SEO for 2013 Checklist – New Rules for SEO

The world of SEO has seem some significant ‘changes’ with Google’s major and much publicized Panda and Penguin updates, along with the less known but equally important constantly-updated algorithmic changes being tracked by MozCast.  Countless articles, blog posts and podcasts have proclaimed major changes in the SEO world and along with it, numerous catch phrases like “inbound linking is dead,” or “link purchasing is dead,” and the  classic “SEO is dead.”  But the reality is: Google has finally stamped its foot down and assertively enforced the best practices it’s been encouraging all along.  Updates like Penguin and Panda simply codified these best practices by punishing the bad practices we’ve been told to avoid overwhelmingly depending on (or engaging in whatsoever) all along.  Here is a list of 10 SEO strategies to pursue in 2013 (not in any particular order).  They are not significantly different than in the past, but they overlap with one another in new ways.

  • Strong Branding (citations, using brand name in anchor text links, etc)
  • Very relevant and unique content
  • Optimized Meta Title tags
  • Guest blogging/authoring (Google AuthorRank)
  • Strong Branding (citations, using brand name in anchor text links, etc)
  • Highly optimized structure (use of CSS, Image ALT tags, link title tags, etc)
  • Link Purchases (Directories, enthusiast sites, etc)
  • Social Media links/citations
  • Sitemap(s)
  • Fast load time
  • Light code structure
Strong Branding (citations, using brand name in anchor text links, etc)
Branding has continually become a stronger factor in search engine ranking signals.  The stronger your brand, the higher your credibility.  As Aaron Wall pointed out some time ago, Eric Schmidt himself  hinted at this upcoming relaince on branding when he said “Brands are the solution, not the problem…Brands are how you sort out the cesspool.”
 So how do you build up your brand and get it recognized?  Inbound links and even citations (mentions) of your brand will help increase your branding over time.  Reliance on keyword-specific anchor text links should be replaced in part by branded links.In other words, if you are trying to obtain higher rankings for the phrase thumb drives,  don’t make that keyword the anchor text you use for all of your inbound links.  Use you company/brand name as the anchor text as well (even if this is a deep link).  You can also mix and match (Company Name thumb drives).
Very relevant and unique content
We’ve known for some time now that duplicate content is a no-no, and for some time Google has devalued (in some cases, punished) content that was duplicated across websites.  However, while most people tend to think specifically of content farms and other “Get Ranked Quick” schemes, duplicate content is often an honest mistake, because many retailers carry parts that use descriptions and other copy provided to them by the manufacturer of said products.  The problem: virtually every other online retailer out there selling the same product is using the same the descriptions.  This doesn’t bode so well for newer, less-branded websites who are unknowingly posting the same content as more established online retailers and getting the short end of the stick.

Optimized Meta Title tags
Title tags are still very important.  They are (ideally) the first thing the search spiders ‘see’ in terms of your content.

Guest blogging/authoring (Google AuthorRank)
One way to build up your brand AND get contextually relevant inbound links is to provide guest blog posts and/or articles on related websites.  The key phrase here is related websites.  Find websites (blogs, news sites, etc) directly related to your industry/niche who themselves have links from authoritative websites in that industry/niche and offer your expert authorship in trade for links back to your website.

This brings us to Google Authorship (and AuthorRank).  Google now has a system for recognizing and assigning credibility/relevance to authors.  This increases the credibility/relevance of their articles and thereby that of the site(s) the articles (or blog posts) are hosted on, as well as any websites they link to.

Link Purchases (Directories, enthusiast sites, etc)
I can already hear the “gasp” at my suggestion that you buy links in our post-Penguin world.  But let me explain: I do not mean link wheels, link farms, or any other SEO scheme.  I am referring to the very legitimate business model that established websites use.

Link Directories for example, are in many ways the Yellow Pages for search engines.  They may not be the towering solution they were in 2005, but the stringent standards many of them maintain provides a sort of buffer against websites not providing valuable content, providing a sort of litmus that verifies a certain level of quality.  Here are few link directories with credibility and lifetime listings.

In addition to these, you should find 2-3 industry/niche-specific directories.  For example, if your website provides legal services than you may want a link from directories like: can find these by searching phrases like:%industry_name% link directorySo in the example above, such a directory can be found by searching:lawyer link directory

Also, many of the enthusiast sites will require some sort of sponsorship in trade for an inbound link or may bundle linking with a larger advertising package.  Sometimes this is the only way to get guest blogging activities.  Sometimes they are happy to do this in trade for product donations.  Each website (and its owner) is different.  Gage their asking ‘price’ against their PageRank, and number and quality of inbound links to see if this makes sense for you.

The truth is, big companies online buy links (because it works).

Highly optimized structure (use of CSS, Image ALT tags, link title tags, etc)

On-page SEO is still very important so don’t skip out on adding image ALT tags (as well as optimally-named images) are especially important given how often Google displays images as part of their organic search results.

A combination of CSS and jQuery can provide an excellent way to add content and spider crawlability to your website without bogging down the user with too many visible options.   Just make sure your options are intuitive and make sense to the user (do not ‘hide’ or cloak the content or you are drifting into black hat techniques).

Social Media links/citations
A couple of years ago Google and Microsoft both openly admitted that they factor in social media links and citations as a ranking signal.  This is an excellent source of branding.  Remember, the real power of social media isn’t really your ability to post content but rather for users to readily share your content and create a viral effect.

So there are two ways to go quickly taking advantage of social media’s virability

Place your social media buttons on your website

  • This means both your buttons that link to your social media brand pages AND the buttons that easily allow visitors to share/like your page/website
  • This means placing this both throughout your website (as in, on the template) and on

Share entertaining information on your social media channels

  • By entertaining I don’t necessarily mean constant references and images that relate to reality shows
  • What I do mean is more along the lines of interesting facts and images that relate to your industry
  • Don’t bombard them with “specials” or “product/service” offerings (yes, sneak them in there here and there, but don’t make it your focus)
  • Infographics are great if they apply to your industry

Sitemaps allow the search engines to quickly crawl your pages, including many pages which would otherwise be difficult to access.  Aside from the standard HTML and XML sitemaps, you should also include image and video sitemaps if applicable.  The point here is to let the search engine spiders know you have lots of (hopefully) relevant content .

Fast load time

There are two parts to this.

  1. Google can tell if your website is slow and therefore consider this a detriment to user experience
  2. If you site IS slow, people will be more likely to go back to the search result listings and land (and stay) on a website other than yours, which will further signal to Google that you provide a less-than-worthy user experience.

Light code structure

Aside from allowing for faster load times, light code structure also means less non-keyword rich content search spiders have to sift through.  One common problem are large, code/text-heavy navigation headers that push highly relevant content far down the page.

 For another (and more wonkish) forecast into 2013, check out SEO Moz’s 10 Predictions for Inbound Marketing in 2013

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