While there are always new, complicated, and exciting things happening in SEO to talk about, it is always good to get back to the basics occasionally and discuss what makes a great foundation for all of the more fancy aspects of SEO.
Carolyn Shelby, Director of SEO for the Chicago Tribune and 435 Digital, emphasized the need to not neglect the basics of SEO at the Introduction to SEO session at SES New York. She told the crowd, “skipping the basics and spending all your time and money on social and ‘fancy stuff’ is the same as skipping brushing your teeth and showering, but buying white strips and wearing expensive cologne.”
That session was aimed at newcomers, but her words are just as relevant to seasoned SEO experts. Just as your morning routine should always include brushing your teeth, your SEO strategy should always pa the proper attention to the basic SEO.
Getting back to the basics starts at the very top, with establishing exactly what SEO is. SEO aims to do two things: create an enjoyable user experience, and communicate with search engines so that they will view your site as valuable to users. Many forget those ideas in favor of trying to cheat the search engines, but those actions are to SEO what stealing is to shopping. You may get the end product you wanted, but if you use questionable or illegal means, you will just as likely be penalized.
Once you understand what you should be aiming to achieve through SEO, you have to understand what the search engines are actually looking for and not looking for.
Search engines judge websites based on a variety of different criteria but the most reliable factors all circle around user experience, reputation, and what content you give to user. Relevant content and seamless user experience establish value to your website, even if you’re just starting out. If you make sure those two elements are consistently worth the time of visitors, gradually you will build a reputation through authorship, and you will see your site getting closer to the top of rankings.
If you please users with your website and content, generally you will also please the search engines’ most basic wants. However, if you focus on the broad idea of what search engines are looking for and try to cheat your way to the top, you will instead be surprised to see the search engines penalizing you. Keyword stuffing and purchased links may have worked in the past, but Google knows how to spot them, and you will be cut from the SERPs before you know it.
Those guiding principles will get you a long ways in SEO, but there is always more to do. I only covered three of the eight topics Search Engine Watch talks about in their article about the basics of SEO, but their comment section shows there is even more that could be included in just the most basic elements of SEO. Start with making your website worthwhile to visitors, then expand your SEO repertoire, and you will see positive results.