April-30, 2012: With all Google updates (Panda, Webspam, Penguin), algorithm roll outs and changes, search results are not the same and so is ranking. SEO has changed altogether in the last couple of months. Google has been quality conscious since its start, and that explains why it grabbed over 70% of the market share shortly after its launch, however recent changes are far more than “quality user experience” as Google claims. There must be some political, financial or socioeconomic factors that a simple user might not imagine, but technically speaking, the most recent Penguin changes harmed more that it fixed the “so called” quality of search as it has been evident after many comparisons you can find on different blogs/forums. I have also did extensive comparisons and research for my clients in different niche, ran several reports to see the authority or the quality of current ranking sites and most of the results I found were of poor quality.
Having said that, this post is not explaining the recent Google changes or the Penguin update, but here I will discuss more in general the future of SEO and how the future SEO is going to be done and whether or not SEO still exists?
SEO is Dead vs SEO is not Dead!
You will read this in many posts/forums that SEO is dead. From my personal view point, SEO is dead for those who were mainly relying on standard SEO process that includes, keyword rich content and URL, related METAs, keyword stuffing and placement, and then building link to appropriate anchor text for each URL on high PR blogs, or paid sites to raise ranking. This is not going to work anymore, and SEO is really dead for such a process.
SEO is not dead, if you still believe in quality sites, better user experience and natural flow to your websites in its content, URL structure, METAs and how you link to your site. Starting April 25, with the recent Penguin update, Google is primarily looking at site authority and page authority and accordingly benefit in SERP. Going forward, it won’t make much sense to optimize a single keywords or keywords for that matter. Going forward, it will matter how strong your page is that you are trying to rank for a given set of keywords.
Future of SEO:
Even though Matt Cutts says we would encourage only white hat SEO or even no SEO, I wonder how those million dollar sites will rank at the first place? How are those sites going to sit and hold on ranking solely on the mercy of Google to get there expenses met? So the point is, that the white hat SEO has to exist, but it has to be done more discreetly, naturally and slowly without focusing on keywords and much longer wait time for a page to increase in ranking, having a little control over SEO SERP.
No doubt, SEO has to stay, but not in the same form it used to be in the past several years. Now the job of an SEO consultant or company has become more tactful than ever. Job of SEO is now to improve your site authority based on how unique and interesting content it has, how little emphasis has been done on pinpointing keywords for search engines, how strong social signals it gets, and which authority sites are linking to it using the site URL, and not the anchor text. These linking sites, must be of the same niche and must have an apparent natural interest in linking back to your site (genuine press release with a link back to your new product page www.example.com/product-x is a good example)
If you are an SEO company or your sites are mainly depending on organic traffic and you need your site to be in good books of Google, here is a list of future SEO steps that you need to take to make sure, nothing shakes your site even with another one hundred Google roll outs during the course of coming years.
- Start with a fresh new domain or site name if you can, to make sure that you know you are doing it right from the start.
- If you are engaged (or married) to your old site, then remove all the old links you had on it (as much as you can), make it off-line, change DNS, IP/hosting, a new design, URL structure with fresh content based on above recommendations or Google quality guidelines and make a fresh start.
- Make a structure of the site that is logical, and as you would want this structure to be like for your visitors/users if search engines didn’t exist. Use WordPress example, make categories, subcategories to put your products/service under proper URL. Make your homepage targeting general services you provide in your niche.
- Create a blog and write thoughtful, researched articles on it at least twice a week. Link these articles to your social media and tweet them so you get social signals to your valuable content, that’s one important thing to raise your immunity against web-spam curse.
- Each page (or URL) on your site must be very specific to one of the products or services or a category. If you are selling used phones, then make a category for each brand and then subcategory for each version/model of it. The MOST important thing here to remember is that don’t mix several keywords in different URLs or you will never rank in this new changing Google search algo. This is what Google calls poor quality or repeated content.
- Have a strong presence in social networks and engage users to get back to your site through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube etc. Write valuable articles in your blog and post excerpts on your social network and link to URL on your site for “read more”, this is a good way of increasing your site and content authority and let people spend more time on your site.
- Do a monthly genuine press release about anything that you have started or accomplished in your business and get a legitimate link back to your site (using URL not the anchor text)
- Submit your site do different niche directories using URL, the directories that have visitors and not the SEO optimized directories just to get a link back. Find local business directories to spread word about your services.
- Don’t worry about PR of the page you get link to, do worry about the relativity of the site that links to you. High PR still has effect on your site authority but the old myth of having lot of high PR links getting you higher in SERP doesn’t work anymore. Two top ranking sites in financial industry in Google UK, have only 2 backlinks and zero PR.
- Do research, a lot of research, to find sites that relate to your niche and request a link back using a guest blog or partnership. Make majority of your links using your URL (home or subpages) and not the anchor texts. I would suggest 70% at least. Google will determine the keywords through your content and META to promote them once your page gets authority, that’s why it makes sense to keep each page very specific to a single keyword or a group of similar keywords.
- Create some genuine profile links, genuine means that fill in all the data in the profile link, and update it weekly with any fresh news from your site and link these profiles to your site and social media, make it more social by linking to other similar profiles.
- Don’t over optimize your content, or METAs. 3-5% of keyword density rule doesn’t work anymore. See how naturally you can keep your keywords as you write. Try not to write a lot of content on your homepage, rather make it to the point as an introduction to your services and site, give details in subpages.
- Try putting any industry seals, certificates, badges, buttons etc that can produce authority to your site. Creating an SSL certificate to make it a trustworthy site is a great idea as well. Get memberships in your industry and mention it on your homepage.
- Avoid any sort of paid links, link schemes, or links to any sites that are not quality sites based on new Google algorithm, means they are not providing user experience, rather they are there to give links back to one who wants them, this includes blog networks etc etc.
- Check for Alexa ranking of the sites you link to, to make sure they have reasonable visits and just not high PR websites to get a backlink.
- Don’t link to any site that you are not 100% sure even if you are offered a free link and even if it’s a high PR site.
- Make announcements on your homepage every now and then for any updates in your business, just don’t leave it as a static page.
- Participate in active forums and blogs (commenting) for a long-term strategy. Become authority members or old members in those forums/blogs and give your genuine, authentic opinion of the post, having a link to your URL after getting a good place in such forums will help your site greatly. Try posting at least 10 authority comments in each forum or blog to start with to get confidence of the forum owner.
- Research for blogs in your niche and offer them high quality researched content as guest blog, even against a fee. That should be considered contextual link and should give your site good authority.
- Monitor your ranking regularly and see the behaviour of Google or other search engines and tweak your strategy based on that regularly.
- Dont worry about number of links, just the quality, relevancy and frequency. Increase backlinks frequency gradually and maintain it month after month so it doesn’t sound unnatural to Google. Having 100 links in May and zero links in June can raise “doubts” in search engines.
- Protect your site from outside attacks, hacks and unauthorized access and links. Keep a track of all your links and monitor for any unnatural links that you didn’t create to make sure no one is using negative SEO as a tool to tank your site. There are plenty of tools that can give you timely reporting on who is linking to you.
More to come as time permits …. thanks for reading and if you like it share it with your friends.