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How to Hit a Moving Target: What Google’s SEO Evolution Means to You

November 27, 2012

As an online publisher, you know how important Search Engine Optimization is for delivering your content to an interested audience. You also realize too well that the nature of SEO is changing, as the online world continues to evolve. But, sometimes it’s difficult to keep track of how things are changing and what that means for you.

Three Game Changers Brought to You by Google:

1)    Google’s Panda update, introduced in February of 2011, was the first algorithm update that focused on quality of onsite content. Essentially, the aim was to give websites with richer content and a strong user experience higher search rankings than those with poor quality content. The results created higher rankings for news sites and socially networked sites and a drop in ranking for sites with weak content and a lot of advertising. Panda continues to update and Google continues to provide resources that help people understand how to improve the quality of their sites.

2)    Google Penguin came along in April of 2012, with the goal of decreasing rankings of websites that violate their guidelines—through things like keyword stuffing, cloaking (in which the site presents different info to the search engine than the browser) and low-quality linking (where links are bought on other sites, to point to a certain site)—somewhat deceptive means to achieving higher rankings.

3)    At the end of 2011, Google began implementing encrypted searches—and the move went international in March of 2012. Essentially, this means that any searches conducted by a user signed into Google can only be seen by Google and the browser itself. Website analysts still see how someone came to their website through an organic search, but they don’t know what search terms/keywords that person used to get there. Advertisers still have access to that information on their sponsored searches.

What These Changes Mean to You

In the case of Panda and Penguin, Google is trying to maintain a level and fair playing field and protect those who provide authentic, quality content and audience engagement. You’re already a strong player if you’ve focused on creating and presenting quality content. But, what else can you do?

1)    Continue focusing on quality content.

a.     Make it useful, informative and entertaining

b.     Refresh content consistently with articles/blogs of 600 words or more

2)    Build engagement with your target audience and relevant communities.

a.     Create social sharing and bookmarking opportunities

b.     Foster community forums/commenting/discussion

c.     Invite guest bloggers

* Check out this article on Forbes about how they are using Google +.

3)    Make sure your site design is intuitive and user friendly.

a.     Present a clean visual design

b.     Use rich image and video galleries

c.     Implement taxonomy tagging to relate and present relevant content

d.     Make sure users feel comfortable shopping and sharing from your site: present security certificates and a straightforward ecommerce.

What about encrypted searches?

Encrypted searches were designed to protect the user. Unfortunately, they’ve changed ROI tracking for publishers. As Rob O’Regan points out in a recent post:

“Encrypted search queries, which are enabled when a user signs into a Google account, now account for almost 40% of referring traffic data to B2B sites from organic search, according to the Optify study, which examined 424 B2B websites.”

This means that a significant portion of websites doing ROI tracking are losing some level of ability to analyze which keywords are contributing to their site referrals.

Essentially, it looks like one of the arrows in the SEO quiver of tools isn’t shooting as straight as it used to.  What do you do? O’Regan outlines some of the advice provided by Optify. Make the most of what you have and find ways to get the same type of information.

And of course, keep your eye on the target. Inevitably, there are more changes to come.

 

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