There is much debate about SEO and some would argue it’s getting even harder to produce greater visibility and stronger search results; more backlinks are demanded and you need more than adding the keywords a couple of times for great success. There is no more shortcuts and you truly need to learn SEO to rank in the top of Google. In this article you will be introduced to what people (And Google) refer to as “Quality content” in 2017.
How we all used to do SEO back in the days
If you’re reading this and you are a Majestic freak just like me then chances are you already have a good background of link data, and knowledge of what to look out for when delivering SEO on a webpage. But, just to recap some of the specifics that used to be looked at when trying to optimise content:
- 1-4% keyword density
- Exact keyword in title, h1 and h2
- Exact keyword bolded/cursive/underlined and as an alt-tag
Then, after completing the list, it’s about online recommendations and gaining “links” to validate what you’ve written and beat the competition. Right? No. The list is not that simple anymore. You would rather risk a penalty due to keyword stuffing.
If you were to bring something out of this article it would be this: “Stop writing about keywords – Consider topics and users”. This was pointed out by Kate at Moz back in 2013 (Ages ago) and in 2016 several times by the many gurus across the world. This game changer came along with the Google Hummingbird update back in 2013. And now in 2015-2017+ along with Rank Brain adds the user perspective.
Three things to consider while writing quality content
- Synonyms and variations:
If the main goal is to write about a topic rather than keywords. Then synonyms is hard to prevent from happening. Adding some synonyms and variations of the keyword you intend to rank on is a great way of increasing the relevance and still don’t risk any penalty due to over usage of keywords. An example if you would like to rank on “Dog” would be to add some of these: “Dogs”, “Hound(s)”, “man’s best friend”, “Doggy”. You get the point. Just make sure any specific synonym or variation dominates the keyword density.
- Term frequency–inverse document frequency:
In short terms also called TF-IDF. This is an evolution of the keyword density and a more important metrix. It does not really count how often a keyword is used. It rather focuses on where the keyword is mentioned. The same importance is not applied across the entire page. Using keyword stuffing in the bottom of the page to increase keyword density does not work as it used to. Big G. sees how important you believe the keyword is. Locate keywords in headings, in first fold and other visible and high priority areas.
- Entity Salience:
Nowadays you should not only write about the keywords itself and related keywords. You should also write about topics related to the main topic. If you would like to rank on “Football” you could write words like “Zlatan Ibrahimovic” (Yeah, I am swede), “Cristiano Ronaldo” and so on. It will increase the relevance that you are really focusing on football.
To summarize the big difference. It’s not only about completing the checklist above. It is about writing about everything around it and twisting it to avoid penalty for overuse of keywords.
The recommendation for usage of alt tag and bolding has changed
Two of the most common mistakes is when there is exact matches in alt tags and exact match bolding/cursive/underline. It might work to some extent, and it will most likely help if the overall site barely is optimized. But the two ways of trying to improve rankings is rather saying “Hey G! This is the keywords I would like to rank for – Please let me rank better on these important money keywords.” The risk of penalty will just increase. There is no quality provided for users and the benefit for onpage is just not worth it in the long run. What you should do is:
- Describe the picture – and since the picture is relevant to your topic parts of the keyword(s) will most likely be there. Google will understand it is relevant. But adding exact keywords is a big no no.
- Never bold/underline/cursive exact matches, use that for synonyms instead.
Bonus! Anchor texts has changed too
We all know the power of links with “exact keyword” match had back in the days. And nowadays it does not seem to work anymore. It s rather one of the most common reasons for penalties. An interesting article from Gotch SEO providing a complete guide for anchor texts and how to use them. Here is four key takeaways relevant to the above topic you should bare in mind:
- You should for sure lower the exact match anchor down to as little as 1% (In reality this also shifts depending on the number of links, examples here)
- Branded links rather than naked. Google loves brands. Even though both should be used (70% branded – 20% naked).
- Use anchor text that explains what you offer. Google understands these now and it’s a safe way to avoid over optimized anchor links.
- Whenever you are not sure a link is of great value, then go for branded or naked anchor text.
A finishing up recommendation for best practice is to have a look at the ones ranking at the top for any given keyword and re-engineer what they do. Apparently Google likes it.
About the Author: Nils Fridlund, CEO at Sunbird. Offers performance-based search engine optimization in Sweden.
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- Stop writing about keywords – Consider topics and users - February 2, 2017