I remember my first "collision" with SEO results. It was 1997 and I was running the marketing department for an automotive repair chain - Tuffy Auto Service Centers. We had just launch our website and were proud as a peacock.
Over the coming months, we worked hard adding the content that we thought our customers would enjoy. But nothing I could do would move our website to the top of the Search Engine Results - even when I searched for my own brand - "Tuffy Auto Service Centers". Here is a partial screenshot of our website from the Wayback Machine.
Look how much web design has changed in 20 years... Back to the story.
Every time I searched for my brand, the name of our arch enemy, our primary competitor, scum of the earth would be listed above Tuffy.com. Every time.
It took some research, but I finally found out why I was number two in a search for my own name. The competitor used keyword stuffing in an attempt to fool Google into thinking that their site was a more relevant match for the term "Tuffy Auto Service Center". Their home page had a lot of white surface. In that white space, they had used a white font and listed "Tuffy Auto Service Centers" dozens of times. White on white. Visitors to the site could not see the text, only Google's bots could read it. A letter from our attorney convince them to take it down, but is was my first experience with Black Hat (as in the bad guys) marketing. Soon after, Google starting punishing companies that tried to game the system.
Since then, businesses have always tried to game the system and out think Google. Now that we have been through Penguin, Panda, RankBrain and Mobilegeddon, here is what the SEO community believes are the six primary determining factors for improved SEO results.
1. Your Site has to be very mobile friendly, aka Mobilegeddon. On April 22nd, 2015 Google warned everyone that it was taking the increasing use of mobile phones for search seriously. Mobile phones do not currently have the processing power of desktops, so designing simply for the desktop and stacking the same data into a responsive design will not work. Look at video. Best practices replace video on the mobile device with images. Or at a minimum, no more video auto play.
2. Your Site has to be very fast (faster the site, the better the ranking). The need for speed. Phones are on data plans so faster load times are better for the consumer's wallet.
3. Your street address information has to be right across the internet. Check with Infogroup, Acxiom, Factual and Neustar/Localeze to see if all four have the same information. (Or send an email to Jeff@thriveim.com and I will look for you.) These are the websites that many other websites use to grab contact information - not your website. If it is wrong on any of these data aggregators, it will be wrong everywhere!
4. It is best to run the whole site as HTTPS not vs just regular HTTP. Since 2014 Google has recognized the use of the security certificate as a ranking signal for search results. A security certificate costs about $150 - $200 per year.
5. The business with the most reviews win in the long run. Rather than relying on developers that stuff keywords into websites, Google now indexes the number of reviews a site receives as a sign of popularity and rewards the websites with more reviews. Lots of reviews mean increased relevancy. We are back in high school and everybody wants to hang around the popular kids. The more friends you have, the more you get.
6. Longer registration of the domain name favors better ranking. Simply said, the longer you have been in business, the higher you rank. If you are renewing your domain name, do it for five years, not one. Registering it one year at a time might have Google wondering if you plan on being in business next year.
Finally, you still have to have great content, highly related to the search terms consumers are using to find your products or services. At least in the foreseeable future, that will not change.
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