Google’s newly revamped SEO Starter Guide (first published in 2008) comes good in the third paragraph, making it eminently readable from then on in. For years, traditional SEO companies have been force-feeding clients with the need to list highly on Google and the importance of onsite SEO etc above all else. Over time, this has had to expand to include offsite optimisation, social media marketing and more, (i.e. using the site as more of an advertising mechanism than a customer-facing and engaging tool), but it has only been recently that even Google is advising people to think first of consumers.
Reminds me of a phrase we used to hammer into our clients many years ago when their first question was “Can you get my website to the top of the search engines?”. Our reply – “Your website must work for you, your users and the search engines, in that order.” And then we would remind them that search engines wouldn’t buy their products…..
For anyone totally new to SEO and Internet Marketing, the Basics chapter is a great start, offering precisely what you (and your website designer) need to consider to make a search engine friendly site. Each section ends with the key best practice points to remind you of what you will need to consider and do on your site, and a glossary of terms.
Whilst the navigation of your site is important for the search engines, don’t forget Google’s first point about your users. There is a useful point made about custom 404 pages in this section. Users will often endeavour to navigate to a higher level of your site e.g. to read all 2010 news in the example given, and find themselves on a 404 page. Custom 404 pages are easy to create and can give useful information to anyone trying to visit certain areas of your site. For instance, add a site map to your 404 page to help them find what they are seeking without having to restart the navigation process through your site.
The Guide should not be ignored either by beginners or experienced search engine marketers. For any SEO company or agency who also is ‘hands on’ with site re-designs, much will be already known, but there are some great tips in there e.g. when to use “nofollow” links that will be good reminders, as well as the info on mobile sites. Word of warning there from Google which is quite clear that it is down to you to configure your site correctly to show the mobile version is what it is, or you could be cloaking, which is a huge no-no.
Interestingly, the social media section is surprisingly curt, which considering the addition of “Updates” and real-time news to Google was a bit odd, but hopefully they are planning a much more comprehensive section on this shortly. It’s one of the things that ClickThrough decided to focus on a little more in our own Guide to Search Engine Optimisation, which we published earlier this year.
The neatest thing about the whole guide is the single mention of PageRank, in a box entitled “Avoid” (purchasing links from another site with the aim of getting PageRank instead of traffic). If this doesn’t lay to bed once and for all the importance of PageRank, I can’t imagine what will!