26 Dec Naughty vs. Nice: How to Get Everything You Want for Christmas Next Year
Christmas is over. The presents have been unwrapped, the turkey’s been cooked and eaten, and the house is now strewn with opened gifts and wrapping paper. As you survey the wreckage, you may find yourself feeling happy and satisfied, like a kid to whom Santa has brought everything he asked for. Many more people, however, feel more like the kid who, after all of his scheming and planning, didn’t get his Red Rider BB gun after all.
Like Santa, Google keeps a list and checks it twice, constantly striving to figure out who is naughty and nice. The goal for every website owner is to be so good that you make it to the top of Google’s “Nice” list, get the highest SERP rankings, and therefore, the best traffic and results for your website. In order to do that, however, it’s important to understand what Google is looking for. Just as obeying your parents, cleaning your room, and sharing your toys results in getting what you want from Santa, following certain “good behavior” guidelines with your site will result in getting what you want from Google.
If you find that you are one of the many website owners who didn’t see the results they were looking for this year, don’t fret! As we Chargers fans like to say each December, “There’s always next year.” Following these guidelines in the coming year will certainly give you something to smile about come next Christmas.
Have Good Content
Google wants to provide nothing but the best for the users who depend on them. As such, Google is constantly figuring out ways to weed out sites that don’t add true value to the internet. As Google continues updating its algorithm, more and more website owners are figuring out that simply using quick fixes and cheap tricks to fool Google into giving them higher rankings is ultimately going to give them little to no long-term results.
Instead of spending your time and energy trying to trick Google, it is much more effective to find ways to make your site more legitimate and valuable. Only by making your site a place where users actually want to visit can you see long-term effects. So how do you make your site more valuable?
Have you ever visited a website that looked like it was written by one of the Lolz Cats? “WE HAZ THE BEST HUNTING KNIFES ON THE WEB!!!!! GET YOU’RE HUNTING KNIVES HEER!!!!”
Kind of gives you a headache, doesn’t it? When writing content for your website, it’s important to have well-written content that provides the information that the customer actually wants to know. Online customers have short attention spans, so get to the point. Make your information easy to find. And for heaven’s sake, proofread your content. Google has figured out that poorly written content that is heavy in grammatical mistakes is more likely to indicate a site that adds no value. After all, if a site owner can’t be bothered to make sure that their content makes sense and is readable, why should we think that they will bother to provide quality information or customer service?
Now, Google isn’t going to de-index your site over one split infinitive. Your content doesn’t have to be perfect. But the closer you can get to perfect, the more likely you are to see quality results.
Don’t Keyword Stuff
Many people in the SEO industry struggle with this concept. In the olden days, you told Google that your site sold hunting knives by making sure that your keyword (let’s just say it’s “hunting knives”) was used as much as possible. But read this paragraph and tell me that a site with this kind of content isn’t spammy:
“At huntingknives.com, we sell great hunting knives. Our hunting knives are the best hunting knives in the hunting knives industry. You won’t find another hunting knives store that sells better hunting knives than huntingknives.com.”
Don’t underestimate Google. As Google has grown and updated its algorithm, it’s gotten better at recognizing that your website is about hunting knives. Chances are, your pictures’ titles have your keywords in them. Your website’s headers, titles, and descriptions no doubt mention that your site sells hunting knives. You don’t need to beat Google (and your users) over the head with your keyword in your content too. If you read Google’s guidelines, you can actually see that they will penalize your site for keyword stuffing. So by all means, use your keywords when they make sense. But don’t go out of your way to use it 100 times on a single page unless you prefer to get de-indexed.
One of the fastest ways to see your website die is to use duplicate content. No matter how tempting it may be, don’t copy/paste content from another site. Would you want to shop from someone who doesn’t even bother to come up with their own website or product description? If you can’t spend the time to write content yourself, what else can you not be bothered to do?
Google continues to crack down on sites that plagiarize, so just don’t do it.
Have a Purpose
Have you ever been browsing a site and wondered why they have three pages devoted to their company’s values when they could have just one? Sometimes, bigger isn’t always better. Make sure that as you’re writing your content, you keep things simple. Don’t create pages (and accompanying content) unless you have a clear purpose in mind. The more redundant your site is, the more likely you are to duplicate content. Plus, Google’s website guidelines advise against having too many internal links on your site.
Quality Linking Practices
In the past days of SEO, it was all about links. One of the most common SEO practices was to simply buy links on sites with high PageRank. That was all it took to make your site rank higher!
Thinking that these practices are effective today is simply naïve. Google has gotten smarter, which means that it is a lot easier for them to figure out which sites are simply creating as many links as possible and which sites are actually building a quality site and therefore getting natural, authentic backlinks.
Don’t get me wrong: building links is still an important and invaluable part of SEO. But there are certain guidelines that you should follow while link-building.
Paid Links Aren’t Worth the Money
Believe it or not, it’s pretty easy to tell which links are organic and which links are only there because a site owner was paid to put them there. Google really doesn’t like paid links, and if they find out that your site has been artificially boosted by paid links, your rankings will fall faster than a penny off the top of the Empire State Building.
Plus, the actual value of a single paid link is usually not worth the money. I was recently asked to pay $250 to publish a guest article on another site. The site asking me to pay for a backlink only had a PageRank of 4, and the $250 bought me a link that would only be active for a year. $250 a year for a single backlink on a PR4 site? Seriously? Granted, this is a more extreme example. But most paid links only remain active for a limited time, which automatically limits their long-term effectiveness. If you want to build a site that sees long-term results, skip the paid links.
Remember: Quality over Quantity
Again, Google wants to reward sites that add true value to the internet. In other words, Google wants to reward sites that provide the real value, quality, and usefulness that internet users crave. A site that is truly valuable will naturally get valuable, authentic, organic links. Google is getting better at recognizing which links are natural, which means that they are getting better at recognizing which sites are adding true value.
As you go about your link-building, remember that quick fixes and easy links may boost you a little, but the quality, hard-to-get links will work wonders. If you manage to get a backlink on a site with a Domain Authority of 85, for example, that single link may boost your site’s rankings more than 100 links on low-quality link farms. A quality link like that will take a lot of extra work, but the long-term results will be worth the extra time and effort.
Plus, you have to wonder how efficient you are really being with your time and energy when you shoot for the low-hanging fruit of easy links. A site that links to everyone will undoubtedly have low authority with search engines, meaning that your link isn’t going to be as valuable. Since these link farms are obviously adding little value to the internet, it’s really only a matter of time before Google de-indexes them altogether, which makes your links completely worthless. If half of the links you build end up getting de-indexed, have you really spent your time well?
Watch Your Own Links
When your site links to other sites that are located in “bad neighborhoods” online, it is a huge red flag for Google. If Google knows that getfreeviagra.com is a spammy, low-quality site, and your site links to it, Google will begin to question if your site can really be that valuable.
When creating links on your site, make sure that your reason for including each link is clear. It helps to stick to certain standards, such as only linking to sites that are directly relevant to your own, for example. Chances are, huntingknives.com doesn’t really have a good reason to link to getfreeviagra.com. When you include links to irrelevant sites, Google will begin to wonder if you are publishing paid links (which would really hurt your site).
Also, make sure that you eliminate redundant links. Don’t include 7 links to the same URL on a single page, even if that URL belongs to your own site. Keep it simple!
Following these guidelines isn’t always easy. At times, it may seem a lot easier to simply copy/paste content from another site or pay someone $10 to publish your link. But putting in the extra work to make your site’s content and links more valuable and high-quality will ultimately lead to better long-term results for your site. And who knows? Maybe next Christmas, you’ll be able to look over the wrapping paper strewn living room and sigh contentedly, knowing that you got everything that you wanted this year.