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SEO Quick Tips – Straight From the Mouth of Google

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From Google to you

I recently attended a search industry conference  at which Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s anti-webspam team, was a keynote speaker.  Matt’s team is charged with finding sites that are attempting  to cheat the system, documenting how they do it and then dropping them from the search index.  As a result, Matt and his team have learned what works best to get sites listed correctly – and it is surprisingly simple.  Matt shared a few SEO tips for beginners with us.

These tips are intended for web site owners just getting started in the optimization process.  However, it’s often the simplest things that are overlooked.  Many of the sites that I and other SEOs are tasked with “fixing” do not follow some of these and as a result rank poorly for searches they should, or at least could, rank well for.

Ten SEO Tips

  1. Use good URL & Site structure.
    It’s been discussed over and over again. Yes, Google can index dynamic page URLs (like those here on AgentGenius.com).  However, if you are able to use search friendly URLS – often referred to as PERMALINKS – then you really should.  Permalinks allow you to include keywords in your URL, creating one more crumb in the trail you want the search engines and readers to follow.
  2. Use good and unique page titles.
    Page titles should be a brief (only about 65-70 characters) description of what a page contains, or is about.  This is another opportunity to let the search engines (and more importantly, your readers) know what they might find on a page.  Too often this is ignored, or worse misused.  Many sites leave page titles blank, insert just the company name, or use non-descriptive text like “about us” or “our products”.  A page title should be able to stand alone, a reader should have an idea what the page is about without reading one word of it’s content.
  3. Use keywords naturally withing your content (don’t try to stuff them in there).
    Google does recognize common root variations of the same word.  For example, it knows that engage, engagement, engaging, and engaged are all variations the same word.  Don’t waste your time and irritate your readers by using all these words over and over in your pages.  However, Google does not know that cat, kitten, kitty, feline or putty-tat could all be used to mean the same thing.  When applicable, use common synonyms in your pages as well.  Different people use different words to communicate, try to use the most common variations in your writing.
  4. Page title and site URL do not have to match.
    If you are not using a blog or a content management system (CMS), this is probably not something you ever even considering doing – creating matching titles and URLs is too much work for a manual process.  However, if you use a CMS like WordPress it is often done for you automatically.  Why not alter the URL slightly and insert a keyword synonym?  It’s just one more of the crumbs to follow.  (I’ll admit I have not done this – it’s one of those simple things I never even thought about, but feel silly for not doing).
  5. Check your site logs often to see what you already rank well for.
    You might already be ranking well for something and not even know it.  Possibly searchers are finding you with keywords you never even considered.  By reviwing your search logs, you’ll know how you are being found and be able to optimize your site accordingly.
  6. Create a blog and post often.
    New, fresh content and a growing site is a good indication of relevance.  Relevance is what will get you ranked in Google.
  7. Fill in your description tags.
    It’s surprising, how many site owners think the description tag is just a place to stuff keywords.  More accurately, it’s displayed by Google (and others) in the search results along with the page title to give searchers an idea what they should expect to find on your web site.  A well written description tag should contain your keyword(s) or synonyms and also be truly descriptive of the page and it’s content.  If your potential reader thinks this is what they want to see, they will click.  If they see a long and obvious list of keywords, chances are they will pass you over.
  8. Create an XML site map.
    Site maps are one of those things SEOs can’t seem to agree on.  Many feel that a well structured site will be crawled just fine with out one.  Others, myself included, feel that any help they provide is worth the minimal (if any) work required to maintain them.   If you run your site in WordPress, or most any CMS, there are plugins available that take all the work out this. I read recently about a test done that showed Google not only came to a site sooner, but it also crawled sites more quickly – a lot more quickly, on sites with site maps.  Of course I’d love to link you to it, but can’t locate it at the moment – if you have it, please post in the comments.
  9. If you are local, be sure to register in the Google local business center.
    Put simply, if you run a local business, and are not listed here, you are throwing money away.  When people search for products and services in their area, the business identified as local will often rank at the very top of page one, regardless of all other SEO factors.
  10. Use your chosen keywords in URL and titles.
    OK – This is a repeat of 1 & 2, but it’s important so don’t forget to do it.

Simple, right?   OK, time to fess up…..how many of these are you not doing on your web site?

Jack Leblond is a SEO/SEM professional working for a large corporation full time in Austin, TX. He is not a Realtor, he is our in-house SEO expert. Jack is the Director of Internet Strategy and Operations for TG (www.tgslc.org). In addition to managing the team that develops and maintains the company's multiple Web sites, he focuses on Search Engine Optimization (SEO), e-marketing and Social Media. Jack's background ranges from Submarine Sonar Technician/Instructor for the United States Navy, technical writer, pioneer in internet/intranet creation for McGraw-Hill and Times Mirror Higher Education, former Adjunct Professor for two Universities teaching web-related courses, has served as a city council member and co-founded Net-Smart, a web design and hosting company, where he managed networks and oversaw the development of hundreds of Web sites. As a free-lance SEO consultant, Jack performs SEO Site Audits for small/medium businesses that want their web sites to perform better in the search engine listings.

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16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Parag Majumdar

    March 29, 2009 at 7:01 am

    RT: @rampantheart: SEO Quick tips – straight from the mouth of Google: https://is.gd/puhS

  2. DivasWhoDine

    March 29, 2009 at 7:06 am

    SEO Quick tips – straight from the mouth of Google. https://ow.ly/1COX

  3. Matt Richling

    March 29, 2009 at 7:03 am

    Has anyone used a specific XML plugin for wordpress? There seem to be a couple, am I able to use more than one at the same time?

  4. Jack Leblond

    March 29, 2009 at 10:29 am

    Matt – Take a look at the plugins listed in this AG post, they should work well for you. https://agentgenius.com/?p=10233

    As for having more than one plugin to do the same thing – not a good idea, your results may be quite unpredictable.

  5. Trace

    March 29, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    I’ve always used this one with success…..

    https://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/google-sitemap-generator/

  6. Catherine Harrigan

    March 29, 2009 at 11:12 pm

    Interesting article on SEO Tips – https://agentgenius.com/?p=11278 worth a read.

  7. Jack Leblond

    March 30, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    10 SEO tips for beginners https://agentgenius.com/?p=11278

  8. Jack Leblond

    March 30, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    For the west coasters; What I did on vacation https://tinyurl.com/d7fou5 and SEO tips for beginners https://tinyurl.com/d7hwy8

  9. Karen Yetter

    March 30, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    SEO Quick Tips – Straight From the Mouth of Google https://bit.ly/CMr6e

  10. Kylee McRae

    March 30, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    Google gives SEO quick tips https://agentgenius.com/?p=11278

  11. Christian Small

    March 30, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    RT @KarenYetter: SEO Quick Tips – Straight From the Mouth of Google https://bit.ly/CMr6e

  12. Jodi Gaines Pereira

    March 30, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    RT @KarenYetter: SEO Quick Tips – Straight From the Mouth of Google https://bit.ly/CMr6e – very useful

  13. Kyle Brigham

    April 1, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    10 pretty good tips for SEO…some stuff you might already know and some you might not! https://ow.ly/1Sej

  14. Chaunna Brooke

    April 1, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    I think it is always a must to follow what Google sees in every website. The tips relayed here are the basics. Once followed, rest assured to see your site soar in SERPs.

  15. real estate syracuse,

    April 11, 2009 at 2:21 am

    What are the efficiencies of a keyword as an anchor text to make directory submission?
    ‘Use good and unique page titles.”- how I can classified good and bad?

  16. Kevin Sandridge

    May 27, 2009 at 11:44 am

    Classic tips, Jack – and ones we all need to follow consistently. I find that many Realtors have a hard time pulling unique content together, and they sometimes feel that it’s just too much trouble to put these extra – yet simple – 10 steps into practice. Are you seeing the same thing?

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Business Finance

Will cash still be king after COVID-19?

(EDITORIAL) Physical cash has been a preferred mode of payment for many, but will COVID-19 push us to a cashless future at an even faster rate?

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No more Cash

Say goodbye to the almighty dollar, at least the paper version. Cashless is where it’s at, and COVID-19 is at least partially to thank–or blame, depending on your perspective.

Let’s face it, we were already headed that direction. Apps like Venmo, PayPal, and Apple Pay making cashless transactions painless enough that even stubborn luddites were beginning to migrate to these convenient payment methods. Then COVID-19 hit the world and suddenly, handling cash is a potential danger.

In 2020, the era of COVID-19, the thought of all the possible contaminants, traveling around on an old dollar bill makes most of us cringe. Keep your nasty sock money, boob money, and even your pocket money to yourself, sir or madam, because I’ll have none of it! Nobody knows or wants to know where your money has been. We like the idea of taking your money, sure, but not the idea of actually touching it…ewww, David. Just ewww.

There is no hard evidence that cash can transmit COVID-19 from one person to the other, but perception is a powerful agent for changing our behavior. It seems plausible, considering the alarming rate this awful disease is moving through the world. Nobody has proven it can’t move with money.

There was a time when cash was King. Everyone took cash; everyone preferred it. Of course, credit cards have been around forever, but they’ve always been just as problematic as they are convenient. Like GrubHub and similar third party food delivery apps, banks end up charging both the business and the consumer with credit cards. It’s a trap. Cash cut out the (greedy) middle man.

Plus, paying with a credit card could be a pain. Try paying a taxi driver with a credit card prior to, oh, about 2014 when Uber hit the scene big time. Most drivers refused to take cash, because credit cards take a percentage off the top. Enter rideshare companies like Uber. Then in walks Square. Next PayPal, Venmo, and Apple Pay enter the scene. Suddenly, cabbies would like you to know they now take alternate forms of payment, and with a smile.

It’s good in a way, but it may end up hurting small businesses even more in the long run. The harsh reality of this current moment is that you shouldn’t be handling cash. No less an authority than the CDC recommends contactless forms of payment whenever possible. However, those cabbies weren’t wrong.

The banking industry has been pushing for a reduced reliance on cash since the 1950s, when they came up with the idea of credit cards. It was a stroke of evil genius to come up with more ways to expedite our lifelong journey into crushing debt.

The financial titans are very, very good at what they do, at the expense of all the rest of us. The New York Times reported on the trend, noting:

“In Britain alone, retailers paid 1.3 billion pounds (about $1.7 billion) in third-party fees in 2018, up £70 million from the year before, according to the British Retail Consortium.

Payment and processing companies such as PayPal (whose stock is up about 55 percent this year) and Adyen, based in the Netherlands (up 72 percent), also stand to gain.”

All kinds of related banking-related industries stand to benefit as well. Maybe we’ll go back to spending physical cash one day, but I don’t think there’s any hurry. Fewer old grandpas are hiding their cash in their proverbial mattresses, and the younger, most tech-savvy generation seems perfectly content to use their smart phones for everything.

We get it. Convenience plus cleanliness is a sweet combo. I only wish it weren’t such a racket.

If this trend towards a cashless future continues, there may be a possibility that travelers in the future may not experience what it’s like to fumble with foreign currency, to smile and shrug and hand over a handful of bills because they have no idea how many baht, pesos, or rand those snacks are. They may not experience the realization that other countries’ bills come in different shapes and sizes, and they may not come home with the most affordable souvenirs (coins and bills).

We shall see what the future holds. Odds are, it may not be cash money, at least in the U.S. I hope the cashless movement makes room for everyone to participate without being penalized. We’re in the middle of a pandemic, people. We need to find more ways to ease the path for people, not callously profit off of them.

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Tech News

Google Maps will soon display traffic lights

(TECH NEWS) The addition of traffic light positions to Google Maps promises to boost navigation accuracy. Now you won’t run a light while looking at navigation.

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google maps traffic lights

At over 150 million monthly users, Google Maps’ value is not to be understated. With a new feature that shows traffic light positions rolling out to select devices and locations soon, one can expect that trend to continue.

A common issue with navigation via an app–especially when navigating solo–is a lack of precision that can lead to confusion, missed exits, potentially dangerous driving, and, worst of all, spilled coffee. By adding the location of traffic lights, Google Maps will improve both landmark recognition and automated navigation by providing drivers with more accessible information.

It’s worth noting a couple of arguing points, the first of which is the assertion that Google is starting from scratch on this feature. They aren’t. In fact, Japan-based Google Maps users have had access to traffic light positioning for years; Google is simply expanding the feature to include a larger number of cities and population density.

In a similar vein, Google also isn’t the first company to implement an ease-of-access feature such as this. Apple Maps has incorporated traffic light recognition since the release of iOS 13, and while its use is hit-or-miss (my iPhone 11 fails to pick up most traffic lights in my admittedly rural town of residence), the option to have Siri direct users to the nearest traffic light rather than saying “in 213.7 feet, turn left” is helpful.

That said, Apple Maps is a service which sees a little over 20 million monthly users–a far cry from Google Maps’ monthly base. For Google, accuracy and speed of updates will be paramount for a successful, routinely helpful launch.

At the time of this writing, Google plans to release the traffic light feature in New York, San Francisco, and a few other United States cities. The feature will be available on Android devices–sorry for now, Apple users–and will ideally expand to encompass most of the country if the initial release is successful.

It will be interesting to see how comprehensive Google’s coverage is and how quick the company is to adjust positioning of lights as cities do what cities do best. For now, if you have an Android device, keep an eye on your Maps app–good things are coming your way.

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Business News

Plastic bags are making a comeback, thanks to COVID-19

(BUSINESS NEWS) Plastic bags are back, whether you like it or not – at least for now.

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Plastic bags

Single use plastic bags are rising like a phoenix from the ashes of illegality all over the country, from California to New York. Reusable bags are falling out of favor in an effort to curtail the spread of COVID-19. It’s a logical step: the less something is handled, generally, the safer it is going to be. And porous paper bags are thought to have a higher potential to spread the virus through contact.

It’s worth mentioning that single use plastic bags are considerably more
environmentally efficient to manufacture compared to paper, cloth, and reusable plastic bags. Per unit, they require very little material to make and are easily mass produced. It also goes without saying that they have a very short lifespan, after which they end up sitting in landfills, littering streets, or drifting through oceans.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s hard to deny that single use plastics have the potential to be as dangerous to humans as COVID-19. Coronavirus is a very immediate existential threat to us in the United States, but the scale of the global crises that stem from the irresponsible consumption of cheap disposable goods, also cannot be overstated. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch isn’t going anywhere. (And did you know that it’s just one of many huge garbage patches around the world?)

So… what exactly are we going to do about the comeback of plastic bags? Because to be honest, I used to work in grocery retail, and it is difficult and often unrewarding. So, I wouldn’t exactly love handling potentially contaminated tote bags all day in the midst of a pandemic if I were still a supermarket employee. You couldn’t pay me enough to feel comfortable with that – forget minimum wage!

I used to have a plastic bag stuffed full of other plastic bags sitting in my kitchen, like American nesting dolls, before disposable plastics fell from grace. (I’m sure some of y’all know exactly what I’m talking about.) This bag of bags was never a point of pride. It got really annoying because it just kept growing. There are only so many practical home uses for the standard throw-away plastic shopping bag. Very small trash can liners; holding snarls of unused cables, another thing I accumulate for no reason; extremely low-budget packing material; one could get crafty and somehow weave them into a horrible sweater, I guess.

I don’t miss my bag of bags. I don’t want to have to deal with another. Hey, Silicon Valley? Got any disruptive ideas for this one?

Even if we concede that disposable plastics are a necessary evil in the fight against COVID-19, the fact remains that they stick around long after you’re done with them. That’s true whether you throw them out or not.

I’m not trying to direct blame anywhere. Of course businesses should do their best to keep their customers and staff safe, and if that means using plastic bags, so be it. Without clear guidance from our federal government, every part of society has been fumbling and figuring out how to keep one another healthy with the tools they’ve got at hand. (…Well, almost every part.)

The changes to the state bag bans have been cautious and temporary so far, which is a small relief. But nobody really knows how much longer the pandemic will rage on and necessitate the relaxations.

I won’t pretend that I have a sure solution. All I can really ask is that we all be extra mindful of our usage of these disposable plastic products. Let’s think creatively about what we might otherwise throw away. We must not trade one apocalypse for another.

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