Penguin-Proof SEO: Foundational Strategies That Aren’t Going Away Anytime Soon

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Who would have thought that SEO would be such a minefield? Those cutting-edge techniques you learn today seems to be out of favor just as soon as you master them – and even worse, search engines like Google can penalize you for your troubles! It’s just another time-draining hassle for a business looking to find a future-proof strategy for success in the long run.

Business: “So, I want to invest a whole bunch of energy into this awesome new strategy that this guy told me about, it’s going to totally get me to the top! But can you guarantee that this isn’t going to become a big no-no in a few months?”

SEO: “Uh… ”

Business: “…”

Change is a constant in the world of SEO, but there are foundational timeless strategies that have worked since the beginning and aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. If you concentrate your SEO efforts on these, your website should be in a pretty good place – for now.

Need for Speed
You’ve been there – the page took forever to load up. It’s annoying – and guess what? – Google and Bing hate that too. So do your visitors. Amazon knows – according to them, for each mere tenth of a second overload time that a person suffers, there’s a 1% drop in sales. Ouch.

If you do just one thing for your site, make it speedy. Optimize your images, consolidate your CSS, compress everything. You want to get your site running like greased lightning. As a long-term strategy, this is going to give you two-fold benefits: the search engines will give you better rankings. Hey – Google wants to help here with this great tool and people will stay, read and buy, instead of going back and clicking on your nearest competitor result.

Double Trouble
Duplication is bad. It happens. Like all infestations, it’s better stamped out as soon as possible. Your content can be scraped, ‘borrowed’, repeated… the list goes on and on, leaving you a victim. What can you do?

Search engines are getting pretty good at identifying duplicate content, but it’s still an imprecise science. When a robot comes across 20 pages of the same content, it’s not going to be 100% sure which one is the original one that deserves the rank – bad news for you if the robot doesn’t pick the right one.

Here are some simple steps you can take towards avoiding the duplicate menace from trashing your site:

– use a 301 redirect when you can’t fix a bad link
– avoid using parameters where robots can index them at all costs.
– use the same URLs for desktop and mobile site versions, preventing unnecessary duplication
– eliminate duplicate content or redirect – if you can’t, it’s time to use the old standby metatags ‘noindex’ or ‘rel=canonical’

Useful Content
Search engine updates can sometimes feel like a throwback to a high-school popularity contest. “Am I good enough?” “Do they like me?” “Am I annoying everyone?” “Will anyone ever accept my link?”.

The good news is that this isn’t high-school anymore! All the search engines really care about is your content and how useful it is – and so will your readers. Selling tennis rackets? Write a page about the pros and cons of different racket types. If you want more people to read your site about a tourist destination, write about the amazing attractions it has.

But why? Well, Google started out as an index for academic documents. Out of the smallest acorns…

Just think about how academics reference their works – they add a list of sources. All relevant, all linked for more information for other academics to go read. And that’s exactly how the search engines want websites to operate.

It’s the main reason one of the most ubiquitous websites on the internet, Wikipedia, almost always seems to hold the #1 spot for almost every search query! Sure – your site probably isn’t going to be the next Wikipedia, but if you can get relevant, useful links to your site – you’ll be in great SEO condition. HOW?

– blogs: fill your blog up with juicy information and stories
– resources: Talk about your industry and trends while linking out to useful sites
– instructionals: show people how to use your products

This is how all links should work in the first place and the only reason that they’re so important. It’s good content with good value. It’s what the people want, it’s what the search engines want – it’s what you need!

Great Site Structure
You might think that site structure is more of a UI/UX thing, but any SEO guru worth their salt will tell you that it’s an important consideration in SEO too. Your UI is leading people to the place you want them to go – with an invisible search engine following close behind.

You see, the search engines are trying to copy human behaviour as much as possible. So, when both come across a page with a bucket of links, they assume that all of them must be important. But which one is the one they need? Conversely, if you’ve just got a few links, it’s easier to see where you want to go next. Less clutter = better everything.

– give all your important links pride of place and visibility
– group lesser pages together: categories and subcategories are ideal for this
– link to related products – if you’re buying a tennis racket, you might be interested in buying tennis balls, too.

Well-thought out links are a great example of user-orientated site design that works with hardly any extra time with SEO. You’ll still need to use filters and search boxes to aid the robots, but the rest will take care of itself.

Even with today’s global internet, the bottom line for the majority of businesses and consultancies online is local. When people search for products or services online, they are typically using a search engine that is local to them.

Indeed, as mobile internet grows in popularity, the importance of local search is growing even more important. If you’ve got an actual storefront, it’s vital that you care about local! Do any of your keywords display a local search result? Then it’s time to focus on local. How?

– check your NAP, keep tabs on your reviews and claim your rightful listings
– no storefront? Create pages that talk about your local area – and how you can serve it
– got a storefront? Create pages and associate them with your local listings

Great, I think I got it – is that it?
You didn’t think it would be that easy, did you? If you’ve followed these 5 tips, you’ve made an excellent start to your online SEO strategy, and you’ll see it pay off. Just remember that no successful business got anywhere resting on its laurels.

Don’t avoid social networks – Twitter and Facebook are two amazing tools that you can start leveraging for free to boost your web presence. Infographs are still a cool way to reach out to people. Google’s always throwing out weird and wonderful new tags that are worth jumping into.

Bottom line? If your time is limited, these are 5 timeless ways that are going to help your business to grow and be noticed without worrying if the search engines are suddenly going to turn on you.


A 30-something living in Miami Beach. Founder of MarketKarma and CouponMate. I can be contacted via LinkedIn or my blog.

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