Uncomplicating SEO: 6 Business Principles Followed By High Ranking Retailers

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SEO today is not complicated until you chose to make it so. 7 years ago, when I decided to learn the technique of ranking a website at the top of Google, things were complicated. To learn SEO, I read hundreds of articles and applied that my theoretical knowledge to optimize some little over hundred websites; some with success and some with miserable failures. But in those days, it was easy for me to put the blame of my failure on Google. And may be I wasn’t so wrong in doing so because Google wasn’t sharing any information those days about what it saw wrong in a website when it decided not to rank it. So there was no right or wrong in those days, it was just a fight to defeat Google’s algorithm.

But in these 7 years, especially in the last 3, I have seen Google taking a giant leap and outsmart even the best SEOs in the industry. Apart from being more intelligent, its algorithm today is far more fair, transparent and fool proof.

If you’re someone who doesn’t knows anything about SEO and you want to learn it now, you should consider yourself fortunate because now you have Google Webmaster tool. And most of all, you have the right and privilege to know how Google sees your website.

Today there is no such thing such as a Black Hat that can hack your way to overnight success. Anyway, working for an overnight success is not seen as an ideal business strategy in the real world. The greatest thing about Google’s algorithm today is that it forces you to stick to the real principles of Business and Marketing. And if you understand these principles, you will not have to read those hundreds of articles that I had to read and waste time doing things that don’t matter.

In this post, I want to share these principles with you that I have learned from my 7 years of experience working on several SEO projects. But before you read these principles, you must ensure that you know how to use Google Webmaster & Google Analytics tool. If you haven’t already signed-up for these two free services from Google, you can do so here and here.

Let me now present the 6 business principles followed by high ranking retailers,  in a way that anyone who has no SEO knowledge should be able to understand and apply these principles to achieve higher rankings in Google results. And btw, it’s not all hard to understand how Google’s Search Works:

Now let’s get down to these principles:

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1) Be Approachable

This is the first prerequisite. Google should be able to find your website and navigate through all the pages. This principle is actually related to ‘indexing’ of your website, which by the way means the number of pages of your website that Google can find and enter into its records (this process is called indexing). So if Google finds your website and decides to record 1000 pages out of 5000 other pages other pages on your website, your website will be said to have 1000 pages indexed in Google and only these 1000 pages have the potential or any chances to show-up in Google results.

You can check to see if it’s indexed by Google. You can see if Google already knows about your site by performing a “site:www.yourwebsite.com” search on Google, for example: site:www.asos.comIf pages from your site show up, your site (or a part of it) is in Google’s index. If your site doesn’t show up and it’s very new, it’s possible that Google hasn’t discovered it yet or is not finding it worthy of a place in its index.

Your next obvious question now should be – what can I do to make more of my web pages indexed by Google? Well, you got to be worthy of being indexed. Google doesn’t want to waste its server resources on indexing unworthy websites.

Now what kind of websites are worthy? Just follow the remaining 5 principles in this article, and you will know what I mean by being worthy. Being worthy means, you never have to worry about getting indexed by Google. It will index every single page on your website generously.

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2) Be Original

Google is smart enough to identify between
– what’s original
– what’s copied with the intention of stealing
– and what’s copied with the intention of giving reference

Google considers content to be original if it is 100% unique and never seen on any other website before. On the other hand, if it sees that same piece of content on your website, is also there on many other websites, it considers it as a stolen content.

Similarly, If even though the same content has been found at other places on the web but the one who is copying is also linking to the original creator, Google considers that content not as stole but ‘Copied for reference’.

For Google, the biggest determinant of who is original and who is copying is ‘time’ – where was the content seen for the first time.

Produce lot of rich and unique content and you will see more and more pages of your website getting indexed by Google and also getting more exposure in its search result pages.

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3) Be Relevant

Google uses its algorithm to judge relevance of your website, ie. what your website is about? Is it more about ‘luxury handbags’ or is it more about ‘vintage dresses’? I can go on and talk about SEO jargons like Keyword density, Latent Semantic Indexing, Google’s Mockingbird update etc but it will take us outside the scope of this article. Let’s only focus on basics of SEO.

You just need to make your website relevant for the name (AKA words or keywords) of the product that you’re trying to sell. Google senses your website’s relevance based on how these words appear on your website:

  • Where keywords appear?
  • How many times keywords appear?
  • Is there a relation between these keywords?

Google scans through your website and see how various keywords appear in your website’s URL, Image file name, Headings, Meta tags and Body text and make sense of what keywords is your page relevant for.

The most important thing about being relevant is being ‘naturally’ relevant. Think about it this way. The reason why Google looks for the keywords meta tags, URL, Image names, headings and body text is because its users look at these places to make sense out a page. Thus when writing for your website, make sure you’re writing for human readers and not to influence Google’s algorithm.

Backlink Anchor text: Apart from how these keywords appear on your website, Google checks the anchor text of the backlinks of your website to determine the keywords in the anchor text when people link to your website.

For example, more and more people are linking to your website with anchor texts such as handbag, handbags company, leather handbags, etc, Google would know that your website is relevant for handbags related keyword searches and will rank your website for these search queries accordingly.

But as a website owner you don’t have much control on how people link to you and what keywords they use to link to your website. So it’s wise to not worry about so much and keep it natural.

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4) Be Popular

It’s obvious that Google would want to show the most most popular content on the web to its users. So what does google considers as popular? The websites with lots of back links and social media sharing are considered popular.

A) Backlinks: Backlink by its definition is “an incoming hyperlink from one web page to another website”. Google considers your website to be popular and worthy of being ranked higher in its results when it sees many other websites backlinking to your website.

So more links is equal to higher rankings? Not really. At least not now in the year 2014.

There are things that Google looks for in order to determine whether the backlinks pointing towards your content are real or fake. For example, it sees:

  • What fraction of sites linking to your website have stale content?
  • What is the social media presence of the websites linking to you?
  • Do the websites linking to you also link each other?
  • Is there a pattern in the IP address of sites linking to you?
  • Have other webmaster disavowed the websites linking to you?
  • Are there too many links coming from bookmarking websites?
  • Are there too many websites with thin content linking to you?
  • Are there too many websites with duplicate content linking to you?
  • Is a large fraction of websites linking to your website have a no follow tag?

B) Social Media Buzz: How many times your content gets shared on social media also has an impact on your website’s ranking. Google considers your website to be popular if lots of people are sharing your content on social media websites like Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus, Youtube etc.

You should know that the links coming from these social media websites mostly have nofollow tag and don’t give you a direct ranking benefit. However, when your content gets shared on social media websites, it’s a signal to Google that the content is rich. You can no longer game Google by creating pseudo profiles on these social media sites and fake social media signals. Google can make out when a website’s social media buzz is fake.

Google Plus: Being a Google property, good presence on Google Plus is a must for you. It can lead to direct boost in your website’s organic traffic. Please note that the impact of your presence on Google plus has less to do with backlinks and more with Google’s personalized results. The pages on your website will rank in the top results of Google for your customers who have circled you on Google Plus.

C) Presence: The other comparatively less important metrics that signifies your website’s popularity is brand name presence. How often your brand’s name appears on other websites in Google’s record / index, even when they don’t link to the website. But since there isn’t much you can do about it, it’s better to not to worry about it too much.

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5) Be Fresh

Would you like to use a website that hasn’t been updated for many years or perhaps for many months. Atleast I don’t trust websites with outdated content. Google doesn’t like such website’s either. It’s an important metrics of Google’s algorithm to determine whether content on a website is fresh or stale.

How many times does the website gets updated with new content? Every second, every minute, every hour or every month, or perhaps every year? For example, new content is added to social media sites every second, News website add new story almost every few minutes or hour, e-commerce websites add new content every day and an agency website might add content on a monthly basis.

So how often you update your website with rich content, plays an important role in your website’s ranking on Google. Make sure you have an editorial strategy in place and you keep updating your website with new content on a regular basis.

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6) Be Hospitable

When Google decides to rank your website and sends you its users, it expects good hospitality from you. Use your own website like an end user and see how its treating you.

  • Do you encounter many errors?
  • Is your website too slow?
  • Does it not open correctly on your phone?
  • Do many pages of your website don’t have meta tags?
  • Is the navigation of your website confusing?
  • Is the content on your website irrelevant or too boring?
  • Are there too many typos? etc.

Google can look at all the above metrics and know how much you care about the experience of its users who visit your website. If you don’t treat them right, Google will not send its visitors to you again, which means your website will always be outranked by your competitors who’re doing a better job than you, in terms providing a better user experience.

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Conclusion

More mature doesn’t always mean more complicated. With Google’s maturity today as a Search service, the process of Search Engine Optimization is no more a dark art; it’s just about sticking to basics of marketing and business management. Something as simple as treating your customers nicely on your website will take care of your SEO. 

Google is on your side. With Google Webmaster tool and Analytics, it is sharing all the data you need to improve your organic presence. Now it’s on you whether and how you use this data.

So be Approachable, Original, Relevant, Popular, Fresh and Hospitable. Rest, everything will follow on its own.

  • Alex

    Perhaps you can clarify something that’s been bugging me for a long time.

    Let’s take a popular site like Rightmove.co.uk (probably the biggest property portal in the UK) and say I advertise some property for sale on there, however, I also advertise this property on my own website (therefore it is MY content and not that of Rightmove) – when Google gets to my site does it think I have stolen my own content because Rightmove is more popular or has more authority than me?

    I have never been able to find a definitive answer to this so I look forward to any comments you may have

    • Hi Alex. Google gives credit for a piece of content to the website on which it is seen first. So if you post a property related content to Rightmove.co.uk first and Google indexes it there, it’s Rightmove’s content in the eyes of Google and it will rank Rightmove’s content above you.

      But then offcourse, there is another factor called site authority. Since Rightmove may have more authority than your website, it will easily outrank you because of the added advantage of its site authority.

      However, if we talk about a scenario in which you first post a property listing on a website (X.com) that has same authority as yours and it gets indexed by Google, and after that you post the same listing to your own website (Y.com), then again – Google will rank X.com higher because the content was first seen and indexed at X.com.

      I hope this answers your question.

      • Alex

        Thanks for the answer.

        So basically what you’re saying is that the giants will never be beaten because they’re ([Insert large website here]) seen as the owners of ALL content published to them by the likes of smaller websites – which are less likely to be indexed before bigger sites.

        This is a real problem that needs addressing as these large sites are sucking up content and effectively getting the owners of the content penalized in the process simply because they’re trying to advertise and reach a wider audience.

        With all of Google’s capabilities I find this very strange that they cannot fix this simple problem of correct ownership of specific content.

        • Yes, bigger sites have the advantage. The theory of rich getting richer applies here :) However, I feel Google is already doing a great job here because apart from the signal that – where it saw the content first, Google also looks at other signals such as domain trust, who has more backlinks, does the page link to another website with same content etc.

    • Hi Alex, it looks like Matt Cutts just responded to your question – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7XHAhn8HCzs

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