As we begin a new year, you should be concerned with the rapidly changing factors that influence search engine optimization.
SEO has changed significantly—even in the last two years. We recently did a forensic SEO audit for a client and even we were amazed by how much has changed. The old tactics are not going to give you the same results as before.
In this three-part blog post, we will explore what influences on-page factors (what you can do to your website’s pages) and off-page factors (what you can do off-site).
In order to master SEO in 2015, you need to understand some advanced concepts. Whether some are familiar or completely new, they are all important. Nobody knows the exact algorithm (except the search engine engineers), so no one of these concepts is more important than any other. Together, however, they will jumpstart your organic SEO efforts.
- Concept: TF-IDF, also known as term frequency-inverse document frequency
Simply put, TF-IDF is how important a keyword or phrase is within a universe of documents. TF measures how often the word appears in the document; IDF determines how important it is to the document. So in this newsletter, you can pretty much throw out words like “it’s”, “so” and the word “and” (also known as stop words).But the word SEO? Clearly important to this document and others that we write and publish on our blog. To be clear, TF-IDF is not about keyword density. It’s how important those keywords are within the larger universe of pages. Most SEO experts agree that this concept by itself doesn’t make a huge amount of difference to your SEO but is a factor that will continue to matter as semantic search and natural language patterns drive search innovation.
Application: Create your content in topics that have natural relevancy to each other.
- Concept: Use natural language and variations (synonyms)
Semantic search is about improving search by understanding user intent and the contextual meaning of language. This means you cannot spam the search engines with non-natural language.Instead of using the same keywords over and over, use variations. This means you need to do great keyword research BEFORE you start writing, so you can plan your topics and pages within the greater universe of documents you are creating. Think about complementary phrases people use. For example, the digital watch may also be called the iWatch or the Apple watch.
Application: Great keyword research matters more than ever. Some great keyword research tools? Google’s Adword Keyword Tool (free), Google Trends (free) and Moz (paid).
- Concept: Co-occurrence and phrase based indexing
Search engines need to understand the significance of your keywords as well as their context in order to serve relevant search results to users. They use a formula that ranks complete phrases and words that typically come together to understand intent on your pages. For example, the word digital can have the words marketing, watch or health come after it. Search engines will analyze the different keywords and phrases you use, as well as the distance between them to understand the relevance of your content to the user.
Application: Write your content like you would talk, so that it’s obvious what the topics are about. Try a tool like ntopic to determine your content’s relevance.
- Concept: Page segmentation
Placement of keywords and phrases matters. Place words in the main body text; it is far more important than the sidebars. This is critical when writing for mobile, as that channel may hide certain elements of the page.
Application: Placement of keyword and phrases is important. Put them inside the body copy and not on sidebars. HTML5 solves this concern by providing the following tags: <article>, <aside> and <nav>, which define sections of the page.
- Concept: Entity Salience
Keywords are still critical but eventually, as search improves, something will replace them. It looks like that may be entities, or concepts that belong to a certain topic. By mapping the relationships between certain words, search engines will create stronger search results by eliminating bad matches and pages that don’t match users’ intent.
Application: Write like you talk and use terms that belong to a universe of ideas. For example, when writing about Apple, you may want to use terms like the digital watch and the ipod, NOT words like farmers, orchards and Honeycrisp.
- Start with great keyword research. Research for individual keywords, complete phrases and synonyms. Understand how all these terms will fit together within a larger universe of content.
- Create sets of content that answer questions around a particular area.
- Understand that all of these concepts and tools are pointing to one conclusion: Write using natural human language patterns and don’t try to game the system.
In Part 2 we will cover more on-page factors, and in part 3 we will explore off-page factors for SEO success.