SEO and your
website

*We get a lot of questions from our customers about CloudFlare and how we impact SEO. So when SEO.com signed up for CloudFlare, I thought it would be a great opportunity to talk to an expert to get the scoop on all things SEO. I was fortunate enough to connect with Derek Perkins, Vice President of Technology at SEO.com. With more than 12 years of industry experience, Derek provided his insight on SEO in general, debunked some of the myths out there, and gave us his take on what really works, and what doesn't, when it comes to SEO and your site.
*

CF - What are the top three tips you can offer for website owners looking to improve their SEO?

DP - Step one - use WordPress and WordPress SEO. For most website owners, a Content Management System is key. The WordPress platform would be my first choice, you don't have to deal with structure of a Wordpress site to make sure it's easily searchable and findable. WordPress ranks high, especially if you activate WordPress SEO by Yoast. A combination of those two alone put you a long way ahead of where smaller business are. Correct structure is a good thing.

Step two - Focus on great content. Sporadic posting is never going to yield a tangible output. The more Google changes their algorithms, the more likely you will get ranked lower if you're not posting often. Just posting frequently however isn't enough. Content has always risen to the top of rankings, and as search engines mature, they are continuing to increase the signal to noise ratio. Posting great content regularly is the key to SEO success.

Step three - find good website hosting that will be elastic. Great content that gets picked up on TechCrunch, Digg, Reddit - any viral site - is going to see heavy spikes in traffic. If you're on a cheap hosting plan you often won't be able to scale to meet demands.

Actually, one of the first things I do is recommend CloudFlare. I love the CDN and scalability, it takes load off of the server so you don't have to worry so much about load spikes.

CF - What are some of the misperceptions with SEO?

DP - A big misperception about SEO is the idea that you have to somehow change your writing or write things that are for search engines instead of humans. That's not the case. A lot of people also say you have to have unnaturally high keyword density and that's the only way you're going to rank. That's not good, it's harmful. Google sees that as if you're writing it specifically for SEO. Search engines try to read content as if they were human. If the content doesn't flow well or read well for a human, chances are it's not going to read well for a search engine or spider.

SEO is all about having good content. Write content you and others would like to read. It is more likely be shared socially, bringing more people to your site, and more people will link back to your site, growing your online presence.

When people think of SEO they tend to focus on the 10 percent that's the little tweaks that SEO companies can do for you, whereas the bulk of the value comes from writing good content.

CF - Web properties care a lot about SEO, what are some good resources for site owners looking to better their SEO rank?

DP - There are a number of places on the web that have good SEO forums. We have a link on our own site,www.SEO.com/forums, that links to a number of the best forums out there. Another great resource is SEOmoz, it's a great place for website owners to start.

CF - What is one thing site owners should be doing to improve their SEO, but probably aren't?

DP - Number one thing that people don't do - they don't have any sort of targets. Content is king, but a lot of it is knowing what specific content is going to be most valuable to them. You can write about two different things that are both interesting, exciting and relevant to your audience, but one is relevant to maybe 10 searches a month, whereas one is relevant to 10,000 searches a month. Having an idea of what pages or blog posts or keywords you're targeting with each will help you tailor the content.

CF - What are some of the things site owners do that might negatively impact SEO?

DP - Picking the wrong page titles and/or having a malformed HTML structure. There's a lot of SEO weight on title and header tags, you need to have your page title similar to whatever is in your H1 tag. A lot of site owners out there don't have header tags or have them set-up correctly. Even if they have a good title, the title might not be in the HTML header tag. The title and headers help both search engines and more importantly humans identify the focus of the page.

CF - How has your industry changed in the last five years?

DP - I think SEO has a bit of a stigma because of old tactics that people used to use. You used to be able to immediately rank for SEO by using tricks like white text on a white background and various other tactics to gain the system. Even just recently Google has released things like Penguin, making it harder and harder to game the system. It changes how SEO agencies function, shifting the focus from link building to strategic content driven approaches. That has driven a proliferation of socially shareable content like infographics.

CF - You've seen the Google vs Bing commercial search challenge. The commercial claims people choose Bing 2 to 1 over Google. Do you think that's right? What are your thoughts?

DP - Personally, I occasionally use Bing, but I tend to go back to Google. I took the test myself and Bing won 3 to 2, but I felt like the stripped down result pages weren't a perfect test.

CF - Google, Yahoo! and Bing are huge competitors in the search space. What are your thoughts on each? Do any of them stand out as being front runners in the near future?

DP - Bing has been gaining ground, Yahoo!'s results are powered by Microsoft, so Bing and Yahoo! will both show same results. The big two are definitely Google and Bing. You can't ignore Bing when you're tracking rankings, but they are definitely playing second fiddle to Google at this point.

For a long time Google has provided the best search rankings. Whether or not Bing has closed the gap on search, they have an uphill battle. People are used to Google, it's becoming part of the English language. I doubt that anyone outside of Microsoft headquarters has ever said "I don't know the answer, let me go Bing it."

CloudFlare...in his own words

I've been using CloudFlare for over a year now. I had a personal website calledsoccerreviews.com. I built it up to have significant traffic and I was really having server load issues, in addition to having been hacked twice. Because of that, security and scalability was very important to me.

I tried CloudFlare on that site and I now have it on 30 other sites. I have yet to have any of those sites compromised, which has been fantastic.

Once I joined SEO.com, I put us on CloudFlare. One feature I really like about CloudFlare is Rocket Loader. It combines all my javascript files and speeds them up, and they aren't all being downloaded separately, decreasing download time.

As for the impact to SEO, bounce rate plays a very important role in how Google does their rankings - they see that as a human factor in SEO. If someone immediately jumps back to Google, it's obviously not a good human source. A fast site that's always online is sure to help your rankings with lower bounce rates, and having CloudFlare helps to make this possible.