With all the Google algorithm updates recently, it’s easy to feel like it’s only a matter of time before Google finds your site and annihilates it. However, you don’t have to live in fear. By learning how SEO works, you can keep your site functioning way into the next generation of algorithms. Here are a few tips and examples from Jurassic Park to help you understand SEO and how it can benefit your site.
Don’t Overcomplicate Your Site
Jurassic Park’s mathematician and chaos theorist Ian Malcolm only wears black or gray clothing, because he finds fashion trivial. He doesn’t want to waste his time thinking about clothing, so he’s created this simple solution, freeing his mind to think about more important subjects.
Adopt Malcolm’s attitude for your site. There are a lot of aspects to your site you can spend time on. Some are less important than others. Obviously, you want a visually-appealing site, but don’t overcomplicate the visuals.
Here’s a screenshot of a pretty basic home page for a dinosaur museum. The theme is consistent, but not over-powering, and the text is easy to read. The page itself is very user-friendly, making it simple to navigate to different parts of the site. It’s even mobile-friendly.
By contrast, here’s a different dinosaur museum home page:
Parts of the home page are well-organized, but the vast majority of it is a messy hodge-podge of pictures and text that don’t mesh well with the color scheme. Simply put, there is too much going on.
When it comes to building a home page, less is more, and that’s a mantra you should take to all levels of your site. Don’t create a complicated design that will send your human traffic running through the interwebs.
Google is getting better and better at knowing when a site is built for humans or spiders, and the ones with the quality content, graphics, and appearance that humans appreciate are the sites that benefit. Stay simple—it’ll help your SEO.
Understand the Modifications You Make
At different points in both the Jurassic Park book and movie, paleobotanist Ellie Sattler comments on the plants around the visitor’s center. These plants are poisonous, but they’ve been placed in areas highly accessible by guests who may not know to stay away from them. When Sattler questions the choices, she is told the plants were chosen because they’re visually-appealing. The park’s officials hadn’t even realized the plants are poisonous.
Much like with the Jurassic Park vegetation, SEO is complicated. While you’ll want to implement all the modifications you can to help your site, make sure that you fully understand the implications of those changes before you make them. Know why you should do them, and what they will do.
For example, meta descriptions are a very basic type of SEO. Although they don’t affect the rankings themselves, they can still impact whether or not a person visits your site from the SERP’s. That description is the first thing people read about your site in the results, and you want to make sure it sums up your site correctly, in a way real people understand.
At the same time, you want to keep it short, because it’ll get truncated if it’s longer than about 160 characters. You don’t want to go through the trouble of writing a meta description to get people to go to your site, only to have it shortened. Here are two meta descriptions, one that works and one that doesn’t. Which site which you be more likely to go to?
Based solely off the meta descriptions, anyone wanting to learn more about dinosaurs would choose PBS Kids, even though Enchanted Learning is higher in the results.
Each modification you make has the potential to work hand-in-hand with all the others, and when you understand them, you can hone in on that potential. You’ll also be far less likely to make any mistakes that will damage your site’s SEO.
Know the Consequences
In the book, Ian Malcolm says that most of the park’s officials have what he calls “thintelligence,” meaning that they are narrow thinkers who can’t see the big picture, but believe they are simply being focused. This is a problem because that narrow thinking prevents them from knowing the consequences of their actions, which leads them in to trouble. According to Malcolm, in order to be truly intelligent, you have to be able to see your surroundings and have at least a basic understanding of the possible outcomes.
Just like understanding what you’re doing is important, so is knowing the consequences and seeing the bigger picture. The two go hand-in-hand. You should know how your SEO will be affected by something before you do it.
People who practice white hat SEO understand these things, and they act transparently to achieve the best result. Those who practice black hat SEO fall more into Malcolm’s “thintelligence” category. They become so focused on the rankings that they lose sight of the bigger picture, and eventually, their site ends up taking a hit for that short-sighted vision.
Sometimes it takes a while for Google to find the rule breakers, but just how Jurassic Park eventually fell apart and those in charge realized their error, so will those who practice black hat SEO. Thintelligence isn’t for the intelligent.
Ask the Right Question
While in Jurassic Park, paleontologist Alan Grant finds some raptor egg shells that lead him to ask some important questions. While Grant and Malcolm are still on the tour, they radio Ray Arnold, the chief engineer of the park, who is at the visitor’s center. They ask him to run some tests on the dinosaur count in the park.
The computers in the park were set up to count up to a certain number of dinosaurs, rather than all the dinosaurs in the park. By adjusting the number the computer is looking for, they discover that the dinosaurs are breeding and there are almost 60 more dinosaurs than they thought.
Similarly, SEO is all about asking the right questions. What keyword should you optimize for? What sites should you link to? If you don’t ask the right questions, you won’t find the information you need. Instead of asking if there are 238 dinosaurs in the park, ask how many dinosaurs are in the park.
With the wrong questions, you could end up optimizing your startup business site for a keyword like “paid time off.” Sure, it’s business-related, but, as a startup, you’re probably not focused on employee benefits like that yet. Optimizing for it won’t help your site, because it’s not something you offer.
Gear your site in the right direction by having focus and asking the right questions. Then you’ll know exactly what type of SEO you need.
By utilizing these tips, you’ll have almost everything you need to keep your site optimized in the best way possible, so the next Google algorithm doesn’t knock you back a page or two. You can have the rankings you deserve and show the hard work you’ve put into your site. With that, you can really guarantee that your site won’t join the dinosaurs in extinction.
Image credit: Malpass93 via Wikimedia Commons
Screenshot taken 12/23/2013 of www.dinosaurpark.org
Screenshot taken 12/23/2013 of www.cabazondinosaurs.com
Screenshot taken 12/23/2013 of www.google.com search results
Image credit: Cliff via Flickr