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For many webmasters, SEO is seen as a game, and the way they play that game is to ignore all the rules which Google have published in terms of which SEO tactics they reward or punish. One of the biggest areas around which much this so-called game revolves is backlinks.

The reason why backlinks are so sought after is it is one of the primary ways in which Google assesses a website to determine its relevancy and its authority. Backlinks are almost like an SEO currency where the more you have the richer you are, or in Google’s eyes, the higher you get ranked.

Unfortunately, just as counterfeit money exists, there are backlinks which are not all that they seem. They are backlinks certainly, but they are not backlinks which have been earned in the way a link from a press release or an online article would be earned. This is why Google dislikes them because they are so easy to obtain and can skew a website’s true SEO score.

Below we have highlighted several backlinks methods that you should avoid if you want to stay on the right side of Google. If you use any of these they either have no positive impact on your ranking or if Google discovers them, don’t be surprised if you find your website ranked three or more pages further down the rankings than before.

#1 Article Directories: Links from these directories such as Ezine Articles, were devalued years ago by Google, as they believed they were full of articles which were almost identical for any given subject.

#2 Automatic Link Generating Service: These often appear on websites like Fiverr and offer crazy deals like 20,000 backlinks for $5. They are created by bots, and if Google sees them linking to your website, it will plummet down the SERPs

#3 Paid Links: This isn’t referring to paid links, such as when you pay for legitimate online advertising but instead is when you pay an obscure online directory for backlinks. Google regards paid links with great caution, so it is debatable whether they have any SEO benefit at all.

#4 Spammy Forums: Again, we need to differentiate between legitimate forums which have lots of active users who post good content, and ones which are like a ghost town, and get used purely for backlinking. These are regarded as spam by Google.

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Whenever you register a domain name, details such as your name and address and the date of registration are held by an organisation called ICANN. If someone wants to determine who owns a website, they conduct a WHOIS search which will tell them.  For privacy reasons many web owners hide these details, but this raises the question as to whether this will negatively impact on your SEO rankings?

To address this, we need to understand what Google’s entire ranking algorithm is designed to achieve. Google can only survive if web users continue to use it as a search engine. This means that the results which Google presents for any given search term need to be relevant and show websites that the user would be happy to visit.

The degree to which Google establishes whether any single website is worthy of showing up in its results is established by taking multiple factors in to consideration. For each of these, Google’s algorithms then apply a score to that site based on what it considers to be a positive or negative indicator.

When it comes to your WHOIS details there may be many valid reasons why you would want to keep your details private. It could be that you want to avoid your employer discovering that you are running a website. Another might be to avoid strangers knowing your home address.  Whilst these are perfectly reasonable, unfortunately, Google knows private WHOIS registration is something that potential spammers use, and this is where it could impact your ranking.

If you just have one or two websites, and everything you have done with those websites meets Google’s criteria, deciding to switch on WHOIS privacy, should not suddenly see your website’s rankings plummet.

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The number of factors that affect the SEO of websites not only increases on a regular basis, they also change frequently. Some are complicated, and others are straightforward. One factor that you might think has little or no impact is the domain name of your website, however, it does play an important part. Here are 7 tips which can help to improve your SEO efforts and your Google ranking when choosing your domain name correctly.

  1. Keep Your Domain Name Length To 15 Characters Or Less.

If you were to analyse the domain names of the top 100,000 ranked websites on Google, you will find that their average length is 9 characters or less. Shorter domains names are much easier to remember and share in terms of people passing on or recommending your website. For example, compare www thebusinessandinvestmenttoptipswebsite.com to www.biztips.com. and it is clear the latter is far more desirable.

  1. Check To See If Your Domain Is Available On All Your Social Media Channels.

Choose the right domain nameWith the huge and ever-increasing importance of social media, it is no surprise that it plays a role in Google rankings. The authority of sites such as Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram, means that having a presence on them and other social media sites can boost your SEO efforts.

For this reason, you should first check to see if any of the domain names you are considering are also available on social media platforms. A great tool for this is ‘knowem.com’ where you can enter a name and it will check hundreds of social media sites to see if it is still available or not.

  1. Don’t Pack Your Domain Name With Keywords

The days of having ridiculously long domain names which read more like a list of keywords, with or without hyphens, are long gone. Google frowns upon this activity, and it also looks very spammy when potential customers see it. It’s ok to have one or two keywords, so a domain for a will writing service such as ‘premierwillwriting.com should be ok. However, using something like ‘the-best-and-cheapest-will-writing-and legal-services-company.com, will be penalized, and it looks ridiculous too.

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The internet has billions of web pages, and many of them are competing to be noticed by Google in order to move up the search rankings for that coveted page one of results. There are lots of SEO tactics and strategies that will help achieve this, and one of the most important is optimizing the page for the keywords you want to rank for. Here are some very simple ways to ensure that any, and all web pages on your website have the best chance of improving their ranking with the use of keywords.

Researching Keywords

The mystique surrounding keywords, and how best to optimize for them has led to countless theories and complicated strategies about how it should be done. In reality, optimizing a page for keywords is not that difficult, and only requires some very straightforward actions.

Keywords for SEOThe first of these is to do proper keyword research to establish which keywords and keyword phrases you need to target to be able to challenge those sites which currently occupy the first page of results within your niche. There are numerous keyword research tools available, with the most obvious one being the free AdWords keyword tool that Google offers.

If you really want to dig deep, to the extent that you know what keywords your competitors are targeting, how highly they rank for those keywords, and where they are getting backlinks from, paid tools such as ‘Ahrefs’ can give you all that information. It cannot be stressed enough how important this sort of keyword research is. It can mean the difference between knowing exactly what keywords to target and then creating the content to match versus aimlessly creating content that achieves nothing.

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When it comes to relevance and visibility of content, every person who is looking to build a good online presence for their company knows the importance of good SEO practices. That being said, a lot of them fail to realize the importance of SEO practices when it comes to the design aspect.

There are some key concepts of SEO which experts are not exactly able to communicate with their designers well enough. That can leave a lot of problems because even if a website looks visually appealing, it might lack the crucial oversight of good SEO practices. That can affect the rankings significantly.

Here is a list of things that designers need to know about SEO in 2018 so that they can bridge the gap between excellent design and good SEO practices.

  1. Mobile First

First things first, Google has made it quite clear for everyone out there that there is a need for optimizing websites for mobile phone usage with responsive design. The number of people using the internet through their mobile devices is more than those using it through their computers and that change in demographic needs to be catered to. Website designers need to make sure that the design of a website should not just be visually good for desktop computers, it can be equally well done but it will be more effective if it is optimized for mobile phone usage as a priority.

  1. Organic Visibility

organic visibilitySEO experts are of the opinion that the website pages should be designed in a way that they are more accessible to search engines. This means the content organization for the website layout has to be on point.

A sense of organization on a website will make it easier for search bots to go through the webpage and find relevance in the content for the users. One of the most important aspects of content organization in a website’s layout is the use of H tags or the headings.

If the web designer creates a layout that follows a hierarchy of headings from H1 to H2 to H3 and so on, it will be deemed as something more relevant in comparison to a more haphazard layout.

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Every successful business in the world right now is taking full advantage of good SEO strategies for their websites, blogs, and their social media profiles. If your business is not doing the same, you might as well be digging your own grave because without good SEO rankings, your business will not be able to keep up with the rest of the competition. High ranking on SEO is going to make sure that your business stays relevant by helping your customers find your products and services online with ease.

SEO might seem very simple when you think about the fact that a lot of businesses are using it but it is actually quite challenging. The most difficult aspect of SEO is the fact that it is in a constant state of evolution. The “best practices” that worked last year might not even be relevant right now. This means, there is a need to keep up with the latest SEO trends if you want to stay ahead of the curve.

Here is a look at the 4 SEO trends that are tearing things up in 2018.

  1. Secure Links

2016 saw Google make the announcement about the fact that secure links (SSL) are going to make a significant impact on the SEO ranking of websites. From being a simple announcement to becoming something that is more of a necessity, browsers like Google Chrome are now marking the websites that do not start with “https” as potentially unsafe for internet users. It’s one of the easiest ways to boost your SEO rankings and a trend that is here to stay.

  1. Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence and seoGoogle has been intent on providing the best user experience to people using their platform and that is why SEO is constantly evolving. With the prospect of advancing technology making Artificial Intelligence and machine learning more and more sophisticated, one of the SEO trends that is blazing its way through 2018 ever since its introduction is RankBrain. It is an AI algorithm which has been designed to provide search results based more on the intent of the user rather than the literal words in the search query. This is making search engine results based more on relevance to the user’s requirements rather than the fixed formulas involving keyword stuffing. Quality is a must now.

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SEO is a crucial part of the online marketing realm for businesses across all industries looking to make it big. The world has gone digital and relevance to the masses can only be achieved through maintaining good visibility online. If you are someone who is new to the concept of SEO, and are not exactly sure where to begin from, you should consider yourself lucky. We have put together this article in order to help you see how you can make better SEO efforts for your business. Here is the checklist for SEO success in 2018 that you need to follow for SEO success. Audit your website in order to find out how much of it your business follows.

Objectives

Before you start the SEO without any sense of direction, you need to be clear on the objectives you have. What is it that you want to achieve with the relevance that you can gain from it? Who is your target audience? What are you offering that people will need? Everything needs to be written down and not stay in your head so that you have a clear objective when it comes to your online marketing efforts with SEO.

Analyze What You Have Right Now

Take a thorough look at your website. How does it fare with the competition in the same industry? How well does it function? You see, there isn’t a need to update everything on your website. It might just be that there are some things you’re already doing right but there are some things which need improvement.

You need to make sure that your website can load fast. Check to see how long it takes to load with a decent internet connection. If it takes longer than a couple of seconds, you might need to work on that. The other thing you need to do is make sure that your website’s design is responsive i.e. the layout should be the same across all major devices. If it isn’t looking good on mobile devices, you need to optimize it. Both of these are excellent SEO practices.

Navigation

Now you need to look at how easy it is to navigate through the website. Is it easy to find all the important pages? Are the pages too long or too short? Are there any crashes on the web pages? Are there too many ads? Is the web page too crowded to make any sense?

Our suggestion for better SEO practice is to keep the website with a cleaner aesthetic. It should be easy to navigate through and everything has to be clear and concise. If you do have ads on your website, make sure they are not annoying and scattered everywhere. Make space for them in the layout in a way that they don’t interrupt the user experience.

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One of the biggest mistakes many website owners make is failing to measure the impact that their SEO activities have made. This is akin to following a diet and exercise program, and then not bothering to check your weight.

There are two specific SEO metrics which Google looks at very closely to see if the visitors they send to a website via their search results are having a good experience. These are ‘Page Views‘, and ‘Session Time’

If you have a business with an online presence, it is not enough to have people visit your website; you want them to engage with the website and the content therein. The more that they read articles, watch videos and click through multiple sections of your website the better.

The level of engagement that a visitor has with your site, is measured by a metric called ‘page views’. A high number of page views tells you that visitors are taking an active interest in your website, whereas a low number suggests they are disinterested in looking through it.

This data is measured by Google, and if they see that visitors are clicking through to lots of pages on a website they will increase the ranking of that site. The reason for this is that they want their search engine results to show sites that encourage activity. One way this is achieved is with great content that users find interesting.

Compare this scenario to a site which has little or poor content and as a result, visitors very rarely click through to other pages. The page views metric will be low, therefore, Google reduces the ranking of that site.

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The sort of spam we are going to be discussing isn’t those annoying emails from a lawyer asking you to get in touch to claim your $20 million-dollar inheritance (if only!). Instead, it is what Google considers spam tactics used to game the SEO of a website.

There shouldn’t really be any confusion over what is considered spam in the eyes of Google, because they have published guidelines and regular updates to its definitions. While you may not deliberately intend using spammy or blackhat tactics, you could do so accidentally. Unfortunately, in Google’s imaginary SEO courtroom ignorance is no defence, and the punishment is lower ranking or worse, deindexing for your website.

Side note: Read this for why you might want pages of your website deindexed.

If you employ a consultant or an agency to carry out your SEO, it will help you to ensure they are not putting your website at risk, if you know what these spam tactics are. Hopefully, you will have employed a reputable SEO company, but being able to spot if they are up to dodgy practices, is no bad thing.

The way in which Google determine whether they consider your website to be spammy or not is by checking for ‘spam flags’. These are indicators which their crawlers find when they visit your website. Having just one or two isn’t good, but it may not be enough to have your website banned, but if they find several of these spam flags, then it could be curtains for your site.

Here are the 5 main spam flags that you must avoid.

#1 Malicious, or Harmful Content: This is a no-brainer but if you have any content on your website that is malevolent and directs hate towards a person or group of people, then Google regard that as spam.

The harmful element is regarding anything on your website that uses phishing to try to gain access to a user’s personal information, and their financial information. This is obviously different from legitimate e-commerce activities where you use a proper merchant account.

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Whenever you create a backlink you can either have it be displayed as the URL that is pointing to or you can use anchor text which effectively cloaks the link. Using both methods will help your SEO, but anchor text links can have a greater impact in terms of letting Google know which keywords the page the link is pointing to, should be ranked for.

While this is a great way to help your SEO, the danger exists that you could overdo it by using the same exact match keyword every time, and instead of your anchor text links helping your ranking, they hamper it, as Google thinks you’re using spam tactics.

One of the ways to avoid any issues with Google is to mix up the way in which you use anchor text. There are several types of anchor text you can use for links, as you are about to find out.

Exact Match Keyword: Although we have already mentioned you should not overdo it with exact match keywords, it doesn’t mean you should avoid using them. The best way to use this strategy is for each page of content you have on your website targeting more than one keyword phrase.

This means that when you are using anchor text in a link, you have more than more exact match keyword you can use when setting up the link back to the page in question.

Naked URL: We mentioned this is in the intro, but we need to reemphasise that using the basic URL of the page you are linking to should happen occasionally. Google is far less suspicious of websites that have raw URL links than those which have only anchor text. The obvious benefit of this is higher rankings because you are not thought of as a site that is spamming.

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