Marketing professionals, solopreneurs, small business owners, and even digital agencies often find themselves bewildered when it comes to Search Engine Optimization. This is because there are no set parameters to win at SEO. And since there’s no quick guide to SEO per se, we spoke with Bill Hartzer, CEO of Hartzer Consulting, and ace SEO expert, to share a short and informative lowdown on everything SEO.
1. How has SEO evolved in the last two decades?
At the beginning (the late 1990s to early 2000s), the focus was more on the on-page and on-site SEO. HTML markup was necessary. Then, we saw a strong focus on off-page and off-site issues, mainly links from other websites and anchor text links that seemed to be more critical than on-site and on-page SEO.
Now, in the past few years, the on-page and on-site issues have been increasingly important, where sites and pages can “rank well” if the content and on-page & on-site SEO is done well.
2. Do domain names or the choice of domain extensions affect SEO? Will the new domain extensions negatively impact your SEO?
Technically speaking, all domain names have the same opportunity to rank well in the search engine results pages. There is some bias when it comes to crawling and indexing, but ultimately all of the domain name extensions (TLDs) have the same opportunity for rankings and search engine visibility. When choosing a domain name, though, I prefer to have the keyword in the domain name, either in the beginning or the ending.
If the main keyword or topic is in the domain name and matches the content on the site, then it has a better chance of being referred to by other websites in a way that helps SEO. For example, if a website about Red Bond uses Red.bond for its domain name, other sites will refer to it and link it to the anchor text “red bond.” That ends up helping, rather than hurting, a website’s ability to rank well.
3. What are the best SEO techniques for a new website?
For a new website, it’s essential to focus on the site’s content, but also on the on-page SEO. The website will need some links from other quality websites, but pages can rank fairly quickly if you spend time developing quality content and optimizing the pages. For instance, starting a blog for your website would surely help with SEO.
From an SEO standpoint, are there any hidden or indirect advantages of choosing a name with a new domain extension?
I wouldn’t necessarily say that there is a hidden or indirect advantage of choosing a domain name with a new domain name extension. However, if you can use an on-topic keyword-rich domain name in a new extension (new TLD), it’s preferred over one that doesn’t have a keyword in the domain name.
4. What best practices or tips would you suggest to anyone who wants to migrate their website from one domain name to another without losing much SEO value?
When migrating a website from one domain name to another, ideally, it’s preferred to take some time to do it. Initially, the new domain name would be, at a minimum, a microsite, a website on the same topic as the website that’s being moved. Give it time to get the microsite crawled and indexed in the search engines. Get some links to it and verify the website in Google Search Console.
Once you’re comfortable that the microsite is indexed, usually a month or two, proceed to move the content over to the microsite. Set up 301 Permanent Redirects from the old website URLs to the new pages on the new domain name. Use the Change of Address tool in Google Search Console to tell them you’ve moved from one domain name to the new domain name.
Then, update any links that you have control over, such as social media profiles and other website listings.
5. How does having a sitemap help with SEO?
There are two types of sitemaps, an HTML sitemap, and an XML sitemap. The HTML sitemap can be helpful for users if it doesn’t have too many links as it tends to get unusable if it contains more than about 50 links on the page. If there are important pages that you need to keep indexed and if it’s a large website, you may want to include those critical pages in the HTML sitemap.
An XML sitemap file, and potentially multiple XML sitemap files are important—to make sure that the search engines can find and crawl all of the pages on your website. While having an XML sitemap won’t help rankings directly, it can indirectly help, as it ensures that all of your pages are index.