SEO for the Caffeine Age
Things have changed, Charlie Brown!
The buzz is all about Caffeine these days. Google is making major changes to the algo, and I think I have some idea of what they're up to. It changes everything for the better.
Conventional wisdom says there are two kinds of SEO: internal and external. Internal SEO is what you do within your own site (keyword density, meta tags, W3C compliance) and external SEO is what you do on the rest of the web (link building).
If only it were that simple! To successfully SEO a site or page (this page and site are not optimized, by the way, because they are only designed to draw people who Google my name, Chuck Linart, and the site is well optimized for that) you have to learn to think like a search engine. Search engines "think" differently now than they did even six months ago.
Here are seven elements of successful SEO at the dawn of the Caffeine era, based on my testing:
- Keyword research -- Most people blow it at this phase of the process. You have to find keywords that are low in competition, oft-searched, and (here's what a lot of people miss) valuable from a business perspective. If your keywords do not meet those three criteria, you will fail. The third criterion is probably the most important. If you sell bird feeders, it's better to be on top for "buy bird feeders online" than for "yellow-bellied warbler information." Ten people looking for "buy bird feeders online" are likely to result in more sales than a hundred seeking information about a species of bird. So there is an element of intuition involved.
- Good grammar and spelling -- Yes, they matter. The search engine wants to deliver the most relevant results. Those are seldom found on pages full of spelling errors.
- Compliant code -- This will become more important now that standards have been sorted out. Basically, you need to separate your object elements (text, video, pictures) from your style elements (use stylesheets instead of archaic HTML and clunky scripts).
- "Stickiness" -- This is becoming much more important now. If visitors stay on your site for long periods of time, viewing many pages, search engine logic interprets it as your site having relevance and value. Makes sense, right? I suspect that this is why Google has been so gung-ho about getting webmasters to use Google Analytics -- so that they can better track user behavior.
- Contextual relevance -- It's not about incoming links. It's about how related the links are to your content. If you run an SEO site and have links from a tour operator in Vietnam, it will hurt you. The danger here is that it will be easier for unscrupulous operators to sabotage their competitors by building crappy incoming links to their competitors' sites, but I'm sure the search engine programmers have considered this.
- Focus -- I have noticed that a lot of Wikipedia pages have fallen off the top of the search results. This, I believe, is due to two factors: They have a lot of irrelevant incoming links, and Wikipedia is a generalist site. The search engines seem to like specialization nowadays which quite frankly sucks in my opinion, but that's what it looks like they're doing.
- XML, XML, XML -- It is a more efficient way to organize and deliver data. You need a sitemap.xml at the very least, preferably enhanced by lots of topical feeds.
There is more to it, of course, but those are some of the less obvious (and more valuable) elements of good SEO in the Caffeine age. If you want to SEO like a pro, download the free version of Web CEO and take it for a test drive. (I am a proud WebCEO affiliate.)