There’s no doubting the world of online marketing, and traditional SEO, have seen much change in recent years. Google has introduced additions to its algorithm, cracked down on link and article directories, and edited its guidelines to include new rules on popular link-building methods such as guest posting, press releases and optimized anchor text.

Amongst the stormy seas caused by the changes, what can you do to keep your site safely riding the waves?

1. Keep your site technically sound

No matter how rough the SEO seas are, one consistency is being certain that the search engines can crawl your site. If Google and Bing struggle, you can’t expect them to show you in their search results!

How do you check? Two starting points. Firstly use Google Webmaster Tools. If you haven’t signed up for it, do so now! Check out the Crawl section of the navigation to see how many times Google has had trouble whilst crawling your site (the Crawl Errors option), then flip to the Google Index tool to see how many pages Google has in its index (Index Status).

Based on these numbers you can start spotting technical issues, as well as URLs you have blocked, if parameters are being handled correctly, and a lot more. Bing’s Webmaster Tools is also worth utilizing.

Secondly, get a detailed look at how spiders interact with your site. Use a crawling tool such as Screaming Frog which lets you crawl your entire site, and spot pages that a crawler can’t access. Similarly, take a look at your page with CSS, Javascript and images turned off (a browser add-on such as Web Developer can help) – this let’s you see your page as Google does. Can’t see an important element or navigation? Then there’s a chance neither can a search engine.

2. Be honest about your content

Google’s Panda update was specifically designed to weed out sites with low-quality or duplicated content. The search engines are desperately keen to reward the most original, interesting and informative content, as that’s what searchers want. Keen to survive SEO turbulence? Take a look at your content:

  • Are any pages ‘thin’ – the same content with a minor difference in keyword target? Consider combining into one page.
  • Do you have unoriginal content, such as a product page using the manufacturer’s description? This might struggle to outrank other sites with original content, let alone the original page. Re-write them with your original take on the product or topic.
  • Do you have duplicate content? Look in Webmaster Tools at the HTML Improvements in the Search Appearance option – duplicate meta descriptions or title tags are clues about Google finding the same content more than once. Screaming Frog can also help with this.

Duplicate content is often caused by canonicalization issues. Can you reach your homepage with both the www. and non-www. versions of the domain? With https:// and https://? With /index.html or similar at the end? Google counts all these as different pages, so your server needs to be configured to redirect to one canonical URL for each page.

3. Clean your backlinks

Google has become serious about webspam, building low-quality links to game their algorithm. Using Webmaster Tools (yes, once again!), take a look at the Manual Actions option within Search Traffic. If you see an action in here you know you’ve already got a penalty and need to do some work.

If you are all clear you shouldn’t relax too much. Instead be proactive and assess your backlinks. Download them from Google or Bing Webmaster Tools or one of the popular link tools such as Majestic SEO, Ahrefs or Open Site Explorer. You can either examine them by hand or use an external tool such as LinkRisk to do some of the analysis for you. Either way, if you are not happy with your profile, have the poor links removed or put together a disavow list to say you don’t want them to count.

The final thing to remember is that the very definition of SEO itself has changed. Discussion on what encompasses ‘SEO’ today is rampant, but whether it’s called SEO, online marketing, digital marketing, inbound marketing, or even growth hacking, being adaptable and monitoring the basics is what will keep you afloat.

Keeping your site ship-shape and watertight is a great foundation – one from which you can launch more advanced campaigns. What recommendations do you have for keeping a site anchored?