Beginner guide to SEO in 2012

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and is a very important word to learn, if you are webmaster. The word covers the technique where you optimize your website, so search engines (especially Google) can index your site easy and which will lead to a higher ranking in the search engine results. This is important, because if you have a higher ranking in search engines, it is more likely that people who search on the search engines, will click into your website. The more visitors, the more likely you get a higher sale or get your message with the website out to more people. 

When you talk about SEO, you distinguish between White-hat SEO and Black-hat SEO, which is respectively innocent/good SEO and forbidden/bad SEO. When you do White-hat SEO, your main purpose is to make it easier for search engines to index your page, while your main purpose with SEO, when you do Black-hat SEO is to rank higher in search engines – you then don’t care about the content of the site. One example is a page that is full with keywords and no content – the reason why this page has a lot of keywords is only to rank higher in Google – not to show a high-quality site.

Black-hat SEO is forbidden by Google and Google gets better and better to detect these sites. In 2012, there came a lot of new updates to Googles algorithm that lead to a worse ranking for Black-hat SEO sites.

Google Panda update

Google Panda update, was one of the big updates to Googles algorithm in 2012. Actually it is a series of updates, starting with the Farmer update in February 2011 and ending with an update in April 2012. The update was designet to give a lower ranking to sites that was of low-quality for the user of Google. These are especially sites that has a lot of ads, sites that copy content from other sites (duplicate content) and generally sites that is not very useful to the user.

The Panda update really shaked the ground under a lot of websites world over. Some websites saw a big drop in there traffic when the Panda update came. Panda actually affected 12% of all websites. The main purpose with this update was to get higher quality sites in top of Google.

One important point with this update is, that big content farms (big article databases) was hit very hard. This means that don’t waste your time using these content farms.

Google Penguin update

Google Penguin update was a update on April 2012, that was an automatically algorithm that detected webspam sites and ranked these lower. One example of sites that were hit here, is Black-hat SEO sites with keyword stuffing, because this is considered as spam by Google. Another thing was if there is irrelevant links placed in your article.

Penguin was not as hard an update as Panda, since it only affected 3,1% of all queries. The main purpose with the Penguin update, was to remove spam sites from top of Google.

One important point with this update is, that keyword stuffing is no go from now on. It might not be a good idea to include big tag clouds on all sites, since these might be consideres as keyword stuffing. An remember that Penguin is an automatically algorithm, so it does not see that it is only for tags, not keyword stuffing.

Google+ and authorship

Google launched there own social network, Google+, in 2011. And in 2012 they launched the ability to connect content you have written with your Google+ profile, something called Authorship (Read more about Authorship here). If you have established authorship on your content, it is possible to get your Google+ profile picture in the search results, which is more eye catchy and can lead to more visitors.

Google also calculate an Author rank where they rank you as an author in a particular topic. We expect Google to implement Author rank in Googles search results in 2013, so it will be very important for you to establish authorship on your website.

Lately we have also seen that if you use social networks, especially Google+ (because the activity is easier for Google to detect), this will also give you a higher ranking.

Describing titles and meta descriptions

It is still important for SEO to have a good well described title for your pages and a good meta description for each sites. The reason for this is, that Google might use your title and meta description directly in the search results and it is therefore here you can sell your website to Google visitors.

IMPORTANT: Don’t put keyword stuffing into your titles or meta descriptions, this will give you a penalty in Google search results – see under the paragraph for Penguin update, that gives you a penalty if you have too many keywords.

In old days, it was also important to have good meta keywords, but this seems to be nothing worth now, so don’t work with this.

Search engine friendly URLs

URLs that is easy to read by Google and other visitors is a search engine friendly URLs. You can setup this using rewrite in PHP. A good idea is to have the titles incorporated in the URL. But remember to replace a space with “-” not “_”. Google reads “-” as a space.

It is also important not to have too many subfolders in the URL. Googles see a page that in the URL is placed closest to the root domain, to be most important and is therefore placed highest in search results.

Avoid duplicate content

Duplicate content is identical or nearly identical content placed on sites that are indexed twice in Google. It can be because it is copied/stolen content on multiple pages or only a technical detail you have to work on.

Don’t copy or steal any content on any sites. And then work on the technical duplicate content on your site. E.g. if your site is available both from the URL with and without www, you get duplicate content. You can solve this by a 301-redirection (permanent redirection).

XML sitemap

An XML sitemap is a recipe for Google, that tells Google how your site is build. This makes it easier for Google to index your site and it is therefore a good idea to make a XML sitemap of your site.

Linkbuilding

Links is also very important for SEO on your site. In-going links to your sites from a website with high Google Pagerank and not very many outgoing links is very important to get for your site. This is called linkbuilding. You can linkbuild by attending in discusion boards and write guest posts on other high-value blogs on the internet.

It is also important to have many outgoing links to websites with high-quality, because this shows Google that your site is high-quality.

Don’t put outgoing links to spamsites and don’t pay for your linkexchange – Google will find out.

High quality content

The most important advice for SEO has always been to create high-quality content on your sites. And it seems to be more and more important. So you really have to work with making good quality content on your website.

This was some of the most important topics in SEO in 2012. But what do we expect from 2013. I think that the importance of Google+ and authorship will be rated higher. I also think that Google will place more updates to there algorithm that puts high-quality sites in top of Google. What do you think? You are welcome to place your answer in a comment.

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Andreas Andersen

Forfatter og grundlægger af IT-blogger.dk, der har blogget om IT-emner siden 2012

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