If you depend on Organic website traffic for new and returning business, it’s important to understand the effects that search engine algorithm updates can have on your web traffic. Usually run to prevent search spam and improve the SERPs, search engine algorithm updates can be confusing for web masters and interactive marketers. Learn about the latest algorithm updates and what they mean for your website.
Last week, Google announced the release of its new algorithm – Hummingbird.
Hummingbird represents a move toward semantic search. That is, it’s Google’s attempt to interpret the user’s intent in order quickly to deliver precisely what the user is searching for. To do this, Hummingbird interprets an entire string of text from a search (aka the long tail) rather than a few keywords.
For content creators, this means that if you’ve been using content best practices – creating fresh, interesting, sharable content – you have nothing to worry about. If, on the other hand, you’ve been relying on old, outdated content that’s optimized for search engines, rather than users, it’s time to change your strategy.
Content Strategy in the Age of Hummingbird
During client trainings, and in strategy docs, we often preach “content as customer service.” This means creating content your users want and need.
How do you know what they want and need?
1. Ask them. Turn to social media to connect with your users. What do they need? What do they want? How can you help them?
2. Read industry forums and blogs. And don’t just read the main content, read the comments. Comments sections are a wealth of information not only about the subject, but also what users are struggling with, and how they’re finding solutions.
3. Perform keyword research. Yes, keyword research is still meaningful – especially when you look beyond two and three-word phrases and toward the long tail.
When it comes down to creating that content, best practices still apply:
• Create content for users, not search engines. This means using natural language and writing for your audience.
• Create visual, sharable user-friendly content.
• Keep your website fresh by continually adding content.
• Include social media sharing options on your website.
• Share your content in relevant social media channels.
Remember that Google’s primary focus, as far as search is concerned, is delivering good content to its users. If you’re creating good content for your users, you will have a website that will withstand any algorithm change.
Although many people have heard about Google’s Penguin Algorithm updates and know that they can have a large impact on their website’s presence within Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs), many of those same people aren’t aware of issues that may cause a website to be affected by them. While there are many things that can cause your website’s presence to be affected by these updates, we have seen one common pain point within the SEO industry. This is when websites have inbound links from site-wide elements that do not fall within Google’s Quality Guidelines.
Site-wide links include any link that can be found on every page of a website. These are often contained within a website’s site-wide footer or sidebar. For example, if site A has a link to a page on site B within its site-wide footer, this would create a link on every page of site A pointing to the page on site B. When this occurs, a new link to the page on site B is created any time site A creates a new page on its site. This can result in thousands to hundreds of thousands of links being created that originate from one website and point to a single page.
One common case is when a website has site-wide inbound links from partner websites. To be clear, this is not always problematic, but if the linking is done improperly it can become problematic. One of the reasons that this type of site-wide inbound link can be problematic is that there can be large fluctuations in the amount of inbound links originating from one domain. For example if site A is an ecommerce website with hundreds of thousands of pages and contains a site-wide link to site B, there could be thousands of links lost or gained each week based upon how often site A updates it’s product pages. When there are such large fluctuations in a site’s inbound link portfolio, Google’s algorithm will likely take notice.
If you are utilizing a website for your business, and especially if you are utilizing multiple websites, it is extremely important to consistently check your inbound link portfolio. You can find out more information about who is linking to your website in our blog post about Google Webmaster Tools. If you notice a large amount of inbound links originating from a single domain, it is important to take a closer look. Ensure that any site-wide inbound links fall within Google’s quality guidelines and consider having an SEO professional analyze all of the inbound links pointing to your website.
If you’ve been ignoring SEO in favor of other marketing efforts, it may be time to change your strategy. In its annual report, out this week, Forrester Research stated that more survey respondents found websites by organic means then any other method — up 4% from 50% in 2011 to 54% in 2012. In other words, the importance of SEO continues to grow.
The report also indicates the growing influence of social media marketing, as its own numbers climbed 7% from last year to 32%.
While this doesn’t mean you should dump your Adwords budget in favor of SEO, it does mean that it’s time to take an “all in” approach to internet marketing — combining SEO, Social and PPC marketing — for a powerful cocktail that creates the kind of ubiquity needed to build brand recognition and drive conversions.
How Do You Get Started?
SEO is a complex combination of technical configurations, on- and offsite keyword optimized (and user-friendly) content, and website popularity.
Before you do anything with content, it’s extremely important to make sure that there are no technical configurations standing in the way of having your content seen — and crawled — by the search engines. Then, it’s time to determine how your users are searching — and what they want to know.
Then and only then should you begin creating content. This content should live on your site and on other relevant sites, including social networks.
While time consuming, SEO is an extremely rewarding marketing method. Should you ever again doubt the importance of SEO, just look at the numbers. And ask yourself: How important is it that the majority of your potential customers find your website?
How do you stack up against your competitors? Request a FREE Search Engine Visibility Report.