The new rules for SEO: use video, engage users and be original

The landscape of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is changing fast. It’s no longer enough to stack your copy with keywords and hope that you’ll fool Google into shooting your site up the rankings. Search engines are getting smarter, so it’s time for a new approach.

“Clients want their assets to sweat more,” says Ryan Kliszat, an entrepreneur and SEO guru for online retailers. “Once you’ve invested in developing a website, you need to be clever about how you promote it. And spraying money around on SEO solutions can be a waste of time.”

Avoid SEO tricks and being ‘sandboxed’
It’s still important to focus on good practice in SEO, such as using meta tags and keywords and structuring your content so that search engines can identify the subject easily. However, beware of companies that promise dramatic results from SEO tricks that can be perceived as unethical such as buying domains and gateway pages.

“You have to be careful of building web sites just for search engines,” says Ryan. “In 2010, Google changed its tactics and they now have hundreds of real people who look at new sites and assess whether they have any genuine worth or interest for users. If they suspect a site is trying to fool the search engines, they’ll ‘sandbox’ you by pushing your domain down the rankings.”

Google drives videos up the rankings

In recent Google searches, you’ve probably noticed that images and videos are pushing traditional text-based results further down the page. Google is giving increased importance to videos in its rankings, and Forrester Research shows that videos now have a 50 times better chance of appearing on the first page of results than a text page.

Use the new power of video
So what’s the best way to maximise the new-found clout of the video clip?
“We’re blending user-generated content and our own content to build community and create sites of real value for users,” says Ryan. “In our site for Brave Outdoors outdoor wear, we ask walkers to drop a pin on a map of Britain and load a video of their favourite view. We’ve also set up a dedicated YouTube channel and are building an iPhone app so people can tag their videos.”

Ryan’s tips include:

  • Propagate your video on other sites
  • Get links back from other sites to your site
  • Set up the site so that Google knows it contains videos.

Link to genuine, relevant sites
Boost the impact of your site by linking to other sites that add real value. This means making the effort to get good PR from recognised news sites such as ‘This is London’ and the BBC or relevant associations, rather than random web sites and directories that have little interest for your visitors. “We’re looking for links from respected walkers’ organisations for Brave Outdoors,” says Ryan.

Engage people with original content
It’s easy to get lost in the thickets of SEO and forget that original, engaging content is one of the best ways to make your site stand out and gain that all-important word-of-mouth. “Content that is original, easy to read, well-structured and punchy will definitely help your SEO,” adds Ryan.

Make content relevant to your target audience and encourage people to get involved in the community, and your site will gather momentum without you having to resort to short-term SEO tricks. The secret to successful SEO is to focus on real people, not robots.

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