I don’t know what possessed me. A few months ago I signed up to spend two Saturdays learning about SEO. Why? Because I’m a dedicated marketing professional and felt it was my duty to stay as up to date as possible on the ever-changing world of digital marketing. So here’s my conclusion on Search Engine Optimisation – In a nutshell

I remember reading the 2007 Google guide to SEO about three years ago but I had seen so much conflicting advice since then that I was determined to get to the bottom of the matter. A short while back at a conference, an SEO specialist (Judith Lewis http://www.decabbit.com/ ) for whom I had huge respect had indicated that Google changes the algorithm up to six times a DAY!

Amongst the other 20 or so saddos, I mean delegates, were a number of people with a new online businesses who wanted to know how to generate more traffic. There were a few journalists to keep me company (although I have to say that the training on all things on-line from the Chartered Institute of Journalists http://cioj.co.uk/ is excellent – particularly on Google News). Surprisingly, there were no other marketers.

Julian Holden was the course leader and amongst the advice he offered was the following:

  • Update your web site content on a regular basis (he warned that it can take a month for changes to be seen by Google if your site is updated irregularly)
  • Sign up for Google webmaster tools and Google Analytics
  • Work out your long tail keywords (i.e. what phrases people might use to search for the information on your site)
  • Forget the old advice about the importance of meta-tags for SEO – except the meta-description tag which is sometimes used as the descriptive snippet in the SERPs
  • Consider LSI – Latent Search Indexing (e.g. lawnmowers often appear alongside strimmers)
  • Use keywords in headings
  • Keep to one page per search topic – with 20% unique content on each page – and optimise one page at a time
  • Acquire used domain names as older names are more favoured by Google
  • With the advent of blended search, there are opportunities for using good captions on images and videos

He also talked about the perils of “black hat SEO” and mentioned BMW being removed from Google after setting up numerous false links to its site. He also said that Google had only indexed about 5% of the total web.

Broader reading and subsequent talking to specialists revealed the following tips:

  • Generate valuable content that other sites will want to link to – write as much as necessary, no more and no less
  • Let people know that your web site is out there – comment on high ranking blogs in your sector
  • Create your own blog
  • Network, network, network (on and off line)
  • Ask the people who link to your competitors to link to you
  • Encourage links within your content using descriptive anchor text
  • Submit your site to high quality directories (including things like Google Local)
  • Use “bait” links (downloads, free reports, e-books etc)
  • Offer to swap links with a few relevant, high quality sites
  • Get all fee-earners to link to the site from LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media sites – with anchor text on the links

So, in a nutshell the current view on SEO (although it’s a moving target) is:

  1. Ensure that you have good quality, natural language and regularly updated content on your site (blogs can be a great help here)
  2. Use appropriate long tail keywords – especially in titles and anchor text
  3. Encourage good quality sites to link to your site

There is additional information on the topic of SEO in one of the books I recently reviewed:

Book Review – Understanding Digital Marketing

I’d welcome any further tips and hints from those who are specialists in the field.