So the first one of many for SEO posts as requested!

Here’s how to send your readers to sleep! 😀

Here’s a bit of background information:

I’ve been involved in Search Engine Optimisation for close to a decade and much has changed from Google’s perspective. Originally Google operated on only 2 algorithmic factors – in today’s times, there’s over 7 algorithms checking over 200+ factors to determine whether a website is suitable near the top of the search results. I don’t class myself as a ‘guru’ – I do vomit at that description (because everyone describes themselves as being an SEO genius unfortunately) and realstically no-one knows the algorithm inside and out (not even algorithm engineers at Google).

My first project was a games and media review site back in 2011 which was sold to a multi-national (before the days of GDPR) and led to 50% of the deposit towards my first house. It was good fun, hard work, lots of content writing and late nights. Lots of focus on third party affiliate advertising as well, using Green Man Gaming affiliate network and during a time where you could flutter a whole bunch of ads above the fold without having to pay any organic algorithmic consequences.

So, SEO then…

I’m going to have to break this into you quickly, but the majority of what many so called ‘SEO Experts‘ say online is fluff and hot air. I used to believe it, when I first started; the hype, the news, the media etc. SEO requires your own testing, your own meticulous planning and monitoring to ultimately determine the way that Google algorithm works. I currently look after 20 client websites at work (we have over 60 clients in total), ranging from the financial sector to grass cutting. From my experience over the years (at the very beginning I did start out in PPC – but I’ll come on to that later) I can break down Google into three main algorithmic factors and what’s most important when it comes to ranking a website highly organically;

[60% Link Building] Off-site activities (namely links from other websites linking to your website)
[20% Content] Is your content written in a semantic fashion? Does it answer a users search query?
[20% Relevancy] Have you included phrases that Google Panda realises as relevant keywords to the main topic?

In other words, Google weights (roughly) the following;

[60% Weighting on Off-Site Activities]  – Link Building
[40% Weighting on On-Site Activities] – Content / Relevancy / Technical Onsite

In this article, we’re going to be focusing on Content [On-site] Activities;

Now you may be thinking ‘what is Google Panda’? What the bloody hell does ‘semantic’ mean? Not to worry!

  • Google Panda: Google will make you think that they’ve combined all of their algorithms into one, machine learning artificial intelligent beast. Hell no – what a load of old tripe. Google Panda is one of Google’s algorithms that looks at the content of your website. Being an algorithm, it will look for typically ‘binary’ based metrics such as;
    • Have you included X amount of relevant keywords?
    • Is the content semantic in nature? (I.E. Does it ask and answer a question related to the main subject / topic?)
  • There are of course, many more technical mannerisms that the above can be described in such as context clusters, synthetic queries and augmentation of query score to determine relevant output. But realistically, it is broken down more simply into examples mentioned above. Of course, if you would really like to dig in to the advancements of Google, I thoroughly recommend a read from SEO by the Sea, who depicts and unravels Google patents that specifically relate to it’s algorithm. A pre-warn – it is heavy reading, but ultimately this is the true technical nature of SEO.

Today we’ll look into the content side of Google’s Panda Algorithm…

  • Semantic Content: Essentially semantic content boils down to content that is relevant to a users search query. The best way to explain this is with the use of examples! (Love a good example);
    • Let’s say you type into Google “Office Coffee Machines”.
    • You may think that a website only selling Office Coffee Machines would be the first page that would appear, because you’re assuming that someone who types in ‘office coffee machines’ have an intent to buy. They could well do – no-one truly knows. Therefore Google pays particularly close attention to the intent of users based on a keyword phrase. You’ll see, in the UK, when you type in ‘Office Coffee Machines’ (05/04/2019) this link appears;

(Please note that Google’s algorithm does change, so if you’re reading this on a later date and the results are different to what I saw, it’s most likely down to Google making micro-algorithmic adjustments based on query intent).

If you navigate to this page, you’ll see that actually, there isn’t any physical products on offer / to sell on the page that is ranking, but instead, a decent amount of content describing the various types of coffee machines / coffee machine alternatives available. Google, believes that this content matches up more closely to the users intent than that of a straight forward ecommerce website.

This is just one area of many many factors that Google looks in to when deciding where to rank a website organically (we haven’t yet touched on links). Straight forward ecommerce websites do very well in certain industries, whilst in others not so well. Not because of anything related to the customer, but what Google assumes as delivering the most relevant search result. Using the above example, a user searching for ‘office coffee machine’ may just want to buy an office coffee machine and be done with it. The website above doesn’t help in that regard because they’re placing a whole bunch of content in front of the users eye before physically being able to add a coffee machine to their basket to purchase it. This increases click depth and leads to issues in conversion rate problems – though one would assume that given that most Office Coffee Machines sell for over £500, the user intent would be related to ensuring that the machine they’re looking for is suitable for their office (forcing the user to read about a specific coffee machine / specifications / uses etc).

Therefore it’s important to determine the ‘generic’ intent behind a search query and build your site around that intent. Someone searching for ‘Financial Independence Retire Early’ will have a different intent behind someone searching for designer belts, or even cement mixers! 😉

So this is ultimately tip 1#: Build your website around the users generic search intent. If the intent is more research driven, include FAQ’s on the page you want to rank for a keyword / search phrase. Using ‘financial independence retire early’ as an example search phrase, here are some relevant questions I would include on my website;

  • How long does it take to achieve FIRE?
  • How much do I have to save to achieve financial independence?
  • What does FIRE stand for?

(PS – you may ask, “why haven’t you done this on your blog?” – the reason why I haven’t yet on mine is because I’ve only just started out with this blog and balancing up time to work on this site is pretty hectic at the best of times and currently I have the Amazon Affiliate site which is taking up most of my SEO time).

Google will suck this content up like a vacuum and love you for it (they really do like content which is semantic in nature).

Here are some technical SEO implementations using the above as an example (if you want to work towards rank for the phrase ‘financial independence retire early’;

  • [Title] Tag is the most important onsite element that Google reads. Ensure that you structure the [title] tag of a page as follows;
    • #MAIN-KEYWORD# | #LSI PHRASE + ADJECTIVE #MAIN-KEYWORD | #COUNTRY-CODE
  • Have 1 x [H1] (Heading 1) Tag at the very top of your homepage (ideally in the top bar, above your logo). Define the [H1] tag as the exact phrase you want to rank a page for.
  • Have multiple (2-4) [H2] (Heading 2) Tags that support the [H1] Tag. Using ‘Financial Independence Retire Early’ as the example, a good [H2] tag would be “How long does Financial Independence Retire Early take to achieve?”.
    • Forget about the rest of the [Heading Tags – H3, H4, H5, H6] – They account for sweet FA in terms of relevancy points we’ve seen. 
  • Ensure you have at-least 250-450 words of content that is talking exactly about the topic at hand. Remember to think about user’s intent – Someone searching for Financial Independence Retire Early is most likely research / reading driven – perhaps a downloadable PDF to what it is? (Again, Google loves this kind of media).
  • Identify the use of LSI Keywords (Latent Semantic Indexing). These are phrases that Google understands as being relevant towards the main topic / subject. Put yourself in the mind of an algorithm;
    • Here’s a question: If I write a page about “Apple” what am I writing about?
      • Well, I could be writing about the California based Tech company or I could be writing about the Fruit. The issue is, being an algorithm, you need to find out which one. Therefore, if you pickup phrases within the page such as ‘organic’, ‘tree’s’, ‘healthy’ then you would know that I’m talking about the Fruit. Whilst instead, if I included phrases such as ‘Mobile Phone’, ‘Brand’, ‘Screen Size’ you would know I was talking about the Tech company. Google works in a similar method / style – it looks for LSI phrases within your content to assign relevancy points to your website. Therefore, whatever you do, don’t use LSI phrases that clearly belong to a grouped / similar phrase. I.E. Apple is a company that cares about their consumers. Over the last 3 years, they’ve seen organic sales growth worldwide…. Instead, replace these phrases with relevant LSI phrases to the subject / topic. 
      • How do you go about searching for these LSI phrases?
      • Well, Google expects an expert to reel these phrases straight off the tongue – but in hindsight, this isn’t always the case. You may want to give a free online tool called ‘Keyword Shitter‘ a go – Oh yes, some glorious person came up with this and the brand name is just perfect. Type in the phrase you want your website to rank for and it’ll ‘shit out’ phrases related to that subject / topic. For example, using the phrase “financial independence retire early” relevant LSI phrases include;
        • Calculator
        • Movement
        • Podcast
        • Tips
        • Plan
        • Books
      • etc etc – It would be wise to include these phrases within your content to increase relevancy towards the generic term ‘Financial Independence Retire Early’.

By making these small steps and changes to your content, your allowing Google to understand in an easier fashion, what your website is about. There is still lots more to talk about regarding content, which shall be an up and coming post in April, focusing on use of Internal Links, proximity and density of phrases.

In April, we shall only be focusing on the content / on-site, technical changes and work on a broad area of Google’s algorithm each month going forward.