There’s always a lot of talk on popular internet marketing blogs and forum about what secret tricks webmasters should be doing in order to outsmart the Google algorithm and rank at the top. The spectrum is wide and the tricks varied, but one thing that seems to be talked about less, is common sense SEO, which is where you focus on the user experience.
This myopia of a vast majority of SEO marketers is quite staggering, even when major shake ups like Google Penguin and Panda hit, a lot, not all, of webmasters are still talking about how to beat Google, and what links work best, or should you put your exact keyword phrases in your meta tags these days. It’s somewhat like building an igloo on a melting iceberg!
I think if webmasters were to step back and look at their SEO plan starting from the user experience of the site, and planned from this point out, then they would have a lot less to be concerned about when Google brings out new updates.
What Would Make Your Site a Great Resource?
It’s important to understand your target market well, so that you can plan your content strategy, whether text or video, to target what they will like and respond to. A common flaw that people often make is planning content based around easy keywords that they believe they can rank for with little effort. If you start from this point, you will end up with a site that Panda and Penguin will eat for breakfast.
When planning a website I believe it’s important to lay out the foundation of your categories and then work through each category with a content plan that real users will engage with.
Of course any smart SEO marketer knows that a keyword strategy is still important, and is needed, however starting with the content developed for the user first, and then working your keyword strategy into this content is a much better approach.
The Litmus Test
One indication that you are reaching your target audience and producing content that is engaging, is whether or not your content is shared on the social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Google +. I call this the litmus test, and when I see a new sites content start to get recommended on the social sites I know I am on the right path.
Further metrics I like to look at the website bounce rate. Although bounce rate is not always the best indication of the quality of a website, it can give us some idea, and I’m sure Google looks at this. If your bounce rate is below 60% then you are heading in the right direction.
Websites that are not engaging enough for the visitors to click around, and view additional content on the site need to look into why, and find ways to solve the issue. In some cases the issue is not so much the quality of the content, but the ease and accessibility of navigation and internal links to facilitate further browsing of a site.
In addition to bounce rate, looking at the time on site, and in particular the percentage of traffic that stays for under 10 seconds, is a useful metric, as is the average page views. All of these things are helpful guides as to how engaged your traffic is.
Google’s Primary Agenda
Now I can’t help myself but to be a little facetious saying Google’s primary goal is to take over the internet and then the world, however in this context we need to remind ourselves that Google’s core driver is a good user experience when using their search engine.
The biggest threat to Google would be for people to simple stop using it and swap to Bing or some other way of finding what they want on the web. With that in mind Google will continue to find ways to refine its algorithm to filter out sites that are not providing a good user experience.
From an SEO perspective, one is much smarter to start at that point and build their SEO campaigns with that same focus as Google has for their own websites. By doing this you are less likely to ‘butt heads’ with Google.
Does Google Hate Affiliate Marketing Sites?
Having been involved heavily in^( for many years now, one question that I seem to get asked a lot, and more so these days, is whether Google hates affiliate sites.Before I provide my response, I first want to explain that I believe the reason this question gets asked so often is because when Google makes wide reaching changes, of the likes of Panda and Penguin, affiliate sites tend to get hit the hardest.
Does this mean Google is targeting any and all websites that affiliate themselves with other websites for financial gain? I don’t believe so, as affiliate marketing has been around for decades in the off line world, just look at the insurance industry, all brokers seem to know is how to ‘clip the ticket’ on the way through.
The reason it can look like Google hates affiliate sites is because a vast majority of these sites are not built with the user experience in mind, and henceforth they have low user engagement and are not sending any ‘good’ signals to Google about their sites. I have many affiliate sites that were not even affected by any Google updates, so my answer to this question is ‘no Google doesn’t hate affiliates’ however they dislike low quality sites.
In summary, be sure to start your SEO with the user experience in mind and keep this in mind for the life of the website. This will drive how you plan your site, the content strategy and the overall structure and layout. By doing this you will, overtime, naturally start to collect great signals that Google will pick up on and reward you for. This does take time, so you have to be patient, but it’s worth it in the long run.