2013 was a big year for SEO and content. With many updates, a Google algorithm change and an even tighter focus on content; the online marketing landscape changed forever. We’ve been preaching it the whole year and we’ll say it again – content is the underlying factor that will make or break your website.
Panda, Penguin And Their Legacies
Panda and Penguin have become a part of everyday conversation in online marketing circles. Panda updates downgraded the rankings of sites with poor or “thin” content, while Penguin took stabs at sites making use of dodgy link building tactics.
Feeling the brunt of their wrath is not something to be taken lightly, as once a notification has been received from Google in line with violations, it’s extremely difficult to recover.
The moral of the story? Only offer fresh, original, valuable content to users that speaks in line with something you have extensive knowledge in. And don’t employ dodgy link building tactics. If someone is saying they’ll build you X amount of links per month, that’s already a bad start. Link building as a whole is now a piece of the content production puzzle.
Enter The Hummingbird
One of the biggest changes for SEO, content and marketing had to be the algorithm change – it wasn’t simply another update – where Google completely altered the algorithm in favour of semantic search and a more intelligent system of recognising search queries. What does Hummingbird bring to the table?
- More extensive results that interpret a search query as a whole and not as individual keywords that are strung together
- Results for more conversational queries – such as “where is the closest restaurant to me?” – making use of location specific search, previous search history and interpreting real questions asked by real people
- Think of voice recognition software and how you would ask queries if you were speaking normally. This is the direction that Hummingbird is taking search
So what does this mean for online marketers, SEO professionals or anyone trying to market their business online? If you’re already adhering to the Penguin and Panda requirements, then you’re probably okay. If not, you should look at adopting some of these techniques when creating content for your site:
- Think of your content as offering a purpose. What questions does it answer for your readers? What value does it offer? It needs to have purpose and value
- Try and match your content to questions being asked within your niche
- Devise a content marketing strategy that employs both search and content needs – taking the above into account, while also writing for best SEO practice
- Get people to read your stuff! Share it, try and get others to link to it and get your name out there
Important Data “Not Provided”
A huge knock to the SEO community was the security changes Google (and possibly Microsoft soon too) made to protect user’s privacy. All keyword data became “not provided” meaning that marketing professionals could no longer see what keywords people used to find their content. This forced online marketers and SEO professionals into a new direction, making search more about page value than keyword value.
While we used to be able to offer results to our clients stating that “x keyword” was typed in 1,000 times and produced “y result” for a certain page on your site, now we have to rely simply on the page results to determine any success relating to our marketing efforts. How do we do this? In short:
- Create content relating to topics and not keywords
- Track progress via page visits and not keywords
- Analyse your competitors and see what is working for them in terms of the same topics you’re trying to optimise for
- You can still get keyword data from Microsoft – for now, as they are also looking to encrypt their search results – and use that as a sample pool
While these changes all seem to make life a little more difficult, they definitely do make it almost impossible for the “fly-by-night” operations to experience any form of success. The bottom line is, you either do it properly or you shouldn’t bother at all. Happy New Year!
Shout with any queries you make have relating to your own online marketing efforts.