Search Engine Optimization or SEO is a special sport. In the past (and for some “experts” still) the challenge was to come high in the organic ranking from Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Now it is more a way to get traffic or conversion (dependable of your defined targets) in combination with Content Marketing. On the other side the Google search engine is getting more advanced, the focus for writing content should be the consumer (so the reader) of the content and not the Google search engine. Google knows this and is able to make their search engine smarter and smarter so focus on traditional SEO is getting less important. More important is write interesting and engaging or converting content.

To make it easier Google publishes its Webmaster Guidelines.

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But to keep yourself more up-to-date with SEO, Eric van Hall from Mediaweb wrote an article in the Dutch Emerce, called SEO checklist 2015 (Dutch). Below you find the highlights translated with my comments.

As you probably knows, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. The art of good SEO is a balanced combination of technology, web design and content creation.

SEO is not complicated in 2015 …
Actually SEO in 2015 not complicated. In the Netherlands actually has only one search engine, namely Google with its market share of over 90 percent. SEO is actually GO (Google optimization).

And Google is very clear in what they expect from websites like that want to score high. namely:

  • That the website is at the service of the users (not for Google).
  • That the content is of high quality.
  • That technology is fast and safe.
  • That Google can index the content properly. In my opinion Google is doing better and better so “technical SEO” is getting less important.
  • And in general: The website should not try to fool Google by some “SEO tricks”.

… But this does not easily
But something is not complicated, does not mean that it’s easy. Good SEO today requires considerable effort day in the field of content creation, user-friendly design, reliable and safe technology. To understand how all those things together make for a good traceability, some insight into how Google’s search results determines necessary.

‘Ranking signals’
In order to determine the order in the search results, Google uses his own words more than 200 so-called “ranking signals‘.

Some examples of ranking signals you can find below:

Content signals:

  • Relevance: Topical relevance of page content to search terms
  • Freshness: Frequency of content updates
  • Overall quality: Spelling, grammar, and sentence structure
  • Keywords: Natural occurrence of keywords throughout page content

HTML signals:

  • Titles: Concise, descriptive HTML titles, containing page’s target keywords
  • Descriptions: Unique HTML descriptions tailored to each page
  • Headings: Concise, descriptive headings and subheadings
  • Alt attributes: Descriptive alt text for images
  • Lists: HTML lists for scannable content

Architecture signals:

  • Accessibility: Website crawlability and accessibility
  • Page speed: Web page loading time
  • URL structure: Descriptive, clean URLs
  • Internal links: Sources, destinations, and anchor text of internal links
  • Outgoing links: Outbound links to trusted websites
  • Error status codes: Presence of 404 status codes from broken links, and other errors
  • Sitemaps: Presence of HTML and/or XML sitemaps

Domain signals:

  • Registration privacy: Public vs. Private domain name registration
  • Domain registrant: Record of domain name registrant
  • Exact match domains: Especially quality of EMD sites
  • Registration length: 1 year only vs several years in advance
  • Domain extension: Generic vs country specific domain extension

Off-site Factors
(Influenced by visitor engagement, social media, and other off-site variables)

Backink signals:

  • Strength: Authority and trust of linking websites and web pages
  • Anchor text: Descriptive, natural, diverse anchor text
  • Relevance: Topical relevance of linking web page’s content
  • Domain diversity: Backlinks from various domains

Reputation signals:

  • Authority: Domain and page authority signals
  • Trust: Domain trust signals
  • History: History of backlink acquisition, guideline violations, and penalties
  • Reviews: Reviews on Yelp, Google Places, Yahoo Local, etc
  • User-interaction: Bounce rates and click-through rates

Social signals:

  • Social shares: “Likes”, “shares”, and other endorsements of web content through social signals
  • Reputation: Shares from reputable social media accounts

Source: What is a Ranking Signal? on sringboardseo.com

The weight of the Ranking signals is changing. Besides some ranking signals are outside of your control so you need to focus on the signals that you can affect.

If you are the developments in the field of SEO have not taken a while, you will probably have some old habits to unlearn. Therefore, first an overview of issues that you are better (no longer) can do.

What you should not (any longer) can do:

Publish unprofessional pages. Google is now quite well able to assess whether a professional site was created. Websites created unprofessional and may provide a lot of broken links and other technical imperfections pay for it with a lower ranking.

Stuff your content with keywords at the cost of the readability. This so-called “keyword stuffing” Google recognize keyword stuffing an correct it with a lower ranking.

Linkbuilding without looking at the quality. Incoming links are still an important ranking signal, but Google is searching actively for abuse and punish it off hard. So link building can also work negative.

Publish not original, so copied content. Content you have copied from elsewhere, which is not unique to you, cost you points. Laziness delivers when it comes to SEO certainly no good results. In my opinion, you need to add value if you copy or better quote existing content. Google may recognize the additional value but there is a risk of course.

Smart tricks “with the aim to trick Google. So-called black hat methods to include Google fooled once worked sometimes. But today you’d better stay away from. Especially if you want valuable search traffic for the longer term. Because even a trick that works now will be punished by Google in future.

What you especially can do indeed:

Prefer quality over quantity
During the past year, it has become clear that Google gets better and better to measure the quality of the content besides only the content on keywords. The algorithm of the search engine is increasingly able to “understand” context and so understand the quality of text. This means that Google is coming closer and closer to a consumer or reader.

Not so long ago you could sometimes score high on the keywords that are important to your organization by publishing not relevant content. Publishing great content of low quality, but with the right keywords in your right places paid off before.

Today that is no longer working. In fact, it is counterproductive. Google recognizes content that apparently only aims to score high on certain keywords in search results and punishes those off.

What can you do? Write your texts always for your audience (so for readers), not for Google. If you always appeals to the persona of your target audience, Google will recognize your text as authentic. Set when writing your texts always in the name of the reader yourself the following question: “Do not tell me who you are, tell me what the benefits are for you.”

Write longer articles
According to a study from 2012 SerpIQ Google prefer longer articles. Their research showed that the top 10 search results almost exclusively consist of pages with more than 2,000 words.

Also, the statistics of Mediaweb shows that our long blog posts, generally score much better in Google than our shorter posts. The five articles we end 2014 published on trends for 2015 are now already one in place, two, three, four and seven when it comes to the number of impressions in Google for the past three months. These articles range in length from 2829 to 4613 words (reading time 30-40 minutes). Also falls within this list that the two ‘shortest’ posts in places four and seven stand.
In my opinion this doesn’t sound very logical. Long text are hard to consume, so if you have a short question (search query in Google), you need a quick or short answer. Maybe for more advanced questions longer pages, like Wikipedia are more valuable, but the documents needs to be very structured. On the other side to measure context (for example with Machine Learning), the more content you have easier it will be.

What can you do? Write substantial articles. Stay course, writing for the reader. Even though your article more than 2,000 words, the reader should not experience it as superficial or wordy. Ask yourself the following two questions:

  • Readers will find this article authoritative and reliable?
  • It is written by an expert?

Optimize the speed of your website (s)
Google speeds as ranking signals seriously, as Google got the patent a year ago: Using resource load times ranking in search results. With this patent Google protects the technology to weight the loading speed of a website into account in the search results.

Since the vast majority of business websites Netherlands lousy score in speed by the standards of Google, you can quickly get SEO benefit from faster to your website. Besides SEO benefit is a fast website also much more user friendly for the visitors. That is exactly why Google puts attention on it.

What can you do? Test site (s) of your organization with Google Page Speed Insights. If your scores are in the red, it is important to take action quickly.

Your website includes HTTPS encryption
Google says to seek a safer web. Therefore, HTTPS encryption for several months a ranking signal. The search engine announced this on the Google Webmaster Central Blog.

In the video below Google employees Ilya Grigorik and Pierre Far explains why Google is so concerned with “HTTPS Everywhere”:

HTTPS as yet weighs only slightly along as ranking signals. It affects less than one percent of all searches worldwide. The weight for this ranking signal is very, as for example good quality content. Google wants to first allow webmasters some time to switch to HTTPS. But the expectation is likely that Google allows more weight to this factor in 2015.

What can you do? Migrate your website (s) from HTTP to HTTPS. Please read this guide from Google.

You create mobile friendly website
Google late last year introduced the label “Mobile Friendly” in the search results on a smartphone. That is, when a website according to the guidelines of Google is suitable for display on a smartphone, the reference to that site in search results is accompanied by the text “Mobile Friendly”.

“Mobile Friendly ‘label Google
google-mobile-friendly-label

To the label “Mobile Friendly” to get a website according to Google must meet the following criteria:

  • No use of software that is not common on smartphones, such as Flash.
  • Text is readable without zooming.
  • The content fits in its entirety on the screen, so that the visitor does not need to scroll horizontally.
  • Linkjes are far enough apart that the right can be clicked with a finger.

People who search on their smartphone in Google now also know that entries that do not have this label, will not provide fine user experience on their smartphone.

Simultaneously with the announcement of the ‘Mobile Friendly’ label, Google mentioned that it is quite possible that mobile accessibility during this year will also gave a ranking signal. That means that websites that are smartphone nfriendly will not only be labeled without “Mobile Friendly”, but also lower in the search results on smartphones.

When it comes to making mobile friendly websites, Google prefers websites that make use of Responsive Web Design (RWD). Depending on the baseline of your organization, there are four strategies to achieve a good, responsive website:

  • Converting existing website.
  • Responsive mobile site.
  • Adaptive + Responsive Web Design
  • Small steps.

What can you do? Make sure your website (s) meet the requirements of Google proposes labeled “Mobile Friendly” via Google’s Mobile-friendly test. Does your website not pass that test, then it is important to adapt the website in such a way that it is mobile friendly.

Let Google JavaScript and CSS index
Since May 2014 Google indexes all the JavaScript and CSS websites. That is, why Google nowadays is able to ‘see’ the same website as a real visitor.

Many webmasters are still used to block Googlebot from indexing JavaScript and CSS. Now, however, it hurts the visibility of your website when you block JavaScript and CSS.

Especially if your website is using JavaScript and CSS to display valuable content to end users. Or if your site uses JavaScript and CSS to optimize the display on tablets and smartphones.

What can you do? Make sure Googlebot is able to index CSS and JavaScript on your site. If you are unsure whether the JavaScript and CSS of your website is currently blocked for Googlebot, you can check this by using the tool “Fetch as Google“. This tool can be found under the link ‘Crawl’ after login in the Google Webmaster Tools.

Conclusion
Just like just about anything on the web, SEO is constantly changing. Certainly in the Netherlands SEO is especially GO (Google optimization). Google is trying to provide users of the search engine results that are relevant and of high quality.

Google expect from websites that they are created for consumers (or readers) of content and that they are fast, safe and well indexed by Googlebot. And above all that they do not try to trick by doing differently for Google.

This is SEO in 2015 actually not that complicated. But that does not mean it’s easy. It requires considerable efforts in the field of content creation, user-friendly design, reliable and safe technology.

SEO in 2015 means choosing quality over quantity and writing substantive articles. In addition, since you have to focus on speed and security of your website. And last, but not least: your site must be mobile friendly and are fully indexed to Googlebot, including all JavaScript and CSS.

Tip: Keep informed of developments at Google. Follow the Google Webmaster Central Blog.

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