For the last few years, I've been telling everyday average business owners that the process of search engine optimization is not hard; it's just time consuming. There are still a few SEO consulting companies out there that will tell you that the process is technical, and it requires continual maintenance. I'd like to dispel some of this thinking.
Indeed there are technical aspects to SEO, but those are usually related to the computer hardware your website lives on, and the initial setup of your website.
There's also a set of procedural practices that could be considered as part of the SEO process. Except that in 2012 and 2013, Google successfully squelched the effectiveness of any SEO act that could be turned onto a simple step process.
A few weeks ago I wrote about some basic SEO techniques followed by some techniques that aren't SEO although people usually believe they are.
Google wants you to use your website as an extension of yourself, and of how you would talk to people in person. Simply writing the way you speak to other people is supposed to gain you better placement in search results.
Google is trying real hard to come up with a search algorithm that understands the difference between this natural way of writing that mimics casual conversation. The goal is to filter out websites that were written for the sake of ranking. This is called semantic search, and it's where Google Hummingbird is supposed to be leading us all.
So the reasons SEO shouldn't be a technical exercise is simply because only the business owner knows for sure how they would explain their business and their products to the customer. Every website created today should be using some type of content management system. Those CMS give easy editing control to business owners who previously would have to call their website programmer for simple changes to a page title tag or meta description.
Each of the 7 basic SEO techniques explained here should be manageable from within your CMS.
Now let me go over the technical aspects of SEO that you should only need to worry about once in a while. What I'm still surprised to see is that SEO agencies, particularly those based in the Philippines and India, are still including these tasks as part of their monthly services.
Keyword Research - Google has done their best to shut down this practice. Unless you're using Google AdWords, it's very difficult to research keywords since Google is hiding them now. Another point of view is to say that a business owner should never have to research the right keywords they should be saying to their customers in person.
Robots.txt - This file exists on your website's server hard drive. Most of the time, you just want to make sure you have the correct settings in this file on the day after your launch your website. After that, there's not much reason for the general business to change this file.
W3C Validation - The W3C refers to the World Wide Web Consortium and their standards that illustrate the best programming methods for websites. If you plan on following these standards then you should be considering them during the programming phase of your website, not afterwards.
404 Error Fixing - Many website designers will forget to program the generic error page of your website. This is an easy check to see if the error.html page exists on your website, and then set one up.
301 Redirect Check - This is another process that you should be looking at only when you reprogram your website, or delete pages from your website. The "301" is a technical process where you repoint a dead web page to another location. Sometimes this is a new page that's replacing the old, but this could also be a redirecting to a message that explains how that page was removed and not replaced.
Let me switch gears and talk about a few of those SEO processes that Google has successfully squelched.
Social Bookmarking - Google views social bookmarking as a bad link building scheme. Once popular sites like StumbleUpon and Technorati, as well as dozens of others, should be avoided because SEO agencies overused them so much that Google had to discredit their effectiveness.
Article Submission - Once upon a time there were many popular websites that allowed you to post an "article" about some topic. Most of the time those articles were only used for link building back to your website. Google has discredited this method of content building and link building because it was overused and abused by too many people.
Press Release Optimization - Want to tell the world about something special you did? Press Release websites are available for those with truly interesting news that news outlets might be interested in. You could potentially have your press release appear on Yahoo News, Google News, in your local newspaper, and you might even get a phone call from a reporter. Sadly, the SEO industry also started to exploit the ease of which you could publish a press release with a link back to your website. So Google doesn't give much search ranking weight to your press releases any more, but you should still use them if you have legitimate news.
Manual Link Requests to Related Sites - Here's a simple one: You are breaking Google's guidelines if you ask someone to put a link on their website which points back to your website. Google does not want you to ask for links. Google feels that people will link to you for selfless reasons if you have something good on your website.
Submission to Directories - There are too many online directories that simply list all the businesses in a certain geographic area, or in a specific business sector. Google hates these and will penalize you badly if they find your website listed in these types of directories.
I'd like to tie up today's Nugget with a few SEO tasks that do need a bit of technical attention. These are the things you might consider paying monthly service for.
Page Content Optimization - Someone who understands how the search engines work should be checking to see how your pages are ranking for general terms and phrases. They will occasionally find incorrect auto-generated blurbs in the SERPs that misrepresent you. Those have to be fixed by editing the meta descriptions, page titles, and sometimes the copy on that page.
Google Sitemap Creation & Submission - Your website should be auto-generating a raw list of all the pages on your website, called a sitemap. Usually this process can go on unattended, but it's good for an SEO specialist to check at least once a month to make sure the sitemap file is updated and being read by Google.
Broken Links Check - There's no way to control the other websites that you link to. You should have a good reason to link off site to somewhere else. You could link to your designer's website or a manufacturer if it would be helpful for your customers. Someone should go through once a month to make sure all the links still work. Broken links should be fixed or removed.
Competitive Analysis - This is an in-depth process of looking at everything your competitor is doing and comparing it to your own online success. Someone should be figuring out what makes them better or worse, and what you need to do to stay on top or reach their level of search ranking success.
Usability Analysis - A website is never complete. One of the most difficult areas of online optimization now is figuring out how to monitor how people use your website so you can make it better for them. Better websites usually translate into higher sales.
Google Analytics Analysis - The collected data from your website will tell you a lot, but someone needs to turn that data into usable reports. Google has a lot of free tracking and reporting options, but you can be paralyzed by it if you don't have someone to help explain it all.
Google Update Implementations - Google makes dozens of blog posts every month explaining vague details of their latest changes. A good SEO agent should be monitoring these blogs to make sure your website stays in compliance with the latest guidelines or suggestions. Just this week Google announced that they would give everyone an easier way to tell them what your store hours are. That announcement would require a programming change on your website that you wouldn't otherwise know about.
At the end of the day, most of the search engine optimization techniques are simply adding content on your website that you and your staff could manage on your own. I've listed SEO techniques that you should avoid, and then a handful of techniques that you should be paying for on a regular basis.