Yesterday I noticed a tweet from Matt Cutts announcing the release of Google’s official Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide. (Perhaps they released it this week in the middle of Pubcon for a reason, while all the SEOs are out in Vegas?)
As expected, there was really no ground breaking news here – they didn’t release a 3 step guide to getting the #1 result in Google. But what is interesting is they supported basically all the arguments SEOs have figured out on their own about the Google algorythm – and more importantly (for me at least), everything I’ve been blogging about. It’s good to be told you’re doing something right every once in a while :)
I don’t want to break down the entire SEO starter guide, since Google really did do a good job on the document, but I will outline some important aspects which I see so many clients having problems with over and over again:
1. Use unique Title tags and Meta Description for each page
Google’s guidelines for a good Page Title tag are simple: Make it accurate, brief and descriptive. The biggest issue to avoid? Stuffing unnecessary keywords in the titles. The same goes for Meta Description tags – it’s important to write a description which both accurately describes the page and is enticing to search visitors, since this may be the description displayed in Google’s search results.
One big problem a lot of sites have is duplicate title and description tags repeated across many pages of their site. Make sure each page has it’s own unique title and description; it also doesn’t hurt to make sure there’s no other pages anywhere on the web which are sharing the same title and description as yours.
2. Search Engine Friendly URLs
Every SEO has been aware of this for a while, but a lot of site owners don’t realize the importance of URLs and filenames which are both easily readable and are also relevant to the page content. Use URL rewriting to change URLs which look like this:
Also outlined is the need for unique URLs to each content page. Having a content page accessible by more than one URL creates duplicate content issues and dillutes the authority and reputation of each page, so it’s no suprise here that Google recommends using 301 redirects if you can’t simply remove the duplicate URLs.
3. Offer Quality content and services
I stress this all the time, but clients simply don’t get it. SEO needs useful content just as much as your site visitors do. No one likes a site which is nothing more than a sales pitch.
4. Anchor text in Links
What is interesting here is that Google mentions the importance of internal linking. Getting other websites to link to you with your competitive keywords as the anchor text is important; but so is linking internally within your own site. I’ve seen some great results just by changing the anchor text with which you link to your own pages.
5. Semantic Coding and Heading Tags
I’ve said it before; your site will benefit from semantic coding. Using appropriate heading tags (h1, h2, h3,. etc.) helps Google determine which text is more important on a page, and gives more weight to specific text. Also use descriptive file names and ALT text for images on your site, and keep those images in their own /images/ directory.
6. Nofollow Links
Google actually used the example of a viagra spam comment to explain the importance of this one! They only mentioned using nofollow as a method to not pass authority to an unwanted website; they didn’t say anything about using nofollow on paid text links or for internal link power.