The world of SEO has been a delicate little ecosphere over the last 15 years and hasn’t necessarily evolved as rapidly as the rest of the web. This has led to some marketeers telling me that SEO is now a waste of time and I should focus on other areas. Further gravitas has been given to this stance with the announcement by Matt Cutts that Google are trialling versions of its search engine which are not powered by links.
Add to this the very recent algorithm change released by Google – Panda 4, which puts even websites such as Ebay in a tough spot. Is SEO actually dead, though? Sure, Google put a big dent in our SEO efforts with the (not provided) keywords debacle, but what better time for SEO to begin evolving?
The death of links?
Google have already announced that tactical activity regarding links such as large scale link exchanges and automated programs to plaster the web with self-serving links will no longer affect the PageRank algorithm and, therefore, the site’s ranking in SERP. This doesn’t mean, however, that Google want to exterminate links from the ranking process. I’m very interested, in fact, in Google’s new approach as they’re trying forcing SEO to be less spammy and provide a better user experience.
We’re likely to find that more emphasis is given to the person linking online. Therefore, an expert in the field of soccer who links to a soccer article, will be given more credence by algorithms than a Justin Bieber fan linking to a soccer article. In fact, Google+ is already experimenting by correlating link quality with the strength of the profile displaying the link. I’m intrigued by the change in activity that this could mean for us in the SEO world as keywords may become more redundant as we seek out prominent voices online to give weight to SEO activity. Another thing, which I’ve already noticed, is the activity on the link itself – does it get clicked on or not? If you think about it, it makes sense that links which are clicked on by users, which then continue to an active session on the target website, will be worth more than links which were never seen nor clicked on.
Search vs Social
Social used to be something obscure that mainly meant – getting a lot of tweets or likes. Today SEOs understand that social sites take a significant part in directing high quality traffic as well as referring valuable links. The explosion of social media over the last five years has meant that tweets and shares now act as concise metrics detailing user wants and needs. This correlates with Google’s policy of giving the users what they really want. I personally suspect that authority profiles will probably be worth more, in terms of link sources, and the diversity in types of content being shared might also have some affect on the site’s organic search results.
What we need to do, in the SEO community, is identify how search is taking these social signals and building them into their results. I suspect that people’s recommendations will hold more gravitas over the number of links online and this will become the backbone of SERP. Of course, we can’t forget that there are essentially two generations online – one that has grown up with and incorporated social media into their lives and one which grew up operating in a non-digital world. Therefore, search can still be used to power social traffic channels and social media retains a role in improving search results. It would be foolish to take our eyes off either avenues and ignore a large chunk of the market.
Playing the pay game
The content of Google’s SERP has changed in the last 12 months with paid results experiencing dramatic growth; organic results have found themselves sliding down the page due to additional paid results, plus content suggestions results such as – Google news, Google images and related videos to the search term the user had typed. I feel that the next logical step for SEO will be to begin working hand in hand with PPC campaigns. This can be achieved via methods such as sharing PPC copy which works with SEO teams and providing details on which keywords are profitable to boost SEO and, as a result, conversion rates.
Google are market leaders in improving user experience and their analysis of the web has become even stronger due to their new Hummingbird algorithm. It promises to provide a much more personalized experience for users via features such as ‘conversational search’ which provides a more natural feel to the search process. This approach means that the importance invested in long tailed keywords will increase. The focus will be on the question a user is answering rather than specific keywords e.g. “best place to get pizza in new york” will provide more context to results as opposed to “pizza new york”.
Hummingbird, though, also threatens to disrupt the work of SEO due to the power of Google’s Information Card. Say, for example, someone wanted to find out who the members of the Jackson 5 were – they would type “who were the members of the Jackson 5” into Google and the top ranking site would provide the answers. Although these sites will still have the same rank, Google beats them to the top spot with the following:
It gives the user exactly what they’re asking for, but it’s fairly shallow in content. This is where SEO can really begin to gain ground and offer a more favorable alternative – content rich webpages will mean that Google’s Information Card isn’t necessarily enough for users looking for a more detailed experience.
Dealing with customers more closely
Due to this new content hungry landscape, we’ll need to be working more closely with our clients. They need to be advised of the changes in the SEO world and how more investment is key to keep up. The client’s intended message needs to be conveyed via SEO, so we need to improve communication to ensure client feedback is observed to help projects move swiftly.
It’s the dawning of a new age for SEO, so the methods involved in optimizing conversion rates are going to change. Getting in there early is paramount to make sure you can stay competitive in the marketplace. Analyzing the changes being implemented online is essential in ensuring we can provide the best solutions to our client’s ranking needs. Investment in man hours and new skills are necessary to achieve this, so it may seem challenging at first, but not out of reach. This investment should allow us to combat obstacles such as (not provided) keywords and catch people’s attention with content rich SEO which surpasses Google’s Information Card. Once these needs can be met then SEO will begin to thrive again.
Using SimilarWeb PRO to boost your SEO
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