When online marketing began to boom, everyone wanted to rank better than competitors in search results. At first, the answer was using keywords anywhere and everywhere. Marketers keyword-stuffed the heck out of every blog post, article and metadata, and content farms began to take over the Internet.
But as writing for the Google robots popularized, much of the Internet became a wasteland of generic, unhelpful content written just for search engine optimization. Google’s humans caught on and began punishing websites trying to game the system with low-quality content and links. Google’s numerous changes in 2014 and a few in 2015 have switched focus from quantity to quality and improving user experience. There is still a need to stick to some traditional SEO tactics, but here are some of the new ways to think about SEO.
Consider design and ease of navigation
SEO in its early stages was all about content, with a focus on links and keywords. As Google and other search engines get smarter, they scan all aspects of a site, including site architecture. When ranking content, Google considers the presentation of the content and whether it’s easy to find. Do you have a robust website architecture that’s easy to navigate, and is your internal linking strategy helpful? Does the site load quickly? Some of the things Google looks for are technical, but at the end of the day, they are characteristics that impact whether a real person has a good or bad experience on your site. Be wary of design trends like parallax design and the impact they may have on SEO before you make any new web design decisions.
Pay attention to mobile
So many consumers search the Internet on their smartphones (80% according to a late 2014 study) that mobile optimization is now a factor in your search ranking. Optimize your website to be mobile friendly so users can pull up your site on their phones and navigate your site easily. If you fail to optimize, you will suffer in mobile search results. Some newer website designs are automatically responsive and resize on mobile, while other websites will need to create a separate mobile version of their site. Find more info on what Google looks for in mobile optimization here.
Keywords aren’t everything
If you’re trying to rank for a certain term, it’s still smart to use that keyword in your headline and early in your body copy, and maybe a few other times. But packing your website with low-quality, keyword stuffed text will no longer help you in search results—in fact, it will now hurt you. What’s more important is creating a strong content strategy with high-quality original content that’s truly helpful to readers. Google is now smart enough to know if content is authoritative, useful and detailed, three traits it now looks for. Avoid keyword stuffing and focus on helping readers. Experts believe that building a strong brand with a top-notch content strategy is now the best way to boost search rankings.
Link quality matters more than quantity
Another old SEO tactic was to get as many inbound links as possible pointing back to your website, regardless of where they came from. Google has penalized websites gaming the system and trying to gain excessive inbound links. Stop worrying so much about link building, and instead focus on creating high-quality content. Excellent content combined with savvy PR and social media efforts will naturally build links back to you, and they will be of better quality, which will naturally help your SEO.
SEO is always changing, and this list of changes isn’t exhaustive, but these new paradigms appear to be here to stay. Shifting from writing for Google’s robots to your human readers will not only provide a better experience for readers and potential customers, but your search rankings should improve. Ask MessageSprout if you have questions about how content can improve your SEO.