2 Risks to Take and Avoid in 2019’s SEO Environment

 

As a business owner, you’re used to taking risks. You wouldn’t have gotten to where you are without doing things that make you uncomfortable.

Of course, you don’t take foolish risks. You learn as much about the possible paths ahead, and then take as much risk out of the options available so you maximize your chances of success.

Well, it’s no different with SEO.

Take a second to learn smart SEO risks to take and silly ones to avoid in 2019 and beyond:

  1. Take: Giving High-Quality Backlinks

If your website has hundreds of links pointing to you, but just a handful going back out, Google rewards you less than if you had a balance.

Why?

Google thinks reputable websites happily link out to other websites with equally strong (or stronger) reputations.

No optimal ratio exists.

Just make sure that you add links to quality websites in your niche which also help your visitors in some way.

  1. Avoid: Using Your Keywords in Your Links’ Anchor Text

It used to be that putting your keywords in the blue anchor text of your link would drive up your search rankings quite nicely.

And it also fits logic. You want your website to rank for certain search terms. So, you highlight those terms so Google knows what you want to rank for.

Alas, some no-good SEOs found methods to spam thousands of links with their exact anchor text across the web. They artificially drove their website to the top of the search results, which Google (and searchers) didn’t want.

So now Google penalizes this practice.

No one knows a precise ratio for this practice. But, general consensus holds you shouldn’t exceed 1-3% of the links pointing to your site having your exact keywords in their text.

  1. Take: Redesigning Your Website

Yes. This one carries significant risk if you don’t know what you’re doing. That’s why it’s important to go with a designer who’s done this many times before and can prove they protected client search rankings.

With the right firm, you’re possibly in for a nice rankings boost.

Users expect a modern design on your website. They want an easy-to-use website. And there’s plenty of small SEO ins-and-outs that can be done in your design which affect your rankings.

With the right partner, this can be a big win for your SEO.

  1. Avoid: Using “Doorway Pages”

“Doorway pages” may target multiple cities or locations, but then link back to one specific page. They can result in multiple similar pages in the search results, which Google and web searchers don’t like.

You can create pages on your site which create relevancy for various cities and suburbs. After all, it’s important for searchers to know you offer your service in their location.

You’re okay as long as you don’t link and drive searchers back to a single final destination on your site.

“Doorway pages,” as they get used, actually offer little utility and typically spam keywords to get search visibility.Discussing the benefits of your product and service and highlighting why you’re different and better than the competition does provide value and won’t irk Google (or searchers).

So there you have it. Smart SEO risks to take. And foolish ones to avoid.

Which will you choose in 2019?

How to Quickly Analyze Your Competition in SEO

The nice thing about the internet is that you can easily gather heaps of data on your competition.

Compare this to analyzing your competitors back in the days of the Yellow Pages.

A good competitor actually states their competitive advantages on their own website to attract more customers. So, researching your competition is far easier and faster than ever before. Here’s how to do it in 2019:

  1. Keyword Research

SEMrush actually lets you check these for free. You might be able to eyeball your competitor’s keywords at the small and local business level without it.

However, if there’s any complexity to figuring out those keywords, SEMrush clears it up – for free.

  1. On-Site Optimization

How well your competitor has optimized their website for their target keywords is a major ranking factor.

Their primary keywords must appear in the their page’s title (the big blue one you see when you do a Google search), in their meta description, and on the page itself about 2-3 times or so.

Watch for “unnatural” use of keywords.

This means keywords that sound “awkward” or “forced” when read out loud. Google does not like that kind of optimization. It still pulls ranking ability. But, not as much as keywords which sound “natural” (those which you barely notice when you read the sentence out loud).

Either overdoing it or underdoing it represents an opportunity for you to gain an advantage.

  1. Internal Linking

Links in your competitor’s site which link to other pages on their site are called “internal links.”

And this is another strong ranking factor Google analyzes.

There’s dozens of articles (and hot debate) about the best internal linking practices. But, generally, internal links should make it easy for users to navigate your site, link to more useful information, and point most frequently to the most important pages on your site.

Neil Patel has a great in-depth blog post on internal linking.

  1. Content Analysis

The uniqueness of content outshines all other aspects of creating content that gets noticed by Google.

Long is good. But if it’s already been said 10,000 times elsewhere, it’s not as good as something new. Check your competition for frequency, rank, and freshness.

  1. Design

Your website doesn’t need to be beautiful, or even eye-popping (although both are good).

But it does need to look modern so it looks like you’re still in business (not all SMBs understand that).

It also needs to be easy-to-use, fast, and make sense to visitors. And this might be the point you find you need a professional opinion.

If your competition has an older-looking design, this can indicate an opportunity for you to trump them in search.

So yes, analyzing competition at the local level, where websites are smaller, isn’t an overwhelming task.

And frequently, you’ll find easy opportunities for nice gains in your search rankings.

 

The 4 Types of Search Intent (And Why It’s Important to Understand Each)

Should you rank for the keyword you want?

Well, that depends.

And fortunately, we’ll help you understand what that depends on.

Take a minute to learn about the four different kinds of search intent and why you’d target each:

  1. Informational Intent

Yep. This is the most common reason someone uses the web.

Searchers simply have a question. They want an answer.

These keywords have the largest search volume.

On your website, you target these types of searches with blog posts. You don’t want to sell yet.

For now, you just want to earn attention by being the best resource on the search (in comparison to all others).

  1. Navigational Intent

People search this way when they already have familiarity with your company.

They search this way to find a page that they can’t find by navigating manually.

They might search for your home page, a product or service page, or a contact page.

While you want to optimize for these searches just in case, you first should focus on making your own site so easy to navigate (and even to search from your site itself) such that people don’t need to do this kind of search.

  1. Commercial Intent

Despite the name, these searches don’t have 100% purchase intent. Instead, customers need a little bit more information before they finally feel ready to purchase.

Informational pages, like reports or blog posts, in addition to sales pages discussing your services, may be just the key needed to turn a visitor into a paying customer.

  1. Transactional Intent

At this point, searchers have 100% purchase intent. These searches focus on finding products or services that ask for the sale directly and immediately.

A transactional intent search for a product could be something like “Warby Parker men’s eyeglasses.”

However, an informational intent search for the same product could be “eyeglasses for men.” With that search, a consumer would likely be comparing and evaluating options.

For a service, a transactional intent search might be “North Texas Foot & Ankle podiatrist.” A search like that reveals the customer knows the company and wants to buy.

Commercial intent might look like this: “Dallas podiatrist.” Here, the customer will likely look at Google reviews, blog posts, and Facebook pages (and the reviews on those) to compare options and make a decision.

Where Should Your Page Rank?

Now that you understand the different types of pages, you can make decisions on how to construct the page so it meets the customer where they’re at psychologically.

Ask someone to buy when they search using an informational intent keyword phrase, and they get turned off and leave.

Give them the information they want – the very best you can offer – and they gain interest.

So, you have to look at each phrase you optimize your website for, and consider: what does the searcher really want when they enter that phrase?

It’s a never-ending process.

But it’s one worth mastering because you sell more when you optimize your site for machines and searchers.

 

The Future of Negative SEO Attacks

You’ve heard us talk about negative SEO before. Basically, it’s an active attempt on your competitor’s part to completely ruin your search rankings.

Yes, they can do that. And they can get away with it. But that doesn’t mean you have to live your life in fear that your whole business could disappear in an instant.

It simply means you have to be alert, have an SEO on your side who knows how to monitor this, and take prudent action should the problem ever arise. You can stop your competitors if you find yourself a target of negative SEO.

Here’s what dishonest competitors may do:

  1. Link from Known Bad Websites

Popular link analysis tools make bad websites a part of their available data. They don’t do it for the bad guys. They do it for the good guys so they know where not to link and when to act should a bad link appear.

However, as with anything, some use it for good purposes, while others use it for dishonest purposes.

Fortunately, you can tell Google to ignore those links when calculating rankings. That’s not a simple process. But you can do it.

  1. Fake or Anonymous Press Releases

This one hasn’t actually gained a lot of steam yet. Google has devalued links coming from press releases because SEOs have abused them to generate positive links in the past.

However, it wouldn’t be hard for a competitor to make up a phony news story to damage your reputation, and also to drive poor-quality links to your site.

  1. Duplicating Content

This one’s an oldie but a goodie (for the bad guys). Competitors can set a proxy website (one that conceals their location/identity) to index, crawl, and then duplicate your website.

For now, Google remains fairly adept at understanding which website was the original and ranking that. However, this tactic’s power could improve as Google chooses to focus on brands and reputations versus URLs.

  1. Mass Manipulation of Third-Party Review Sites

These niche sites drive a significant amount of qualified traffic to your website. However, a competitor could pay a cheap service in a third-world country to register user accounts en masse which would then begin to inundate that site (and perhaps social media profiles too) with fraudulent negative reviews.

The success of this strategy relies on the third-party sites’ desire to monitor such reviews. They likely would have such an interest in doing so because sites that get overrun with these reviews would lose credibility with legitimate users. And that in turn would ruin their profitability.

I don’t write this post to scare you. But you do have to be aware of dangers like these (and others). And that’s why it’s important to have a SEO company watching your six.

 

 

How to Use Google Trends to Fuel Higher Search Rankings

Believe it or not, we haven’t covered this topic before.

But, it’s a great way to find keyword searches that your competitors may not be optimizing for.

It’s through a free tool called Google Trends.

It simply shows you how hot a certain keyword search is. For example, I typed in “SEO,” and here’s what showed up:

So, you can clearly see:

  1. For whatever reason, SEO’s relative strength as a search has dropped from 100 to 50 in the past year
  2. SEO is really hot in Kansas, New York, and California

Now, I have absolutely no clue why. But at least you understand America as a whole is losing interest in “SEO” as a topic.

You also get related searches that are gaining steam:

“Insignia SEO” comes up as a popular search. And that’s the name of an SEO company.

Since “SEO” is a relatively large category, however, you get some fairly unrelated topics to what you intended.

“SEO” seems to have a lot to do with South Korean actors.

So, let’s try and clarify that to get more relevant topics. This time, I entered “search engine optimization,” and here’s what showed up:

Again, for whatever reason, the topic as a whole seems to be losing steam here over the past year. And again, it appears to be gaining popularity in Kansas and New York.

So let’s see what came up in terms of related searches:

Ahh! Here’s some useful search terms:

  • Search engine optimization definition
  • Search engine optimization for dummies
  • Search engine optimization techniques

And apparently, search engine optimization’s gaining a lot of popularity in Seattle too.

But now, you at least have a few terms that you know would be worth writing about. And to get a clearer idea on them each, you could enter them into Google trends.

“Search engine optimization techniques” for example, has had its popularity chopping up and down for the past year. Currently, it’s shooting up for whatever reason.

You can also check the trend for the keyword in Image search, News search, Google shopping, and YouTube search.

So, this is quite a helpful tool – especially when you start really drilling down into various niches. You can check the specific popularity of fairly obscure topics most people know little about. It’s a way of gaining precision marketing data that simply wasn’t available prior to the internet.

And if you learn how to use this, it acts as a “secret weapon” in your marketing arsenal.

Google Shocks the SEO World with New “Medic” Core Algorithm Update

 

…Oh those stinkers at Google. They did it again!

At least they’re laying off cute animal names (Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird) this time.

So what ace did they pull out of their sleeves now?

Learn more about the “Medic” update:

Health, Medical, and YMYL Sites Pay Attention

Google doesn’t target niches too often. Especially with core algorithm updates. So it’s noteworthy when they do.

Because something must really be bothering them if they decided to take action.

First, what is a YMYL site? Well, it does one or more of the following:

  1. Asks for personal identification numbers like your banking info
  2. Allows you to perform a monetary transaction with a credit card number or any other payment mechanism
  3. Offers medical or health information that could affect your mental or physical well-being
  4. Gives advice on a major life decision like buying a home or car, or parenting
  5. Offers advice on a major financial issue

The core result of Google’s actions has been to reward the top-quality content in this niche with the highest rankings. Apparently, they felt some sites in this niche were under-rewarded. 

And for those sites who fell, it’s not that their content was “bad.” It’s been “less good” than top-performing content in those niches.

These sites saw around a 33-50% drop in their overall rankings:

…While these sites saw a 33-50% gain in their search rankings:

So, it’s a matter of studying what their content does well. And what it stinks at.

Then, you simply imitate the winners.

Surprise, Surprise! Quality Content Wins the Day!

If you’ve paid any attention to SEO for the last 5 years, you shouldn’t be the slightest bit shocked.

Now, you certainly had no way to know Google would target health, medical, and financial websites.

But, you’ve certainly hear Google (and us) talk endlessly about driving your content quality through the roof.

Remember, “quality content” refers to what your market finds the most valuable. And they tell you that through these metrics:

  1. Bounce rate (the number of people who visit a certain page on your website once, and then leave permanently)
  2. Time spent on-page
  3. Social shares
  4. Page visits
  5. Email unsubscribe rate
  6. Email click rate
  7. Email list size

These metrics tell you other things too. They don’t necessarily only reflect content quality. But, they do offer some indication of the quality of your content.

That’s the great thing about the web. You can learn exactly what your audience wants over time – without them ever speaking a word to you.

So anyway, there’s your lesson for the day. Google’s cleaning up the web. And it’s becoming a more useful place every day.

Now it’s up to you to do the best job you can of serving your audience.