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20 things you don’t know about SEO

Planted 02020-06-12

Build something worth searching for.

  1. Search engine optimization (SEO) is doing things to rank high in the search results for a generic term. These hits can change outcomes. But for most of us, the goal isn’t to be found when someone types in a generic term. It’s to have a few people care enough. Who care enough about you and what you do that they’ll type in your name. Who care enough to look for you instead of a generic alternative—and a few people who care enough to spread the word.

  2. Search engine optimization (SEO) serves search engines, i.e. Google. Google serves users. In the end, it’s for them. Look past immediate results and consider the implications of decisions down the road. Use second-order thinking to think in terms of interactions and time.

  3. Google’s algorithm depends on trust. In the eyes of Google, quality links are the bedrock of this trust but building real trust takes time. Your ranking will rise once trusted websites start linking to it. Google wants you to create high quality, popular content. The internet is not short on quantity of content, it’s short on quality. You have to write, you have to tell people, and you have to do so in a way that they will take notice.

  4. SEO is a branch of marketing. Offer solutions and opportunities for humans to solve their problems and move forward. Humans, not robots.

  5. An SEO audit is worthless for most small businesses’. You need to have the resources to deploy changes and the will to invest in a sustained effort.

  6. You’ll see the work of people “hacking” Google and you’ll see their success for periods. This path is for those with the time and money to avoid the difficult and straight forward path. The path out of the cat-and-mouse game. Insist on the viable path. The path of creating content people want to read. Content that furthers their goals. That permits them to tell a story to themselves that they’re proud of. And with the proper tension so they’ll have to tell someone else.

  7. There are no guarantees. But there are opportunities. Focus on opportunities to listen to the frustrations of someone around you. Opportunities to invest in changing the future together. Opportunities to help someone who cannot help themselves. And opportunities to teach the people around you that they can change the world. Embrace the path of connection, empathy, and change.

  8. Writing well is the cost of entry, but distribution is what makes you rise. If you’ve done great work without telling anyone, you may as well not have bothered. Don’t be afraid, let your work benefit the world.

  9. There is no singular front-page of Google. There’s an infinite supply. Find what your target market is searching for and where your competition is or isn’t. Knowing your market starts with focusing first on purpose. Consider all stakeholders and use the right capital. Hiring competent, values-aligned people and measuring what matters. Not just what you can count.

  10. Answer “who is it for?”

  11. Leverage an accessible site structure by treating your content like a publication. Give it categories. This is often referred to as the hub and spoke method in SEO. Create categories (hubs) of related content (spokes). Give each hub a URL subfolder. (e.g. This helps Google index, drive users deeper into the site, and shape content ideas.

  12. Learn how your titles and descriptions appear in Google. They shape the possibility of a user choosing you. If not provided, Google will grab an excerpt from the page. They seem to be doing more of this to tailor results towards user search intent.

  13. Every page should have a title and description that is unique and relevant for the content on the page. Use as few words as you can while maintaining descriptiveness. If the title is too long, only part of it will show. Don’t stuff unnecessary keywords into your titles. Avoid using generic or repeating titles and descriptions, they’re unhelpful.

  14. Both Google and users want useful results, but not every page is useful for showing up in search results. For example, Google does not want internal search result pages to show up. You can tell Google what pages aren’t useful with a robots.txt file.

  15. Clean up your code structure and make it accessible. Use headings to outline your content structure—this makes it easier to navigate. Use headings for structure, not style. Don’t skip heading levels.

  16. If your site isn’t HTTPS, get on it. Non-HTTPS sites throw “Not Secure” warnings to users. And Google has acknowledged that HTTPS is a ranking signal.

  17. List your authors. Google wants you to share who publishes your site, provides the content, and its goals. Google values content created or edited by people with expertise in the topic. The common go-to for this is guest posting.

  18. The text you use to link to other pages matter. The better this text is, the better it is for both users and Google. It helps to understand more about the page you’re linking to and how it relates to your content.

  19. Images often take up most of your page weight—the file size of your website. Maximize their leverage with image sitemaps, alt attributes, and minimizing their file size for better page speed.

  20. Google sums it up well. Serve high-quality content to users. Content that is fast and easy to access on all devices, on a secure website.