Today we have a guest post from Scott McLay who is an SEO Manager at Equator, a digital marketing agency in Scotland.

SEO has always been one of those industries where we have all had to learn to adapt to an ever-changing landscape. But with 2012 we experienced one of the most active years in search; with so many visible and nameable updates many of us were reduced to tears (I thought it was fun & loved the chaos and confusion it created).

2013 is now well underway and we don’t see Google slowing down, instead we should expect to see an acceleration in their activity to improve overall search quality – I’m just waiting on the T-Rex update, following Matt Cutts pretending to be a dinosaur:

So before I go off talking about algorithm changes and end up writing an entirely different post than originally planned, let’s get on with my top 5 SEO tips for the rest of 2013.

1. Keep link profiles clean and natural

Everyone has been talking about the importance of having a clean backlink profile since the Penguin update was rolled out last year, but in 2013 things could get worse for those of us who take risks when obtaining links.

When looking for suitable websites to link back to you it is important to look for those that are not only relevant but also meet your demographic as you no longer want links for pure SEO purposes but those that will drive both traffic and conversions as well.

If you are scared that some of the links pointing to your website could be holding you back or have received a warning in Google webmaster tools then it’s important that you carry out a link profile audit and remove the links you feel are dangerous (LRT have a good tool for highlighting these).

If you would like more information on link building then you can read my SEOmoz blog post on the subject.

2. Give your users what they want

Users know what they want and if they can’t get it they will most likely leave and go elsewhere – if they even visit your website. The key to getting them to visit in the first place is to ensure that your title tags are as descriptive as they can be whilst keeping your head keywords firmly in place.

For example, I’m working on a digital campaign for a financial client that offers loans and currently has the title tag:

“[Keyword 1] – [Keyword 2] | Apply Online | [Brand]”

Which I don’t think is aimed towards a user so instead I’m getting it changed to something like:

“Apply for an [Phrase] online with [Brand]”

This not only reads better to a user but also contains my target keywords – hopefully this coupled with the same techniques used within the description tag will help my client increase traffic from its current positions.

So your title / description or brand have got the user into the website the next thing the user wants is information about the product or service you are offering, if they can’t find this then there are good odds on the user going back to the search engine to look for the answers to the questions they have – by providing clear product / service information along with FAQ’s and reviews there is a higher chance the user will stay and convert.

With every Google update making it harder to manipulate rankings using external techniques more focus needs to be placed on gaining more traffic from the positions you have currently got. User experience is a subject that has been gaining more and more exposure over the last year or two and I expect this to be one of the larger talking points of the year.

3. Place focus on content marketing

During 2012 content marketing became one of the most talked about areas within SEO but not everyone realises that it existed long before the internet, propaganda posters during World War 2 are a great example of this. But even technical SEO’s start talking of content marketing as more than simply link bait the world may truly be changing (not pointing any fingers).

A large focus has been placed on using alternative media for content marketing i.e infographic’s, video, mini websites etc… it may seem out of reach for those on tight budgets but don’t forget that a content marketing strategy can be based around a simple blogging strategy.

One company with a good strategy would be Plus hostels (not a client) – they invited a blogger they considered to be part of their core demographic (Jane Meighan) to have her own section on their website for her to blog tips about the destinations they have hostels in. Not only do they get her writing skills but they gain access to her social contacts (their target demographic) every time she publishes content.

If you are looking for a low cost content marketing solution I would definitely recommend following in the footsteps of Plus instead of worrying about trying to find a way to produce other types of media on a small budget.

4. Track your progress

In every blog post I write containing tips tracking progress always appears – why? Because in order to justify SEO to clients we need to present information, not data, highlighting improvements; talking traffic and positions is easy, talking geeky is even easier. Communication with a client on the metrics important to their business is often far trickier.

Tools such as ahrefs and Raven Tools have been pulling their ranking checking services getting a tool to report everything in one place is hard, currently I’m using a selection of services such as Raven tools, Majestic SEO and Authority Labs to enable me to keep track of every aspect of my clients campaign but may look to develop my own tool using API’s from Authority Labs, WordStream, Majestic SEO and Google Analytics to hopefully recreate an interface that works for me.

5. Don’t be a ’know it all’

We work in an industry that is ever changing, where the goal posts change every few months and without any real regulation – due to this some so called SEO’s are giving clients some bad advice (as Judith Lewis discusses on the Huffington Post) without having too much knowledge within SEO.

As most SEO’s know we never perform strategies that work within today’s environment but those which will work within future environments so that we can reduce the ever increasing risks of Google penalties occurring from their improvements to the natural search algorithm. Those who do SEO with only todays rule book in mind will very quickly be weeded out but at the potential expense of their client going bust, while those SEO’s who collaborate and discuss with others on where Google will be going over the next few years will reap the rewards and gain a greater understanding of the future of their industry.

Due to the rise in digital marketing over the last few years, more and more people are getting into SEO, this will lead to some newbies getting thrown into the deep end on client accounts without much experience – if this is you then don’t be scared to ask for advice from the wider community as most SEO’s will be more than happy to answer your questions.

What do you think will be the most important thing in SEO during 2013?

Categories: SEO

Scott McLay

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Scott has been around the digital industry for the last 9 years and has worked for both agencies (Caliber Interactive / Equator) and freelance. He is best known for his knowledge of link building, presenting at conferences throughout Europe and racing his VW Bug.

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