This is like no other definitive guide to SEO you will ever find.
It’s been written using real data supplied by Google through its search engine. And since Google dictates what pages rank where, there can be no better source.
You need to know right now that everything important in SEO started changing in 2016 with the announcement from Google that their PageRank algorithm results would no longer be made public.
Up to that point, anyone who claimed to know anything about SEO used their original patented algorithm (PageRank) to determine whether a page would rank highly (if at all).
And that meant that everyone could (if they wanted to) game the system by comparing real rankings with PageRank scores. But no more – and that’s a very good thing for you and me.
Any guide to SEO (especially a ‘definitive’ one) must therefore rely solely on Google’s output rather its algorithm. That is, enter a search phrase in Google and see which pages are displayed first.
Whatever comes up is what you have to beat. Whatever those pages contain and link from and to is your benchmark. You can see that any meaningful analysis of this is going to be a big task.
So a definitive guide to SEO (if it’s to be definitive) has got to tackle every aspect known to Google (and commonsense) if it is to be of any use. And that’s why this guide has been written – but it’s not a ‘get and forget’ guide – it’s a living and breathing SEO testimony (with the emphasis on testing).
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The New SEO
The internet and the world of search has changed so much, perhaps it should be called New SEO.
Google realises that to survive (which of course it very much wants to do) it must strive to deliver better and better results. If it fails to do that, and in particular gets the ratio of ads to content wrong, we will start to look for alternatives.
And absolutely for certain, an alternative will be waiting. This is in spite of the fact that Google now employs more PhD’s than any other company on the planet.
In other words, they must (at all costs) keep on improving and delivering what we want if they are to stay in business. And that is exactly what we want as marketers.
Google will award top content producers with better placings in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) provided we keep on giving. This change started happening when RankBrain was introduced along with the Hummingbird algorithm in 2013.
But it is only from late 2016 onwards that the changes these updates made have started to become obvious.
To see that in action, go to Moz.com and install the (free) Moz bar in your favourite browser (Google’s Chrome browser is a good choice).
To get the MOZ bar, you need to first register a free account with them. Then you can install it in your browser (you need to be logged in to your Moz account to turn it on once it’s been installed).
You can see the number of links pointing to each page in Google’s search results for any search term as well as a few other pointers to popularity.
The idea is to give you some ideas on how hard or easy it will be to rank for your term. However, you will notice that the results can be extremely erratic. This is due to those changes I mentioned right at the start of this SEO guide.
Most noticeable are the number of links. Sites with no links at all are now capable of being ranked on page 1. This was very different a few years ago.
It’s all part of Google’s long standing crackdown on spammy sites and bad SEO practices including link farms, private blog networks, keyword spamming and a whole host of other so called ‘black hat’ techniques.
But none of that matters right now. What we’re interested in is exactly why some pages rank and some do not. That is the holy grail of all SEO professionals.
And up until 2017 it was extremely hard to get right. Google has filed over 14,000 patents. Amidst those patents are the key components of their search algorithm, including the original patent – PageRank (read all about the PageRank patent here).
Google say they use over 200 signals to determine the rank of any page and the term being searched for. Trying to understand which of those signals matter the most is impossible unless you work for Google.
However, they have publicly stated that the top signal is now the quality of a page’s content. Quality means does the content answer the search query. This is easy to determine by the searcher’s consequential actions after clicking on the link to that page in the search results.
if the searcher clicks a search result link and promptly clicks their browser’s back button, and then clicks another link on the search page, it’s common sense to assume the first result clicked did not give them the answer they were looking for.
But it’s not always the case. Anyone researching facts (such as product pricing) may go back and forth a number of times. It does not always mean a less than adequate search result.
Google needs to know and understand the differences better than anyone else. What may seem to be a ‘bounce’ in one context may be entirely different in another.
And for Google, delivering the best possible search results is imperative. If they fail more times than they succeed to deliver the right search results, people will eventually seek out a better search engine.
But for now, just looking at pages and some of their stats using the Moz bar will help you see just a little bit more than the average searcher does.
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