The world of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) has changed radically in the last year. (SEO is marketing language for how easy it is for search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo to find your website.) You may have heard of Google’s “Penguin” or “Panda” updates.
The reality is that the search engines have made several big changes in the way that they calculate which websites best match a user’s search query. Everything that you may have been told by your SEO consultant in the past is likely to no longer be true. Gone are the days where your HTML code and tag structure were important; and repetition may hurt your ranking.
It’s not about keywords, it’s about subject matter expertise
The search engines aren’t dumb. They figured out pretty quickly that SPAM websites were working very hard to “game the system” by repeating several high-traffic keywords over and over. Unfortunately, many legitimate business owners had also been using those same strategies. If you saw your search strength go down dramatically in the last 12 months (meaning that the percentage of traffic you get from search dropped significantly, or that you used to be on the first page of Google but now you’re showing up on page 12), you are probably overusing keyword repetition.
In a new world that is all about content marketing, what you choose to talk about on your website is more important than how you talk about it. In an ideal world, you should not ever plan to focus on more than three featured topic areas. For example, you might choose bathroom remodeling, kitchen remodeling, and basement finishing as the top three things your business does. Everything you post on your website (blogs, project photos, local events, industry news, etc.) should focus on at least one of those topics. Remember, the search engines are now looking for subject matter experts, not generalists.
It’s not about page titles, it’s about content structure
In the “old” world of SEO (Search Engine Optimization), there were some very basic rules to follow: make sure you have keywords in your page title, use keywords at least 4-5 times in your paragraphs on those pages, and make sure you have all of your meta tags and meta keywords coded in your HTML. None of these are very helpful anymore – and overuse of keywords in your writing can actually cause your website to be ranked LOWER in today’s search engine algorithms. Remember, search engines are wary of people gaming the system.
Because search engines rank subject matter experts higher than sites that seem like they’re trying to hard to do well on certain topics, consider redesigning your navigation to classify all of your content into one of your specialty topics. If we continue using the same example above, we might change that website’s navigation to read: Home, Bathroom Remodeling, Kitchen Remodeling, Basement Finishing, About, Contact Us. Any new content posted should fit into one of those categories and the URL for anything would include those keywords. (Example: http://www.awesomeremodelers.com/bathroom-remodeling/main-street-project-photos)
It’s not about having lots of content, it’s about experts
Finally, if you haven’t paid much attention to who writes for your website, now is the time to reassess your strategy. Author rank is becoming extremely important for SEO in the new landscape. Author rank is where Google is actively finding people who write about the same topics on multiple website and assigning them higher search ranking because many people believe them to be an expert on that topic (otherwise, why would so many people ask you to write about that topic across websites?). Experts on SEO must understand how to incorporate the author rank into every new piece of content created to make sure that their influence is part of a search engine’s process.
In short, the new search engine optimization technologies operate less like computer algorithms and more like reporters sniffing out a good story and chasing down qualified sources. In coming issues, we will focus on how to change your strategy accordingly for each of these three areas.