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  • SEO for the Long-Term: What You Need to Know

    SEO Pyramid

    Website owners frequently focus on short-term search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.  Perhaps in response to changes to search engine changes to ranking algorithms. Perhaps so they can jump start their money-earning online marketing efforts. Whatever the reason, putting all of your energy in short-term SEO is shortsighted. Long-term SEO must be considered if you want to maximize your site’s performance and, ultimately, your bottom line.

    The reality is that much of what you do related to SEO will be in place for the long-term with updates and adjustments made in response to changes in customer needs and search engine processes.  What needs to change is the way you think about SEO.  SEO generally takes time to be fruitful – you are unlikely to experience many overnight SEO successes. Rather, each SEO technique you use can leverage others before and after it.  In many respects, this is long-term SEO in action.

    Specific steps you take can improve your long-term SEO outcomes.  When you focus on your future needs, you are really preparing your website for changes before they occur.   The idea is that instead of constantly making changes to your website in response to search engine algorithm updates, you create a solid website with high quality content that your customers want so you are already ahead of competitors when it comes to SEO.  Following are additional long-term SEO principles to consider.

    1.     Adhering to search engine guidelines provides the foundation of SEO.

    Guidelines are the building blocks of strong SEO. If you are like many people, you probably see these guidelines as rules that govern how to successfully submit your website to a particular search engine. Once you have done that, you honestly don’t give them another thought. But these guidelines are so much more than submission directions. Using them will insure your site has every opportunity to achieve a high Page Rank and be included on relevant search engine results pages (SERPs).  Even if you do nothing beyond this step, you have accomplished more than the majority of sites online.  Search engines are in the business of providing the best search results to their customers.  And the guidelines are their instruction manuals to site owners that detail how to create websites that allow the search engines to gather pertinent information for those search results.  Search engines want you to be successful so they provide you with clear recommendations on how to achieve high rankings on their SERPs.

    2.     A site that is useful and functional already has SEO advantages.

    In part, this requires you to create content before you need it.  Futuring is a concept and process that should be applied to website usability and SEO.  Forecasting what your customers might find useful six-months, one year, and even two years from now will help you decide how to position your site to attract the most visitors.  By planning for the future, you can design your site in a way that allows for every possible contingency so your site remains optimized regardless of how it grows.  You should be able to completely change your keyword sets with no problems. Have you thought beyond the here and now?  What will your site look like in a year or two?  How will your customers use your content?

    3.     Site content that meets popular demand has a high percentage of built-in SEO.

    Build a foundation of good content, and they will come.  More, importantly they will stay.  This is SEO 101 – the more popular your site, the higher your Page Rank.  The higher your ranking, the more traffic you will get to your site.  Relevant content is the primary factor that search engines use when ranking your site.  Search engines are all about information and high quality content.  The more of this you provide, the more naturally optimized your site will be.  Fresh content is needed by both customers and search engines. This means no duplicate content; instead, provide new and engaging information on a regular basis. There are many ways to do this from replacing current content to adding additional information on your site.  You will need to review search trends to see what the most commonly searched terms are in your particular niche to make sure you are adequately addressing customer needs.

    4.     Pleasing customers without regard for search engines increases SEO potential.

    What if you actually ignored the search engine algorithms and focused solely on your customers?  What would happen?  If you have already been using SEO best practices, even the Google Panda update probably didn’t impact your site rankings too much.  Most big drops in rankings resulted from major violations of Google Webmaster Guidelines, with a large percentage due to poor content.  Again, basic SEO principles, when implemented, can help your site perform well without further consideration of search engine algorithm updates.  This speaks to creating your site for customers, not search engines.  The more intrinsic value you provide to customers, the better off your site is from an SEO perspective. Websites that have not been updated in over a year are fairly useless to customers who seek fresh content and new opportunities when they visit websites.  Providing this is your ticket to SEO success.

    5.     Gradually building links over time has greater SEO benefit than quick link building strategies.

    Organic links that occur naturally as a result of relationships or mutual connections have more SEO value than paid link building schemes.  Most search engines have reinforced the notion that the quality of links is more important than the quantity.  And quality takes time.  As we have seen with Google Panda, sites that have too many unrelated links can be obliterated from SERPs. In addition to drops in Page Rank, some of these sites actually received Google penalties for using links solely for SEO purposes. Even reciprocal links are frowned upon where they had once been the main link building tactic for websites.

    6.     Sites that work too hard at being optimized risk SEO outcomes.

    Yes, it is possible to be over-optimized.  When you use keywords in ways that are not natural to the flow of your content, you are over-optimizing.  Submitting your website to every search engine for inclusion is another over-optimization technique. Incorporating every old and new SEO tactic is simply not necessary and can actually be counter-productive to your SEO strategy.  Search engines can decide to de-index your site because it appears you are focusing more on them rather than your customers.

    7.     Off-page activity that provides quality content to customers and builds your reputation improves SEO.

    From blogs to press releases and article submissions, these off-page activities can improve SEO as long as you again focus on your customers.  Of course, you will optimize your text with keywords and meta tags as needed.  But your attention should be on providing high quality information that your customers want to read.  You do this and your online reputation will continue to grow which further affects your Page Rank.  These are natural SEO-building activities that require no additional tactics to get your content included on SERPs. Mass submissions of articles and press releases only work if the content is unique.  A better approach is to develop a schedule of the number of blog entries as well as article and press release submissions you want to complete each month. Be realistic and think about your customers when establishing the schedule.

    8.     Improving your customer experience equates to better SEO.

    Each time a search engine makes a change to its algorithm, it is doing so for the sole purpose of improving search results for their customers.  The top priority for search engines is providing the best customer experience via search results as well as connections to websites that also cater to customer experience.  So, if you are providing one-half of that equation, and you are doing it well, rest assured your SEO will produce high rankings for your site. Develop creative ways to obtain customer feedback so you can routinely measure customer satisfaction and experience on your site. Use this information to make improvements where needed.

    9.     Playing by the rules will reap SEO rewards.

    Avoid using black hat tactics which are designed to trick search engines into giving your site a higher rank than it deserves.  Examples include keyword stuffing, doorway pages, and hidden links.  Any type of unethical approach to SEO will eventually catch up with you as search engine algorithms become more sophisticated and are better equipped to identify sites that employ these tactics.  As we have seen with Google Panda, even the appearance of black hat SEO can result in your site being penalized and receiving a substantial drop in Page Rank.

    When you consider the fact that in 2011, it is estimated Google will make around 500 changes to its algorithm, it is near impossible for any online business to keep up with all of those changes.  Implementing long-term SEO allows you to continue your business in the face of these changes without worrying that your site might disappear from SERPs.  In short, long-term SEO is an investment in your customers and your website’s success.

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