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Google SEO Starter Guide Deconstructed

I’ve taken apart the new Google Search Engine Optimisation Starter Guide for and highlighted the relevant texts and my analysis of what its actually saying.

The Example website:

…An example may help our explanations, so we’ve created a fictitious website to follow throughout the guide. For each topic, we’ve fleshed out enough information about the site to illustrate the point being covered. Here’s some background information about the site we’ll use:

  • Website/business name: “Brandon’s Baseball Cards”
  • Domain name: brandonsbaseballcards.com
  • Focus: Online-only baseball card sales, price guides, articles, and news content
  • Size: Small, ~250 pages

Analysis

  • Google are recommending keywords in domain name
  • Google advocate the publication on non sales, resource based content (articles and news) – This is always going to be difficult for a small business on a limited budget to understand as they just want to sell stuff, not build a resource. This is a great up-sell oportunity and could add a zero to your proposal

They class 250 pages as a ‘small’ site – Again great stats if you charge on a page by page basis

Page Titles

A title tag tells both users and search engines what the topic of a particular page is. The tag of the HTML document. Ideally, you should create a unique title for each page on your site.

Example: [title]Brandon’s Baseball Cards – Buy Cards, Baseball News, Card Prices[/title]

Analysis

  • Starts with brand name
  • Replication of ‘Cards’ and ‘Baseball’
  • Inclusion of singular ‘Card’

This look like low level keyword stuffing to you too or is it just me?

Internal Page Titles

…Titles for deeper pages on your site should accurately describe the focus of that particular page and also might include your site or business name…

A user performs the query [rarest baseball cards]

Displays: Top Ten Rarest Baseball Cards – Brandon’s Baseball Cards

Analysis

  • Term is not at front of page title
  • Repeat of key phrase at end
  • Repeat of ‘Baseball’ and ‘Cards’
  • Meta Description

…Google Webmaster Tools provides a handy content analysis section that’ll tell you about any description meta tags that are either too short, long, or duplicated too many times…

…Google might use them as snippets for your pages. Note that we say “might” because Google may choose to use a relevant section of your page’s visible text if it does a good job of matching up with a user’s query. Alternatively, Google might use your site’s description in the Open Directory Project if your site is listed there…

Example (Home Page): [Brandon's Baseball Cards provides a large selection of vintage and modern era baseball cards for sale. We also offer daily baseball news and events in...]

Example (Content Page): [These ten baseball cards are the rarest in the world. Here's the story behind each card and how much you could expect to pay for them at auction. Many...]

Analysis

  • Repeats terms throughout description
  • Sample descriptions are larger than the visible clips shown suggesting you can add more variety in there
  • Descriptions shown are multiple sentences with accurate punctuation

Url’s

…Creating descriptive categories and file names for the documents on your website can not only help you keep your site better organized, but it could also lead to better crawling of your documents by search engines…

Example: [www.brandonsbaseballcards.com]

Example: [www.brandonsbaseballcards.com/articles/ten-rarest-baseball-cards.htm]

…Create a simple directory structure – Use a directory structure that organizes your content well and is easy for visitors to know where they’re at on your site. Try using your directory structure to indicate the type of content found at that URL.

…Provide one version of a URL to reach a document – To prevent users from linking to one version of a URL and others linking to a different version (this could split the reputation of that content between the URLs), focus on using and referring to one URL in the structure and internal linking of your pages…

Analysis

  • Google advocates keywords in your domain name
  • Keywords in file name
  • Use of sub directories to differentiate content based on content type, not keywords
  • Keep directory structure shallow
  • Keep internal and external links consistent i.e. fred.com, fred.com/ and fred.com/index.html – pick one

Note: This goes against one of Googles previous posts where they asked that you stop using url requiring as the spiders now worked with querystring based links

Site Structure

…Unless your site has only a handful of pages, you should think about how visitors will go from a general page (your root page) to a page containing more specific content. Do you have enough pages around a specific topic area that it would make sense to create a page describing these related pages (e.g. root page -> related topic listing -> specific topic)? Do you have hundreds of different products that need to be classified under multiple category and subcategory pages?…

…An XML Sitemap (upper-case) file, which you can submit through Google’s Webmaster Tools, makes it easier for Google to discover the pages on your site. Using a Sitemap file is also one way (though not guaranteed) to tell Google which version of a URL you’d prefer as the canonical one (e.g. http://brandonsbaseballcards.com/ or .

…Avoid: creating complex webs of navigation links, e.g. linking every page on your site to every other page…

…Use “breadcrumb” navigation – A breadcrumb is a row of internal links at the top or bottom of the page that allows visitors to quickly navigate back to a previous section or the root page…

…Put an HTML sitemap page on your site, and use an XML Sitemap file…

Analysis

  • Google hasnt bothered to discuss sites ‘with only a handful of pages’ and hasn’t given any guidelines on this type of site :O
  • Use webmaster tools and XML sitemaps to resolve canonical issues (does this work with folder names too I wonder?)
  • Remove your footer menus that give links to majority pages on your sites – It seems Google wants destination pages, not transit pages i.e. a bucket of link juice
  • Use breadcrumbs to leak link juice back to parent pages

Content

…Breaking your content up into logical chunks or divisions helps users find the content they want faster. Avoid: dumping large amounts of text on varying topics onto a page without paragraph, subheading, or layout separation…

..Think about the words that a user might search for to find a piece of your content. Users who know a lot about the topic might use different keywords in their search queries than someone who is new to the topic. For example, a long-time baseball fan might search for [nlcs], an acronym for the National League Championship Series, while a new fan might use a more general query like [baseball playoffs]. Anticipating these differences in search behaviour and accounting for them while writing your content (using a good mix of keyword phrases) could produce positive results…

… Avoid rehashing (or even copying) existing content that will bring little extra value to users…

… Avoid having duplicate or near-duplicate versions of your content across your site…

Analysis

  • Keep your content focused on a single per page topic
  • If you are mixing content make it semantic
  • Use keyword research to identify the language used in your content i.e. avoid industry specific terms unless thats your target market
  • Don’t dupe or re-hash content

Anchor Text

…Choose descriptive text – The anchor text you use for a link should provide at least a basic idea of what the page linked to is about…

…Avoid writing generic anchor text like “page”, “article”, or “click here”…

…using the page’s URL as the anchor text i.e. www.fred.com…

…Aim for short but descriptive text – usually a few words or a short phrase…

…You may usually think about linking in terms of pointing to outside websites, but paying more attention to the anchor text used for internal links can help users and Google navigate your site better…

Analysis

  • All standard stuff about using keywords in your anchor text.
  • Interestingly enough they dont mention alt and images as links

…Heading tags (not to be confused with the <head> HTML tag or HTTP headers) are used to present structure on the page to users. There are six sizes of heading tags, beginning with <h1>, the most important, and ending with <h6>, the least important…

Example: <h1>Brandon;s Baseball Cards</h1>

<h2>News – Treasure Trove of Baseball Cards found in Old Barn</h2>

<p>A man who recently…</p>

…Avoid placing text in heading tags that wouldn’t be helpful in defining the structure of the page…

…Avoid using heading tags in place of <em> or <strong>

…Avoid erratically moving from one heading toag to another…

…Avoid using heading tags only for styling text and not presenting structure…

…Heading tags (not to be confused with the <head> HTML tag or HTTP headers) are used to present structure on the page to users. There are six sizes of heading tags, beginning with <h1>, the most important, and ending with <h6>, the least important…

Example: <h1>Brandon;s Baseball Cards</h1><h2>News – Treasure Trove of Baseball Cards found in Old Barn</h2><p>A man who recently…</p>

…Avoid placing text in heading tags that wouldn’t be helpful in defining the structure of the page…

…Avoid using heading tags in place of <em> or <strong>

…Avoid erratically moving from one heading toag to another…

…Avoid using heading tags only for styling text and not presenting structure…

Analysis

  • H1 conveniently uses a keyword whereas most corporate site titles i know of usually comprise of a name and strapline without keywords
  • H2 directly under H1
  • Both H1 and H2 dont start with the target term
  • Keep the structure intact, dont have H3 above H1 etc

Optimising Images

..The “alt” attribute allows you to specify alternative text for the image if it cannot be displayed for some reason…

Example: alt=”2008 Signed World Series Baseball”

..if you’re using an image as a link, the alt text for that image will be treated similarly to the anchor text of a text link. However, we don’t recommend using too many images for links in your site’s navigation when text links could serve the same purpose. Lastly, optimizing your image filenames and alt text makes it easier for image search projects like Google Image Search to better understand your images…

…Avoid stuffing keywords into alt text or copying and pasting entire sentences…

…Avoid writing excessively long alt text that would be considered spammy…

…Avoid using onluy image links for your sites navigation…

…Store images in a directory of their own instead of having image files spread out in numerous directories and subdirectories…

Analysis

  • Keep alt text short
  • Google doesnt want you to use images as buttons
  • Store images in one folder

…If you do want to prevent search engines from crawling your pages, Google Webmaster Tools has a friendly robots.txt generator to help you create this file…

..There are a handful of other ways to prevent content appearing in search results, such as adding “NOINDEX” to your robots meta tag, using .htaccess to password protect directories, and using Google Webmaster Tools to remove content that has already been crawled…

…Avoid allowing search result-like pages to be crawled (users dislike leaving one search result page and landing on another search result page that doesn’t add significant value for them)…

…Avoid allowing a large number of auto-generated pages with the same or only slightly different content to be crawled: “Should these 100,000 near-duplicate pages really be in a search engine’s index?”..

…Avoid allowing URLs created as a result of proxy services to be crawled…

Analysis

  • Google doesnt want search listings or auto generated content indexed
  • Use robots.txt to hide areas of your site (note robots.txt is the first thing a hacker will look at to see what you’re trying to hide)
  • Be aware of rel=”nofollow” for links

…Setting the value of the “rel” attribute of a link to “nofollow” will tell Google that certain links on your site shouldn’t be followed or pass your page’s reputation to the pages linked to. Nofollowing a link is adding rel=”nofollow” inside of the link’s anchor tag.

Example: <a href=”http://foo.com” rel=”nofollow”>Foo</a>

If you link to a site that you don’t trust and don’t want to pass your site’s reputation to, use nofollow

…This advice also goes for other areas of your site that may involve user-generated content, such as guestbooks, forums, shout-boards, referrer listings, etc. If you’re willing to vouch for links added by third parties (e.g. if a commenter is trusted on your site), then there’s no need to use nofollow on links; however, linking to sites that Google considers spammy can affect the reputation of your own site…

…if you’re interested in nofollowing all of the links on a page, you can use “nofollow” in your robots meta tag.

Example: <meta name=”robots” content=”nofollow” />

Analysis

  • Use rel=”nofollow” to avoid linking out to sites of dubious authority and user generated content
  • Block all link juice out from a page using meta tags
  • Promote your website in the right ways

…Google understands that you’d like to let others know about the hard work you’ve put into your content…

…Blog about new content or services… Other webmasters who follow your site or RSS feed…

…Add your business to Google’s Local Business Center…

…Reach out to those in your site’s related community…

…Avoid spamming link requests out to all sites related to your topic area…

…purchasing links from another site with the aim of getting PageRank instead oftraffic…

Analysis

  • Google acknowledges that you will want to influence your sites SERPS by creating inbound links to your content
  • Google likes blog content (because its current) and RSS feeds
  • Google wants you to use services like Business Centre as a way of increasing its screen realestate and advertising revenue streams

Join a community tho’ in this case its to get more current news topics for discussion – again the quest for new information

Please dont do link exchanges

Don’t buy links from sites that can not pass relevant targetted traffic i.e. buying a link purely based on a sites pagerank

Whats Not Said

Theres a lot of information missing from this guide which is a little idealistic for real-world scenarios.

It does focus heavily on creating resource based content and non-commercial texts which is in line with Googles SERPS practices as Google hates commercial sites.

When discussing semantic code it misses out on keeping demantics to the content whereas many people still try and semanticify non content based elements i.e. side menu bars etc.

Google acknowledges link development and more interestingly link buying however gives little indication over ‘joining a community’ that would help develop this part of your SEO strategy.

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The SEO Team You Need!
I work as Head of Search for a leading SEO company in Leeds who in turn handle campaigns for some of the UK's largest high street brands. Our approach is to use a broad range of on-page analysis and Link Building techniques to holistically build high quality traffic to your website.

Call me today on 07719181166 for free, honest and open advice about your online projects or email markrush@gmail.com.