For the everyday webmaster (as opposed to SEO academics) Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) has changed a lot in the last couple of years.
There was a time when we sweated over keyword density, what to put in our title tags, how many keywords to use and so on.
And the result was often a page that read poorly to humans.
Today I don’t use keywords and I certainly don’t give a thought to keyword density. The only thing I ponder is my Title tag.
Why the change?
Because the search engines have become a lot smarter.
Their competitive need to deliver the most relevant results possible means they (and Google in particular) have spent a lot of time finding ways to weed out scraped, copied and duplicated information.
And one of the results is that they’re all much better able to understand the content of the articles and pages on your site.
This makes the need to ‘tell’ the search engines what your article is about (by means of keywords and other META tags) less important.
In fact unimportant.
Off-site SEO Rules
Off site SEO, principally meaning the number of incoming links to your site, has always carried more weight in the ultimate ranking of your pages in the search results than on-site SEO.
And it’s becoming ever more important.
Think about Google’s +1 button that has just been released. They openly said that they’ll increasingly use it as a signal in their ranking of pages in the natural search results, because it’s an indicator from humans that the page is useful.
Even if the +1 button is no more successful than Google’s other social media efforts, there could not be a clearer indication of their thinking and the direction successful search engine marketing is taking as a result.
You need to be focusing on what other humans think about your site, not your keyword density.
- Is it easy to navigate?
- Is the information well researched, detailed and accurate?
- Are your articles well-structured, with a good framework and easy to read?
- Do your articles deliver a clear message?
But don’t ignore the coding
That’s not to say we should stop worrying about correctly structuring our sites. Not at all.
Good, clean coding and proper mark-up are just as important as ever, in fact even more so, because they lead to faster loading sites – another recent addition to the ranking signals.
Today’s secret to powerful Search Engine Marketing
So the real way to effective search engine marketing today is to write well structured, well researched and detailed articles which deliver a clear message.
Make sure you’re using headings, sub headings, bolding and bullet points to break up your article and give your readers a clear framework on which it’s built.
It should be possible for your readers to understand what your article is about just by scanning those.
Then they can dip into the areas they’re most interested in to grab the details – and the details must be accurate, and clearly spelled out.
Articles written this way will be easy for your readers to assimilate. They’ll impart a clear message and, as a result, they’re more likely to be linked to.
And lots of links will improve your page’s ranking in the search results far more than worrying about keyword density and how many keywords to use.
Update – 27 June:
About a week after I published this article a much more detailed analysis of the effects of the latest Google algorithm updates appeared on the SEO Moz blog. Read it here.