On Page SEO: Online Marketing’s Building Blocks

On Page SEO: Online Marketing’s Building Blocks
2009 Update: Changes You Need To Know

Search engine optimization comes in many flavors, but marketers must think about more than on-page elements and old best practices. Good on-page SEO is only part of the solution you need to attract quality visitors to any type of site. Good SEO is the heart of online marketing. Poor on-page SEO will cause any site’s efforts to crumble in other areas.

Marketers should already know about page titles (aka title tags), alt image text and font decoration. An online marketer must be able to speak with absolute conviction about the characteristics of these and other influencers.

A wise soul described search engine optimization as a predator and prey game where the search engines show just enough about ranking factors to aid their mission, but not enough so that the results can be gamed. As search technology changes, marketers must also quickly change.

Consider these 2009 changes to on-page SEO so far:

Changes To Previous Best Practices: After an off-the-cuff (that’s how it seemed from the audience at SES San Jose 2007) remark about “no follow” links, Google announced in June that this type of “page rank sculpting” was unnecessary. And in October, Google pulled “PageRank” from its Webmaster Tools console. Why? Google says it’s a good indicator to use as a success metric any more.

Google also confirmed in September that meta keywords convey no search ranking attributes. A month later, Yahoo said the same, but then admitted a week later that it assigned a weak ranking signal for meta keywords.

To reduce duplicate content, all four major search engines agreed in February to support the “canonical” tag. Multiple ways to address the same page, including those resolved by rewrite rules or redirects can be winnowed to one “canonical” page, deemed to be the source and authoritative page.

And the fastest way for any site to be indexed, Yahoo’s Paid Inclusion program, will end in 2009.

New Partnerships: After chasing Yahoo! for a web eternity, Microsoft announced a search deal in July that would combine the #2 and #3 company’s search results. The deal is nowhere near final, but happened fast on the heels of Microsoft’s June launch of its rebranded Bing search engine in June. The new entity, quickly dubbed Microhoo, is expected to use Bing algorithms on Yahoo! properties.

New media darling Twitter cut its own deal with Microsoft and quickly announced a nearly identical deal with Google as both companies try to move into “real-time search”.

New Search Results: Google debuted six variants of search engine results pages (SERPs) in 2009, starting in January with a Timeline view that had previously only been seen in Google Labs. The largest search company followed with announcements in March of its “Vince” update that gives more weight to brands and branded terms. Google also previewed “Caffeine” in August – a jumble of traditional search results, news, video and even blog comments on the same page, but mixed together.

Google had already taken steps to assume searcher intent by starting to automatically display local results for service and product searches even if a geographical term wasn’t included in the search. Combined with the Vince/brand update, ranking nationally for generic words that brands traditionally use became extremely difficult using traditional methods.

Bing quickly countered with visual search in September, and as Google shortened its hotlist of trends to 40 terms, other companies including Twitter, Wikipedia and Bing quickly filled the void and reported on what terms were seeing the most search activity.

Title tags are important. But as an online marketer, you must stay abreast of monthly, sometimes weekly, changes in on-page SEO to enjoy continued success.

Guest Blog by Silver Beacon Marketing