SEO 2017

Based on Wordpress data, there are 1.59 million blogs published everyday. That's only Wordpress.
It's estimated there are 2.5 - 3 million articles published everyday. Whether you’re a developer, startup or business owner looking to rank on the first page of Google, we’ve got you covered.


1. Mobile Friendliness is Paramount

A 2016 report published by Hitwise proclaimed that US mobile search accounts for approximately 58% of overall search query volume, meaning that a large majority of online searches are now being done on people’s smartphones and tablets, instead of from desktops/laptops.

Accoding to BGR, mobile internet usage surpasses desktop usage for the first time in history in 2016 and the trend is only going to get stronger.

Google understands how important the mobile experience is to its users and harshly penalizes websites which offer an underwhelming mobile performance. When creating your website, be sure to optimize for mobile, removing items which might slow a mobile load time down and also updating your web page's design and layout so that it offers a smooth and speedy mobile experience. 96.26% of new smartphones run Android or iOS.

Mobile OS Market Share (March 2017)

Android66.71%
iOS29.55%
Windows5.94%
Java ME5.35%
Symbian~1 %
Other~1 %
BlackBerry0%
sources: netmarketshare.com, RIP Blackberry

Mobile SEO Actionable Tip

Run your website in Google Speed test and learn two things - your site's speed and mobile score. Both numbers range 0 - 100, with higher scores being better.


Good Google Page Speed Score

source: accidentfirm.com


2. When Creating Content, Write About One Topic First


For many industries/businesses, writing about one specific topic will showcase your company as an authoritative, professional voice in their industry, and Google loves authority.

When starting a blog, we suggest focusing on one niche topic and making 80% of your initial posts about that specific subject.

For example, if you are a home restoration company, instead of making your first handful of blogs about all different topics, like, one post about drywall, one post about patio restoration, one post about flood damage repair, and one post about home painting; instead, just choose one of those topics (say, home painting), and make almost all of your initial blogs about that topic. Posts might include: How to Paint the Interior of Your Home, What Are the Best Brands of Paint for the Exterior of My Home, How to Correctly Mix Paint, etc..

Focusing on one specific topic will help present you as an expert in that particular niche, and you will be more likely to begin ranking for a multitude of keywords regarding your niche topic, as well as invite an audience of users looking for more in-depth expertise on your subject of choice.

One mistake many companies make with their blog content is they often attempt to be a “jack of all trades”, creating tons of blog content on a wide range of topics, and because of this, these businesses are often viewed as “masters of none”.



3. Learn Important Keyword Metrics


  • Search volume - Average number searches each month
  • Clicks per search - How many average clicks per search
  • Keyword difficulty - A score of 0 to 100 with higher scores being harder to rank for

Okay great! WTF do they mean?

To make the above keyword metrics easier to understand, here's an example.

You're a local seafood restaurant owner in Daytona Beach.

You think of three keywords you want to rank on Google's first page.

  • Daytona Beach restaurants
  • Seafood restaurants daytona beach
  • best seafood restaurants in daytona beach

Let's take a look at the SEO metrics for "Daytona Beach restaurants"

Daytona Beach restaurants search data SEO

The first metric search volume is easy to spot and understand. The query "Daytona Beach restaurants" gets searched 1,900 times per month on average. You can see on the above green bar graph that some months get much more searches than others. Knowing the trends for your keywords is a huge competitive advantage.


The second metric clicks per search only gets clicked 1,200 times per month. Notice that this is 700 less clicks that search volume of 1,900 per month. The keyword "Daytona Beach restaurants" is only getting clicked 63% of the time. This metric can also work the other way, some keywords have more clicks than searches.


The third metric keyword difficulty (often called KD) is 5, which is a low score. This is great because the lower the KD, the easier the keyword is to rank for. With a KD of 5, you'll need backlinks from around 6 high quality and relevant websites to rank in top 10 for this keyword. Placement Labs is one of a handful of SEO agencies that provides this kind of insight. We provide a measureable link building plan for each keyword.

To show you how different two keywords can be let's take a look at metrics from another industry altogether-- Pregnancy. Let's take a look at the keyword "baby shower games" to see how different the metrics look on a non-local keyword. The keyword "baby shower games" generates 104,000 searches per month that result in 145,000 clicks.


Baby shower games search data SEO



4. Inbound Link Anchor Cloud

Within Ahrefs and Google Webmaster Tools, you are given access to your Inbound Link Anchor Cloud, which shows the popularity of different anchor text phrases based on the number of backlinks pointing to your site.

Here's an anchor cloud for one of our properties that reviews headphones, Headphone Charts:

SEO Keyword Anchor Cloud

Based on this example, you can recognize that 9% of our backlinks contain the anchor text “headphones better than beats”, and this makes sense because we have a popular post on Headphone Charts literally called Headphones Better than Beats, a post we put a fair amount of time into, and some effort link building for it.


Real Ranking Data (March 2017)


SEO ranking data 2017

When you view your anchor cloud and notice that a lot of your anchor keywords are irrelevant or not the types of keywords that you want from prospective customers, then you will need to make updates to your website link portfolio to rectify that, including creating content containing the keywords you want to rank for, and then be sure to build strong relevant backlinks by sharing your new content on other high quality websites.

You can see below we outrank much bigger sites like Forbes and Buzzfeed (Suck it Buzzfeed).

SERP top ranking 2017

We've included 5 link building websites in the next tip.



5. Focus on White-Hat SEO, Avoid Link Buying

An outdated and shortsighted black-hat link building technique focuses on spending money to buy backlinks from shady websites trying to sell “easy SEO” solutions to companies that would rather just spend money in exchange for improved Google rankings than spend the time and energy to utilize REAL SEO solutions.

The problem with this strategy is that Google is getting very adept at knowing the difference between high quality, relevant organic backlinks, and low quality, irrelevant ones, making paid-for links not only useless, but they can absolutely get your site penalized by Google, causing your site to sink like a stone within Google search results.

That being said, make sure to focus exclusively on getting your site published on high authority websites with content relevant to your site’s industry. Still, try hard to focus more on organic forms of link building, whether they be forum posting, directory sites, guest blogging, social, etc.

Link Building Actionable Tips

Here are just a handful of great ways to build links to your site:

  • HARO (Help a Reporter Out) connects you with journalists and bloggers looking for experts
  • Google My Business list your locations, hours, pictures, and URL
  • reddit is a top 50 site in the US. Don't spam them, keep it classy
  • Medium a great place for creating and sharing a quality guest post
  • Stumbleupon is an often overlooked social network with an active base


6. Use SEO Software Starting Day 1

If you’re going to put in all of the hard work needed to create a high quality website, it is mission critical that you begin monitoring your site with advanced analytics starting on Day 1.

Free SEO Tools

  • Google Analytics
  • Google Webmaster Tools
  • Google Optimize - A/B Testing (just released late March 2017)
  • Screaming Frog - Ugly interface, but great on-page SEO audit tool

Paid SEO Tools

  • Ahrefs (our most used tool at Placement Labs)
  • SEM Rush
  • Moz
  • Screaming Frog (Paid account allows you to crawl more than 500 pages)

Placement Labs Client SEO Dashboard

  • Keyword Tracking - Google, Google Local, Bing, Bing Local
  • Link Tracking - view your link portfolio like never before
  • Integrate with Google Analytics and Search Console
  • Integrate with Adwords, Instagram, and Youtube
  • Integrate with Linkedin, Twitter, and Facebook
  • Monitor site health with built in site audit
  • Phone tracking - monitor phone calls that originate on your site(s)
  • New: integrate with Mailchimp
  • New: integrate with Campaign Monitor

Manage your digital marketing from one place.


SEO dashboard

Need some SEO help? If you'd like to work with us check out our SEO services and SEO packages.

7. Diagnose and Eliminate Technical On-Site Issues

Most webmasters are often ignorant to the many issues their website has with regard to how effectively they can be crawled by Google’s spiders. Designing and coding your website without an emphasis on SEO can leave your site in a vulnerable position, as there is almost assuredly plenty of competition within your industry, including competition that has an SEO understanding and has already eliminated the majority of their on-page web issues, making them appear more authoritative in the eyes of Google.

Fortunately, there are several excellent tools for helping you to diagnose your on-site issues, like Screaming Frog. Screaming Frog can quickly create reports on which specific issues your site has, and map out every individual instance of each issue. A few examples of issues that your site might have (and often can be easily fixed)

  • Pages with missing meta titles/descriptions
  • Images missing an alt-text attribute
  • Pages with broken links (both internal and external)
  • Pages with titles that are too long
  • Multiple pages with duplicate meta information
  • Pages that are missing language declarations


8. SEO is Constantly Evolving, Keep Up with Google

Our lives as SEOs would be much easier if we believed we could continually offer the exact same services to our clients all the time, forever. However, that would be incredibly naive and short-sighted of us to assume that we can continue to always do the exact same things and expect the exact same results.

As we touched on in our introduction, Google semi-regularly updates their internal algorithms to create better experiences for their users, but it is up to SEO experts to learn about and understand these changes, and know how to implement new services and techniques in compliance.

As an example, prior to Google’s Penguin algorithm update in 2012, websites were not really penalized for building tons of low quality links, even black-hat and paid-for links still seemed to be useful tools for SEOs at the time. However, once Penguin was implemented, many websites that were using black-hat link building techniques were penalized, while sites that created and maintained high quality backlink profiles, featuring lots of organic backlinks from relevant sites, saw rises in their rankings.

Google's Penguin algorithm update was so powerful that a major part of many SEO companies playbooks was eliminated almost overnight.

In 2017, only the shadiest SEOs still offer black-hat link building as a service, while the majority of reputable SEO companies wouldn’t even consider it as an option. According to Search Engine Land in 2016 - Google updates Penguin, says it now runs in real time within the core search algorithm. For a history of Google search updates check out this great guide by Moz, which even contains some rumors for the extra paranoid.


How to Hire an SEO (Maile Ohye | Google Developer Programs Tech Lead)


Google on how to hire an SEO




9. Build Links from Websites with Relevant Content

Not all links are created equal. Many SEOs will show you the links they have created for your site’s campaign, and often you will find that many of them are being created on non-relevant websites that don’t fit your industry in any way, shape, or form. Google can often see through these link building attempts, and they will rarely help your site increase its visibility in search results.

One of the best ways to bolster your site’s credibility is to focus your link building efforts to sites that produce high quality content that is relevant to your site’s industry. We cannot stress enough that this process is not easy, and sadly, there is no magic technique which will automate the process. You have to sit down and do the hard work of finding backlink opportunities and physically reaching out to the site’s administrators in hopes of creating relationships which might yield future backlinks.



10. Optimize Your Page Titles

This tip partially overlaps with what we touched on in Tip #7; however, optimizing your page titles is important for more reasons than just making the site crawl easier for Google’s spiders, so we are mentioning it separately.

When you enter a search into Google, and Google provides you with the first page of search results, you will see each search result shows a title for the link (in blue text), and a short description of the page directly beneath it. That blue title text is officially known as your Meta Title, and it is vitally important that you do a good job of optimizing these titles. Titles that are over 70 characters will not be fully shown in search results, and it comes off as quite unprofessional to users who can’t view the whole title.

We recommend short and to-the-point page titles that include a well-researched keyword when possible and append it with the name of the company. For example, if you are a personal injury attorney who has just written a blog about questions to ask a lawyer, a solid title for this post would be something like:

7 Questions to Ask a Personal Injury Attorney - Smith & Johnson PLLC

This meta title manages to include the title of your blog post, LSI keywords like “questions to ask an attorney” and “personal injury attorney”, AND includes the name of your company, all in under 70 characters. Not bad!



11. Create Easy to Read/Understand URLs

One mistake we see many companies/people make unwittingly is creating pages with really long URLs. This is often an issue we see on Wordpress sites (though they are certainly not limited to WP sites), because many websites offer a default setting where the URL slug is automatically generated by duplicating the page’s title. So, if you happen to create a blog post with a long title, like “25 Reasons Why Steph Curry is the Best Player to Ever Touch a Basketball” (which is a totally fine title), you’re going to wind up with a URL that looks something like this:

http://www.sportswebsite.com/blog/25-reasons-why-steph-curry-is-the-best-player-to-ever-touch-a-basketball/

Damn, that's ugly...

Okay, pretty unattractive, right?

Lengthy URLs like this not only look bad to Google, but they are also less likely to be shared than a URL pointing to the same content but with a shorter URL. Editing your URL slugs to include only the necessary keywords regarding your post/page, and to keep them as short as possible, is advised. Using our example above, a much better customized URL would look like:

http://www.sportswebsite.com/blog/steph-curry-best-basketball-player/

Our amended slug includes only the meat, like “steph curry” and “best basketball player” but without the useless fluff like “25 reasons why”, “is the”, and “to ever”.

Google likes and suggests a simple URL structure. From Google's content guidelines: "Whenever possible, shorten URLs by trimming unnecessary parameters." - Google content considerations



12. Become An Early Adopter

This isn’t just an SEO tip, this is a LIFE TIP for anyone in business. Always immerse yourself in the latest news regarding your industry, and be on the lookout for anything new-- new products, new techniques, new technologies, etc., and write about them as soon as you feel confident you have something valuable to add to the conversation.

Becoming an early adopter and writing content about products/services that aren’t huge yet, but are going to be huge soon, will give you the advantage of being one of the first with your foot in the door on the topic, making you appear as a trendsetter and soothsayer!

Early Adopter SEO Actionable Tip

Use Google Trends to see and when people search for keywords. You can even look at keywords over a 5 year period to see growth or negative search trends. It's not only great for keywords you are intrested in but also showing you what trends the world cares about in real time. Great way to find some topics that are in your market and trending

Google Trends



13. Focus on Referring Domains, Not Just Links

When creating backlinks, it is not only important to build as many as you can from high quality sources, it is also important to show Google that your website is well-balanced with regard to its backlink profile.

Remember, there are many other link types than simply dot coms-- there’s .com, .org, .net, .gov, .edu, and many more, those these are the main ones, and are referred to as generic top-level domains (TLDs). Your TLD profile is taken into consideration by Google as they score your website, and sites that are well balanced are generally well-received.

For example, a website which features 5 .com backlinks, 5 .org, 5 .gov, and 5 .edu within its backlink profile will look authoritative to Google, and, therefore, will probably rank higher than a similar website that has 20 .com backlinks. The second website in the example may have the same overall backlink total, but they are not nearly as well balanced as the first website.

50 links from one domain has less SEO value than 3 links from 10 different referring domains (total 30 links from 10 referring domains). This is a super overlooked SEO tip!



14. Remove Items that Slow Your Website's Load

One item that Google has become increasingly concerned with is the issue of page load times, which makes sense, because offering high quality, user-friendly websites within its search results helps provide the best possible experience for its users.

If Google’s spiders crawl your website and find multiple pages contain huge assets (large high resolution images, sound files, and video) or wonky coding which are leading to slow loading times, Google is not going to want to share your site in its search results, because people demand sites that load quickly, and it is Google’s job to satisfy this wish.

The World's Best Page Speed Test: Visit your website. Does the loading speed annoy you? If yes, you need to work on improving your load speed.

Try to be aware of the size of the assets you are adding to your website. Full size, high resolution images more than likely can be reduced in size without losing much overall clarity, and assets like long embedded videos that are set to autoplay when the page loads should be used sparingly, if at all.



15. Don’t Forget About Geotargeting

Geotargeting is a useful tactic if you own (or represent) a local business, particularly one with a real storefront. In today’s mobile age, people are constantly searching for businesses on their smartphones near where they are at that given moment.

Websites that clearly state their geographic location have an advantage of being listed in local searched over those which do not. Including your business’ location clearly and consistently formatted within your web content will help Google understand where you are located.

Getting your website listed within multiple directory sites can be helpful for your site when users make geotargeted searches.

Top Local Directory Sites

  • Google Businesses
  • Yelp
  • TripAdvisor
  • YP
  • Facebook
  • Best of the Web Directory (BOTW.org)

But I'm in a boring market? Where can I build links?

If there's a market for MRI Centers, then there are links for every market.

Do the research. It's worth it.

At the very least, make sure your Google Business page is claimed, and completely filled out with up-to-date information, including your current business address, phone number, hours of operation, and website URL.



16. Write Unique Meta Descriptions For Each Page

As previously discussed, a page’s meta data (namely, meta title and meta description) are what populates for every entry on the Google search engine results page (SERP). Every time you create a new URL on your website, you are going to want to take just that little bit of extra time to include a unique, well-written meta description, preferably containing 1-2 keywords that you’re trying to rank for for that page

Keep the meta description length to between 150-170 characters-- that is the meta description sweet spot! If your meta descriptions are too long, they will get cut off (which looks unattractive and unprofessional) in the SERP, too short and they will also look unprofessional, as well as the fact that you will be missing out on all the great keywords you could be including with those unused characters!



17. Structured Data aka Schema Markup (SERP 2.0)

Schema Markup is a powerful tactic to make your Google search results appear more professional and eye-catching than your competition. Schema markup is code that you can add to your site which helps search engines return more informative results.

Check out this example...

When you search for “Stonewood Grill Menu”, you are presented with this as your first result:

structured data restaurant menu

Structured Data (aka Schema Markup) is not new tech, I coded the above menu back in 2015.

All of this was achieved by adding a small piece of code to their already written content, explaining to Google’s spiders exactly what their information means. The benefit is when Stonewood Grill updates the menu on the website, the changes will also be displayed in the above SERP (The image above). This is cost effective since the menu is mantained in one place online.

It is also a better experience for the user who wants to just dive into the menu.



18. Know Your Online Competition Inside & Out

No matter what industry your business belongs to, you are bound to have competition from other companies with websites. Chances are that the number of competitors is actually quite high, and unfortunately, Google only allows 10 companies to show up on the first page of their SERP.

Learning about your competitors can often give you a vital piece of information that you can use to give you an edge. A great piece of software which will allow you to do a deep dive into the websites’ of your competitors is called Ahrefs (a mainstay of most professional SEOs), and a great strategy to employ is to use Ahrefs to discover your competition’s backlink profiles, which almost always yields excellent link building opportunities for your website.



19. Know Search Engine Market Shares

Believe it or not, people do still search for things on websites other than Google. While we will always recommend pouring the majority of your hours into optimizing your website for the almighty Google, try to save a little time here and there to spend on other sites.

Specifically, Bing (the second largest search engine after Google), and YouTube (the site which receives the second largest number of query searches after Google). Take the time needed to create a Bing “Places for Business” account to submit your business to Bing, and to create a dedicated YouTube channel.

Creating a YouTube channel is easy and free; however, generating video content will be much more labor intensive and costly. Though, we often believe the juice is worth the squeeze, as you can generate large amount of organic traffic if your videos become popular, not to mention you can always include backlinks to your website within the descriptions of your videos and YouTube profile.

Search Engine Market Shares Feb 2017

Google80.52%
Bing6.92%
Baidu5.94%
Yahoo5.35%
Other~1 %

"Let's Yahoo that" - said no one ever



20. Use the Proper Keywords In Your Images

Recently, Google has shown an increased interest in the images being presented on your website. Specifically, they are becoming more focused on the alt-text attribute that you are offering for every image. For those of you who are unaware, the alt-text is the text that is provided in the event that an image cannot be displayed. Google is looking for accurate descriptions of the images being shown, and will actively penalize sites that use their image alt-text attribute for simple keyword stuffing, or otherwise inaccurate text.

For example, say you create a blog post called “The World’s Best Whiskeys” and the first image shown in your blog is a photo of a man and a woman enjoying a glass of whiskey next to a fireplace-- do NOT make the alt-text for that image “the world’s best whiskeys”! Instead, add the alt-text “man and woman drinking whiskey next to a fireplace”, a more accurate description of the image. You may not get the exact keyword hit you want, but you won’t be penalized by Google either.



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