After we’ve mastered some of the most obvious SEO obedience rules failures, it’s high time we delve deeper into more advanced features of what can you disobey and still reach the first page of Google SERP.
For those who are not in the know, SERP stands for Search Engine Results Page. It’s the page, or pages, Google, or any other search engine, such as Bing or AOL, displays to you after you type in a query. The idea behind the entire SERP science is that the chances of your business thriving in the online world are significantly higher if you are in the first page, or at least the first three SERPs, as most users do not bother scrolling further than3-5 pages, if going any further than the first page at all.
How to defy all SEO rules and still rank on first page – part 3
OGP is a Facebook Open Graph Protocol, the aim of which is to display a specially designed image that you attach to your post. In plain words, it means that, once you write your piece and link it to the OGP, every time you (or anybody else, for that matter) post a link to the piece, it will always, and ALWAYS, display the image as well.
The image may contain a title of the piece as well, but not necessarily. If you use stock photos and adjust them or modify them in any way, under the condition such retouches are allowed by copyright, you could add your watermark, or whatever. If you use mockups, I guess the sky is the limit – as long as you have an expert designer to play in Photoshop.
However, Facebook has this 20% overlay text rule: no more than 20% of the image may be covered by text, otherwise boosting is not allowed. They offer a free tool to check if you comply with this rule. The problem with this? Your image may contain 20% of text only, yet if you position it so that it enters more quadrants, the tool will automatically consider it to disrespect the rule.
Usually, most social media require this image to be of certain size. In case of Facebook, it is 1200×630 pixels, and I believe all social networks I’ve worked with have the same size requirement.
Hence, there is a lot to say about OGP.
We had no idea about this OGP. Neither have we had it, neither have we linked an OGP to our posts, neither have we placed any text on the images, nor had we known about the 20% overlay rule.
I tried, however, using the most typical photograph of the game as the illustration of the entire post, to make it stand out from the others, and to make a visual signature stamp for the posts. After all, social networks do cut out all that is an extra!
Twitter card is, as far as I learned, a special Twitter protocol that… Yeah, right. Gimme a break.
It is the same thing as FB OGP, only produced by Twitter. When it comes to images, its role is to, again, display the proper image attached to the post, and we also do not have it. At least I believe we do not have it.
On the other hand, this Twitter card is there to enable embedding Twitter posts into articles in your website, I think!, so it actually may be smart to have it installed to your website.
Split blocks of text with images
I have seen so many great websites who simply do not bother with splitting long texts with images, hence I do not understand this nonsense!
In fact, in my current company, we tend to insert an image in every 300 words or so, thus writing a piece of 1000 words means that, besides inserting a featured image to the top, there should be at least two more images in the body of the piece, preferably of the width of the blog. The problem with this is that I mostly write in my mother tongue, so stock images that best illustrate my point are usually with text in English, hence impossible to use, or of low quality, or relatively small.
I recently found a way to tackle with this problem: I take a stock image that I need and retouch it in Photoshop. I delete the text I do not need, I insert the new text and replace sections I do not need, cut them out or cut them off. And it is usually me to do it because our graphic designers are usually too busy to waste time on such trivia. I now humbly think I am getting better and better in it, so it is not a bad thing in the long run, playing in Photoshop on my own.
On my sports blog, however, in the beginning I did comply with this rule, but only partially, and only because it had a point. When I wrote about the games and saw something remarkable enough to mention it in the text, I would insert the photograph there to prove my point. Sometimes, there would be more images one after the other, and in fact it did count up to splitting big chunks of text with proper images. Additionally, I wrote captions to the images, hence optimising them without even knowing it, in the long run enabling Google to “read” the images based on captions and alternative text, thus classifying them properly.
No automatic sharing on social networks
One of the first things I learned in this digital agency is that automatic post sharing on social networks is a HUGE no, and is actually a practice that nobody should ever opt for.
Long time ago, I read that linking your accounts in social networks so that you post an image on one only while the other just fetches the same info and shares it there as well, is an open sign of laziness and utmost disrespect of your users. In short, it should never be done, no matter how handy it may seem.
It is the same with automatic post sharing on social networks.
Finishing all the steps on the “publish” way successfully means that there should be no further revisions of the piece. But, it is human to err, if you know what I mean. I don’t think it ever happened to me to publish the piece and forget about it. Sometimes it’s other people who notice spelling mistakes, sometimes it’s me. Sometimes I mistakenly use a featured image instead of the OGP, or vice versa. Sometimes, I wish to add some points later on.
Secondly, when you want to share your posts on various social networks, the idea behind the networks is that not all of them are used by the same target group. If you want to address audience in Facebook, you are allowed more creative freedom in attracting them to click on your link and read your piece. Advertising your piece on Twitter implies more succinct message with hashtags, while LinkedIners prefer business style communication.
A couple of days ago, after posting 4 pieces in a row on my free domain blog, where we enabled automatic post sharing on FB and TW, I wanted to write the meta description / excerpt, which I can do only after publishing a post (due to free domain limitations). I learned the hard way that the sharing option re-shares the post after I change the excerpt, even though the post has already been shared once, after it’s been published. Let’s just say that it took me a while to figure out what happened and find my way through 8 posts with varying meta descriptions in two social networks.
That is why automatic sharing on social networks is a really bad idea: it automatically fetches the same info for all networks and addresses all their users in the same way. In short, it may cause you to lose your audience if you fail to spark their interest in the right way.
Backlinks are the links to your website that are posted somewhere so as to bring traffic back to your website. That is why it’s called backlinks. To rank better, the more backlinks you have, the better.
Web design agencies most often get such backlinks by posting them into footer of the websites they launch. WordPress tends to give credit to itself in free domain websites / blogs, while pros know how to dwindle this and advertise themselves or the agency. Posting links to your website on social networks profiles is a useful strategy, as well as digital signatures in emails.
Another way to get backlinks, although it is also a part of the link building strategy, which is another huge science, is by leaving comments on various websites. If you ever visited any professional website, you must have noticed that not many of them enable comments section, yet those who do are an invaluable resource that should be used, but many people either do not know it or use it the wrong way. New bloggers tend to leave comments such as “you’re great, please follow me back to help my ranks grow,” but that is completely wrong – in most cases it shows that they have not even read the piece and that they are just hunting for more traffic like scavengers.
As with many other features of running a successful website, having the limit is the key. If you read the piece you like, do comment it, and leave the author some material that they may find insightful. Build relations rather than just hunt for backlinks, and it will pay off eventually.
I recently noticed that, throughout the previous 40ish months, I used my blog for leaving over 200 comments, most of which even got responses. That means that I left at least one normal, human comment a week, to various websites, in either English or my mother tongue, in topic as various as sports, fashion, marketing, linguistics, literature, blogging, and who knows what else. All those comments are still there, and pointing to my website / blog until the end of time, i.e. as long as they may live.
Same rank website linking
While I am at the topic of linking, website rank linking is worth mentioning.
In fact, it was a friend of mine, doing business in dog breeding, who pointed out to me that, if you link to somebody, it should be a website of the same rank as yours – he had problems with it, as it was difficult for him to find a similarly ranked website to link to, and to make sure they were not his competitors.
Hence, you cannot link to your competitors, as you do not want to provide them a free ad. You cannot link to the websites ranked lower than yours, as you do not want to hurt your ranking. You cannot link to the websites ranked higher than yours, as they would not allow you to hurt their ranking.
But, if we followed that blindly, how would we ever improve our rank? By tapping at the same position for years? Uuuuhm. See where that gets us to? Something’s wrong with the math.
With us, as we are a fan base of an official sports club, it was understandable linking to the official club’s website. (However, two years since we launched the blog, the official website went down and was only recently reinstated.) Other than that, we could have linked to the official website of the rank league the team plays in, or to other national organisations dedicated to the sport. I don’t think we did that. We did not find it necessary at all, so we skipped it completely.
Even in the articles we wrote, although seldom, we linked to the source of information, and never, ever, did we use the “no follow” tag in the text code.
No links in first paragraph
Since we are at the link building here, first paragraph / no links rule should also be mentioned.
I make a mistake once or twice and linked something in the first paragraph of an article I wrote, and was immediately told off for doing so. Why? Still have no idea. When it comes to my firm’s blog, we never link in the first paragraph. When it comes to clients, well, we do what they ask us to do, most often unquestioningly. It is a practice I personally dislike, but hey, the client should be satisfied and stay on the income source list as long as possible. I see some other clients doing it as well, and although I am not certain on whether it hurts their ranks, I cannot either say it helps it.
I guess the thing with this “no link in the first paragraph” issue has something to do with the “read more” tag inserted after the first two sentences or so. Our firm’s blog is set to displaying three blog posts in a row, with the split text section, so if this section of text contains the link, it cannot be displayed. With our clients, blogs are different, and I still have not seen two and the same blogs even though we designed them all.
No space after paragraphs
There is one more thing with paragraphs: no space is allowed after the last word in a paragraph, before you press the enter key. Why? I also have no idea.
When erring in this field, I am usually heavily reprimanded for not paying attention to remembering such an important thing. However, I never paid attention to it with my personal website / blog, and I cannot say it hurt our ranking whatsoever.
It seems it has to do with character count, but I still haven’t figured it out why does it matter to Google. I mean, if a space is in place after every punctuation sign within a paragraph, why should it not be the case when it comes to ending a paragraph?
Keywords in article titles
Keywords are there to enable users to find you more easily, same as with tags. It is even better strategically placing them into your articles’ titles.
So, if you sell organic onion that you produce on your local farm, a title of your post should include phrases such as “organic onion.” But such highly-sought phrases that are too general will actually do you no good, because several thousand more other producers would opt for the same trick and probably beat you at it.
However, what I learned in more than three years of running a website is that there is no way in placing keywords in article titles, as they are useless. My rule of a thumb when naming my posts was to summarise the game, or an event, similarly to what the professional journalists do, only with no sensationalism, and to make it interesting and appealing to my potential readers.
Has it worked? I believe so.
Keywords in URLs
WordPress is a blogging platform that generates URLs of your posts based on your article titles. Hence, since this article is entitled “How to rank #1 on Google – against SEO (pt. 3),” a generic link pointing to it would be something like https://onlinestressrelief.wordpress.com/2017/05/31/how-to-rank-1-in-google-against-seo-pt-3/.
Other platforms generate links in different ways, the most common being completely useless when looking for an article you read but cannot really remember when nor where. Admit it, it happened to you before and it drew you mad!
If you write posts in scripts other than Latin, I know there are both blogs that generate direct links in Latin script only, as well as those allowing more freedom with it, hence generating links in the target language script, just as the title itself.
These URLs are not advisable to play with once you publish a post, but there are users who do not mind dwindling the original URLs to what they find more appealing.
Hence, after I’ve already explained the thing with inserting keywords into your titles, it goes without saying that it’s possible to automatically generate URLs containing keywords. However, when you do not mind, and entitle your posts the way you prefer, there are two possible scenarios: either leave it as it is, or modify the URL before publishing the post. I do that when I write posts in my mother tongue, in script other than Latin – just to be consistent with the past pasts.
Instead of a conclusion – disclaimer repetition
All opinions presented above are based on my personal experience of running a free WordPress blog on a local sports club topic. I do not talk about business websites nor blogs. I did not have any knowledge, or formal education nor contact with SEO, copywriting, programming, website or graphic design, or anything of the like, for the first three years of running that website, hence some of the points I now know actually came to my mind through trial and error.
All SEO rules I presented above are the result of the knowledge I gained after I started working as a copywriter in a privately owned small-size company.
All data presented emerge as a result of my new knowledge and my interest in analysing what brought us to the first page of Google search based on three keywords only.
There are many other SEO rules to go with when running a website. After publishing three pieces on the topic, I believe I have exhausted a significant amount of what I learned so far. Stay tuned, as I will continue writing on it once I collect more items to discuss.
In case you missed my previous two posts on Google ranking against SEO, you can find them here (with an overview of what was covered by them):
#1: Use heading 1, heading 2, heading 3… tags
#2: Write for people rather than Google
#3: Always link
#4: Optimise photos
#5: Add featured image and ogp
#6: Write meta descriptions of… Well, everything
#7: Post regularly
#8: Use analytics
#9: Paid domain vs. free domain
#10: Present unique content
#11: Write long posts
#13: Choose your keywords wisely
#14: Two categories max per article
#15: Three tags max per piece of writing
#16: Never forget to Facebook debug
#17: Google speed test
#18: Anchor words must equal the link
#19: Implement a sitemap
#20: Do not write for yourself