences are like a built-in PR channel. Build a strong reputation, strong social presences, share great content, and you will get truly natural links flowing in.
- Relationships with influencers are the great amplifier of all your PR (social media) efforts.
- Your behavior and interactions in the community define the amount of influence you (or your business) have.
- The best visibility strategy starts with asking, “How can we help/entertain/inform our audience?” and ends with you getting your ass out there and doing it. (Rae Hoffman)
- Being truly helpful, solving someone’s problem — that’s engagement that’s memorable. (Mark Traphagen)
- Content is your brand’s voice — use it wisely. (Alex Valencia)
- Place your greatest emphasis on content development and marketing. (Gina Fiedel)
- Build great content and reputation first, and let the links follow from that.
- The company you keep defines you. Only publish on high authority sites.
- Follow, engage, form relationships with and share YOUR content with industry influencers and peers. (Jon Dunn)
- Build real relationships by creating and sharing content that speaks authentically to your target audience on the platform that they prefer for those types of connections. (Craig Fifield)
- Content amplification begins at the strategy stage, not once it is published. (Jon Dunn)
- With semantic search we are transitioning from a world driven by rankings in search to a world that’s ruled by visibility. (David Amerland)
- Everyone talks about engagement being crucial to social media. But not all engagement is equal. (Mark Traphagen)
- Measure engagement on every piece of content you publish. Use this to drive continuous improvement over time.
- Think columns, not spreading your guest posts across the maximum number of sites. Columns define authority better than posts across dozens or hundreds of “meh” sites.
- Showing up in search with Google Authorship is no longer automatic just because you have the markup. You’ve got to stand out and be creating content people share and talk about. (Mark Traphagen)
- Authorship is not just about rel=author. Google uses it as just one signal to detect who wrote a piece of content.
- Links are a form of social proof. In the long run social signals will be used as well, but they may not be used in exactly the same way!
- We become who we spend our time with. In your social media marketing, rub shoulders and interact with some “heavy hitters.” (Mark Sampson)
- Learn new marketing channels, how SEO could help other marketing channels perform better, and how other marketing channels can help SEO. (Adi R)
- “The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.” (Eric Schmidt)
- Ensure that your content answers the 5 Ws & H: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. (Malhar Barai)
- Rejecting Google+ because the same friends and customers you already have on other social networks aren’t there is hugely missing the point. (Mark Traphagen)
- Google+ is about extending your reach farther than you’ve ever gone before. (Mark Traphagen)
Last But Not Least: Miscellaneous: Tips 97-99
These are the few tips that did not fit easily into the above categories. Yet, they touch on incredibly important points. The world is going mobile, and it now has to be part of the foundation for any digital marketing plan. In addition, the world is getting smaller. Understanding how to bring your products and services to new countries is critical for many businesses.
- Design for mobile — get over the resistance and just do it.
- Mobile: Think tappable, not clickable.
- Selling outside your borders is harder: make an extra effort to respect other peoples’ culture. (Andrea Scarpetta)
Bonus Tip: Entities Whose Names Change
One issue I learned about in the process of collecting these tips is what happens when women (or men) get married and change their names. While you can tell Google that you have “other names” in your Google Plus profile, it seems that this has not yet been used by them in the search results. The result is that when you change your name, you effectively completely start your Google life over. All your prior history appears to be lost.
This issue was first raised to me by Lisa Heffernan, and then Paul Gailey Albuquerque and Rae Hoffman weighed in on it. Rae wrote an excellent article on this topic in October 2012 called Google Liked it, but They Wouldn’t Put a Ring on it, and I wrote one more recently called C’Mon Google, Women are Entities Whose Name Might Change.
All of this leads to our bonus tip #100 from Christine DeGraff: “Once you have a chosen name, live with it.”
Hopefully, you will find some of the above tips useful. The majority of them are about mindset and approach. With all things in life, how you go about doing them counts for a lot! Please feel free to share any “zinger” tips you have in the comments below!