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Good Old Fashion Checklist SEO for 2017

     
3:45 pm on Dec 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Way back yonder in yesteryear, there used to be long checklists that a person could follow and have a very good chance at SEO success. Now with all these whippersnappers at Google using their fancy AI and crazy long scrabble words like multivariate testing many of those SEO checklists are about as useful as a dial up modem. So here is a new SEO checklist to help you rank in 2017. This checklist is a combination of my experiences and the Ranking Factors white paper at Search Metrics [searchmetrics.com...] You should head over and read that research for yourself. Remember that correlation is not that same thing as causation but it is a good starting point in figuring out how to do SEO in 2017.

1) Focus on relevant content. Keywords are less important and valuable ideas are more important.

2) Switch over to HTTPS. If you are an e-commerce you should already be on https. If you aren't an e-commerce site you still should use https because you are likely losing valuable analytics data.

3) Favor usability over keywords. When writing headlines & titles, think about what will entice & engage users. Google is now smart enough to ignore keyword stuffing and pay attention to user engagement.

4) Pretty & professional appearance. Back in the old days we used to say ugly sites make money. Now it is about being pretty & professional. Users have many options and will abandon ugly sites. Abandonment means no chance of gaining backlinks, user generated content and many other benefits that increase your SEO value.

5) Mobile Matters. Your entire site should be mobile friendly. Your most critical pages should be manually fine tuned for the best performance. Google is paying attention to slow sites and other usbaility problems. Even if Google didn't care, good usability leads to more conversions & profits.

6) Get a third opinion. You probably think your site is perfect but it isn't. No site is perfect. Do usability testing or ask fresh people to candidly review your site.

7) Prioritize social correctly. Its called the world wide web because it is all interconnected. Social does play a part in SEO success but it is not the linchpin of SEO success. Social can help build brand awareness and buzz about your site which can lead to traffic & backlinks. Don't ignore social but don't overly obsess about social.

8) Focus on forward links and avoid backlink worries.Sure there has been a bunch of publicity about negative links and scary Penguin.penalties. Most of the time Google ignores bad links. It is probably best for your situation if you work on developing new backlinks. Boosting real links from traffic generating sites will also make you less dependent on Google. Think along the lines of classic marketing & promotion to develop forward looking partnerships with traffic generating sites.

9) Speed matters, speed scores don't matter. When you visit a slow website, do you patiently wait or do you leave? This is why you want a very fast website. Don't worry about the free speed tools that grade your webpage. Even Google's speed grading tool has flaws. Worry about real speed that your user experiences. Happy users lead to more conversions/usage/backlinks/etc.

10) Be unique. Google's AI is looking for unique & useful sites. Users are looking for unique & useful sites. Business partners are looking for unique & useful sites. Differentiate yourself. If you are offering something basic that is on 100 other sites you are not going to survive. The water level has risen in the SEO pool and if you don't want to drown you better to learn to swim better.

Google is like a crazy ex-girlfriend with a jealous streak. The more you make your site popular to others without involving Google, the more Google will want to send you traffic. The more you desperately beg Google for attention, the more Google will withhold attention from your site. Build up business relationships to make your site non-dependent on Google and enjoy :)
4:39 pm on Dec 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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That's a nice list, thank you.

I'd like to add

11) Fresh content Fresh content is valuable, and you can achieve that in different ways. Whichever way you choose, make sure googlebot and bingbot can get at the fresh content.
5:38 pm on Dec 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Google is now smart enough to ignore keyword stuffing


You have to be joking?

Fresh content is valuable


Some of us work in industries whereby evergreen is king however the presentation of that information needs careful layout.

With evergreen content comes keyword stuffing, unfortunately I see it every day.

Otherwise a good starting checklist.
7:26 pm on Dec 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Just because you see keyword stuffing doesn't mean it's working.

#3 is a tricky beast with fake news [businessinsider.com] and clickbait.

If you aren't an e-commerce site you still should use https because you are likely losing valuable analytics data.

Can you elaborate? I'm not aware of any changes with analytics data.

Google is like a crazy ex-girlfriend with a jealous streak.

Just quoting this one for emphasis.
8:15 pm on Dec 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Can you elaborate? I'm not aware of any changes with analytics data.

According to new standards, browsers are supposed to stop providing referral information for traffic from https sites to http sites. So far most browsers aren't in compliance, but are expected to be eventually.
10:01 pm on Dec 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Just because you see keyword stuffing doesn't mean it's working.


I see keyword stuffing precisely because it is still working.
10:12 pm on Dec 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Thanks aristotle, didn't know that. Just pulled this from the Chromium source code:
// If the
// request downgrades from HTTPS to HTTP, the referrer will be
// cleared. If the request transitions cross-origin (but does not
// downgrade), the referrer's granularity will be reduced (currently
// stripped down to an origin rather than a full URL). Same-origin
// requests will send the full referrer.

Indeed, you will increasingly lose referral data if you do not switch to HTTPS.

[/diverging]

I see keyword stuffing precisely because it is still working.

You assume it's working because you see it, but correlation doesn't imply causation.
10:22 pm on Dec 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Indeed, you will increasingly lose referral data if you do not switch to HTTPS.

On the other hand, if you keep your sites as http, then other http sites will see your site as the referrer for any traffic you send them. That won't be true if you switch your site to https. So that's one advantage of staying with http.
12:06 am on Dec 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Another item for the list:

11) Make sure everything on your site actually works as it's supposed to. Clean up broken links, make sure widgets are working, fix layout weirdness, etc. etc. Don't let broken things undercut your "signals of quality".
11:04 am on Dec 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for the SearchMetrics link Goodroi, an excellent piece of research.

One paragraph in particular caught my eye:

Search engine rankings are no longer determined primarily by backlinks. Depending on the topic, it is now sometimes possible for a website to achieve a high Google ranking without a large amount of high-quality backlinks. This is partly driven by the increase in mobile search queries, as URLs on mobile devices are often liked or shared, but rarely actively linked. The increasing prominence of apps and app rankings in organic search is also contributing to the decline of backlinks’ importance. Backlinks do remain a part of the algorithm, but they are now just one of many contributing factors and no longer the driving force pushing webpages to the top of Google’s rankings.


It's been evolving over a couple of years and is now fully here.
12:24 pm on Dec 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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This is partly driven by the increase in mobile search queries, as URLs on mobile devices are often liked or shared, but rarely actively linked.


Is that statement supposed to represent a fact or is it simply worded as a fact but is actually just a guess?
1:10 pm on Dec 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Much like your average ice cream shop, g tries the "flavor of the month" algos and more than a few, obviously, chase along ... but in reality what really sells is plain vanilla (and perhaps chocolate). The "pretty" is what kind of cone you put your vanilla or chocolate in... the next iteration of the next fadulous (sic) algo.

The 10 points listed are excellent ... they boil down to "unique", "relevant", and "fresh" As for "evergreen", evergreen is just exactly that, just keep it simple. I never worry about crazy ex-girlfriends ... that's why they are ex, but I do have a nice shoppe, even if I don't code for the algos, because I do have the best vanilla AND chocolate. Even crazy ex-girlfriends like that. :)
11:47 pm on Dec 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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To me the best "SEO" is just to use common sense.


Content :

- interesting content (with illustration images if possible).
- well written, with the least spelling and grammar errors as possible.

Page Layout :

- easy to read, and browse, which means, good size fonts, good space between each lines, good space around paragraph and images.

- non aggressive colors. Dark gray instead of black for text, and bright gray instead of white.

Then from a "technical point of view"

- compact html 5 code, and without error (using W3 HTML/CSS validator).
- exploiting as much as possible CSS3 features to create nice page layout, without using images.
- as few external requests as possible.
- the strict minimum javascript.
- lazy loading of images
- multiple version of images depending of screen resolution.
- no plug in, no social medias javascript (I just use plain text html for social media buttons).
1:27 am on Dec 20, 2016 (gmt 0)

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One paragraph in particular caught my eye:
Search engine rankings are no longer determined primarily by backlinks. Depending on the topic, it is now sometimes possible for a website to achieve a high Google ranking without a large amount of high-quality backlinks. This is partly driven by the increase in mobile search queries, as URLs on mobile devices are often liked or shared, but rarely actively linked. The increasing prominence of apps and app rankings in organic search is also contributing to the decline of backlinks’ importance. Backlinks do remain a part of the algorithm, but they are now just one of many contributing factors and no longer the driving force pushing webpages to the top of Google’s rankings.

It's been evolving over a couple of years and is now fully here.
Which means, instead of just working on your pages to get the right combination of SEO factors, today's metric requires you to do the leg work of engaging the mobile world: social media, apps, devices.

• Open accounts at Social Media sites (FB, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, etc) and learn the platform. Interact with other users & contribute. Establish branding and then, only then, drop links to *relevant* articles & content at your site.

• Install & learn to use the various popular apps and determine how they can benefit your interests.

• If you have a brick'n mortar store, create local business listings at Bing & Google with map locations. This is highly active on mobile.

• Create Yelp, Angies List & other user review accounts. These also can be a terrific source of patronage & establishes user trust.
10:04 am on Dec 20, 2016 (gmt 0)

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• If you have a brick'n mortar store, create local business listings at Bing & Google with map locations. This is highly active on mobile

If you have a real world address Bing will happily pick this up without intervention by you regardless of if you want callers or not.
10:08 am on Dec 20, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Yes, but with the (free) accounts you have control over the information published. You can edit any time to change business hours, update contact info, add products, photos, list services, etc.
12:51 pm on Dec 20, 2016 (gmt 0)

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11) Fresh content Fresh content is valuable, and you can achieve that in different ways. Whichever way you choose, make sure googlebot and bingbot can get at the fresh content. - Slightly off topic but high lights this amazingly.

One word keyword unrelated to the products offered keyword is in the URL and gets mentioned twice on the home page, domain is 6 years old, updated at least 3 times a day - Is top ranked for a product they are not even related too due to the keyword. I can only put this down to the constant updates.
8:53 pm on Dec 20, 2016 (gmt 0)

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- non aggressive colors. Dark gray instead of black for text, and bright gray instead of white.



You captured my attention with those colors.

1) Black instead of gray as a text color seems to be better for me as far as reading.

2) On the subject of this thread, do search engines treat the gray/black/white colors for text and background as worthy of a better ranking? The preferred colors better than unique original content?

Thanks,
FarmBoy
5:35 pm on Dec 21, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Hello, what about "BACKLINKS" ?
7:29 pm on Dec 21, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Hello, what about "BACKLINKS

That article says...
Search engine rankings are no longer determined primarily by backlinks.
8:19 pm on Dec 21, 2016 (gmt 0)

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My bad, I fast read it, to fast :D
Nice to know that internal links are instead kept in consideration.
1:01 am on Dec 28, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Let me bite:

* If you focus on relevant content and spend time/money making it, it will be stolen by bots and spammers and rewritten by content mills.

* Don't switch over to Https, nothing but headache

* Usability over keywords will get you nowhere. There's very few competent usability people out there, very few. The rest are pretty much guessing.

* Professional appearance - yes

* Mobile - doesn't matter unless you need mobile visitors.

* Prioritize social - if your site falls into social yes, otherwise don't waste your time.

* Forward and backlinks - a whole minefield that will kill your site faster than you can say "Google" if you do it wrong. And you WILL do it wrong. Not only that, but Google changes its mind on good-vs-bad links faster than a teenage girl, so even if you get it right now you'll get it wrong later. And it will kill your site.

* Speed matters - yes

* Be unique - let me see... google , facebook, bing - not unique. That's a wrong. position. Be better than everyone else, probably.
2:26 pm on Jan 7, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Mobile - doesn't matter unless you need mobile visitors.

Unless you are in a very restricted B2B field a significant proportion of your visitors will use mobile.


In general I would say not to obsess about any single factor.
 

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