You Don’t Know SEO Workshop helps demystify SEO

“SEO is a lot of playing around and looking at what your competitors are doing and looking at what top brands are doing,” said Sam Insalaco, owner of theBrewRoom, a SEO, web design and development company, and the presenter at  Tuesday night’s “You Don’t Know SEO,” event at Brawler’s Back-Alley Deli in Buffalo. “There’s a lot of research and reporting and trying things out.”

Links still weigh heavily when it comes to organic search engine rankings, but there are steps website owners can take to ensure their sites are fully optimized. Insalaco talked about basic SEO practices and terms, links, common mistakes and also answered many questions from the audience about Hummingbird, Google’s latest search algorithm release and Google Plus, Google’s social media platform.

SEO Basics

An example of a basic SEO practice would be using the keywords for your business in the title tag of your page toward the front before your business’s name and make sure it appears in the URL of a page. If you are trying to rank locally, you can include your location, example: Buffalo, NY.

“It’s a big factor in SEO,” said Insalaco. “Always include the main keywords (in the URL) of your page. “Having the same keyword or phrase in the title of the page, in the URL and in the copy is telling Google what this page is about. Make it match and be consistent.”

Using a CMS like WordPress makes it easy to change the URL structure of your site and if you need to change the keywords in that link, you can still keep what link juice you have from your old URL to your new URL by setting up 301 redirects. Again, WordPress makes this easy through the use of 301 redirect plug-ins.

When it comes to writing a description for your site, think of the description as an unpaid ad trying to convince users to click on your link said Insalaco.

“A lot of people do not pay enough attention to these (descriptions),” said Insalaco. “They just use whatever CMS or WordPress throws out. I would pay attention to that and try to make it enticing for the user. Use your keywords in the description. Be smart and creative, but keyword responsible.”

Links

Links to your site, from other valuable and well-ranking websites,  will help your site and pages rank better, but it’s the hardest thing to do said Insalaco. It’s one of Google’s heaviest weighted factors concerning your site’s value and because of this, a lot of people resort of black hat methods of trying gain links through comment spamming.

You can employ a nofollow tag and set it up to be site-wide, including the comment section of blogs, a favorite place for link spammers. The nofollow tag essential tells Google “I’m going to link to this site, but I don’t want to pass on any of my value to that site.”

“Don’t pay for links, you’ll get penalized,” said Insalaco. “I’m not talking about paid ads, I am talking about being paid to be included on a directory or some other weird site that has nothing to do with what you do.”

He also warned about creating fake accounts in order to ask questions and answer questions with links to your site. He said a former client of his did this against his advice and was kicked off of Yahoo answers.

If you do find that your websites is being linked to from a spammy directory or website, you can use what is called Google’s “Disavow” tool under Google’s Webmaster Tools, to tell Google you do not want a certain link to be taken into account when assessing your site’s ranking.

“You may not get a notice directly from Google that you are being penalized directly for this link or for having this practice,” said Insalaco. “You’ll just see a decrease in your rankings.”

Keyword Research

Another change Google has made is that it no longer provides keyword data for Google Analytics users due to Google’s switch to secure search.  However, Insalaco said you can see which search terms your site showed up under using Google’s Web Master Tools even if the user did not click on your site. That might give you some ideas of what keywords your site is being found by. He also suggested using BING web master tools as their keyword data is still available.

He suggested using Google Insights, keyword planner and other related tools to find out what people are searching for and using those keywords in a blog post. When you do write a post, don’t stuff your post full of keywords. It’s ok to use the keyword in your post a few times per 300 words, but write for humans and not for a computer. Make it natural, but also make it obvious what your post is about.

You can also view what higher-ranking competitors are doing and use their sites for ideas.

“Figure out what the best are doing and just do it better,” he said.

You want to make sure your content is good and encourage people to share it and promote it, which will get you more views and possibly some links.

Some other tips:

  • create a content calendar with a schedule and hold yourself to it so you create new and compelling content for your site
  • use social media networks to share your content and ask people to promote it
  • use tools like Google and Bing webmaster tools, followerwonk.com to see when your Twitter followers are most active and bufferapp.com which posts your content at optimal times, search rank tracking software like Open Site Explorer to see where you and your competitors rank