Earning your Google Rankings: Not So Easy AnymoreMarch 5th, 2012 by Mackenzie Fogelson
Back in the day (like, a whole year ago) it used to be that you could invest in some good SEO for your website and, with the right keywords, and a few links, you’d be attracting some pretty awesome targeted traffic. Thanks to Google (and we mean that in a good way), this is no longer accurate. Things have changed. A lot.
If you’re one of those people who want to know how to get your website on the first page of Google, you should read on…
Blame it all on a guy named Panda
In the early months of 2011, Google launched an algorithmic update that utterly and irrevocably altered the world of search. Even the practices that ethical search engine marketing companies (ahem. that’s us, by the way) were using were no longer enough.
In a nutshell, here’s what happened:
A engineer-type dude at Google named Navneet Panda engineered some updates to Google’s ranking algorithms. These changes drastically changed many of the rankings websites were accustomed to holding. For some this was very, very good. For many it was…not. The whole world proceeded to freak out. Mass panic in the streets, much headless-chicken behavior, etc.
The Panda update necessitated an evolution in the way we approach SEO and internet marketing. Here’s why:
Before the Panda update all you really needed for decent SEO was a fairly simple checklist:
- build some good content
- integrate some keywords that you researched
- build some links to it
- pat yourself on the back for a job well done
Problem was that a bunch of people, even big, otherwise reputable companies like JC Penney (where grandma buys her shoes! insert sob of betrayal, here), were trying to scam the system. People were generating a ton of mediocre content and farming for links to that content. And, however inadvertently, they were being rewarded in the engines for this shifty behavior with good rankings.
Google was on to them. Panda updates went live. Stuff happened.
It was the search equivalent of heavy artillery fire turned against hordes of rampaging scavengers. Carnage.
When the smoke cleared and the new world order was established, that checklist had gotten a lot less straightforward.
Suddenly Google (and where Google goes, the others soon follow) was a lot more sophisticated about how they parsed the content on your site. The ways they evaluated your trustworthiness and authority, your relevance and appeal had grown up and gained some discernment.
Their reasons were pretty clear: a search engine’s purpose in life is to provide searchers with the best online answers to the questions they ask.
When you ask a question to a human person, how do you evaluate the information you received? You look at the source: how likely are they to know the answer? Has anyone vouched for them? Do they strike you as knowledgeable and trustworthy? You also evaluate the answer: does it make sense? Is it articulate?
The Panda update was Google’s way of applying those very human and instinctual rules to its own search results.
Of course, because of the very nature of the internet as a ginormous computer program, they still had to find ways to do this electronically. And those clever enough and not overly burdened with scruples can always find ways around electronic measures meant to emulate human response.
But the simple (and fortunately moral) truth is…Google hires the very, very clever, too. And they’ve sent a very clear message: we are watching.
Creepy, I know.
But wait, there’s more…
The new reality of search
It’s fairly safe to assume that any further changes Google makes to its code will trend in the direction of ever more human ways of evaluating your information. What this means is that, in both the long- and short-term, the most sustainable way to conduct your SEO is to meet all the standards that actual people demand of those from whom they seek knowledge.
You’ve got to build a community around your brand. You’ve got to be a brand that people know, trust, and want to share.
Links still matter, but the quality of the links have become of even more important. You’ve got to be selective about who you are building relationships with (and stop thinking about it as building links).
Design & user experience, always a factor, is now a screaming necessity. User behavior is one of the ways Google is teaching its engines how to think like people. It is weighed and measured to determine if human people linger on your site or click away quickly. (Word to the wise…most people aren’t wild about a design cluttered with ads and this is one of the first things the humanized search engines seem to have learned).
Pages with low authority (no one links to them, poor content) can drag down the authority of your whole website. There’s no such thing as a throwaway page. Every page on your website needs to be valuable and worthy of being shared (or linked to) by others.
Content must be meaningful. Funny is good, but authentic and relevant are requisite. Be professional and engaging and put your personality into your content. Get the multimedia going: photos, maybe an info-graphic or two. Video if you can manage it. You want you site to have bits that people want to tweet, share, like.
And you really need to pay attention to your metrics. Not just how many unique visits you have on your site, but also: how long do they stay? how many pages do they view? do they share or like? are they talking about you out there in the wide world?
This is why you need web marketing
So, to recap, SEO now means more than just the keywords that you target on your website. You need to think about the bigger web marketing picture (which is brilliantly illustrated in this infographic if we do say so ourselves).
So what does this all mean to you?
What this comes down to is more time spent on generating valuable content and becoming the company you’ve always wanted to be…online. Because really what we’re saying is that if you do all of this and do it right (and Mack Web is behind you every step of the way), you will experience:
- Higher domain authority (trust us, this is important)
- Targeted traffic
- Desired rankings
- An amazing and supportive online community
- More value in your company
- More value for your customers
- Better relationships with your customers
- A clear-eyed view of your company identity and goals (this will change your company, believe us. we know)
If you want more information on how Mack Web Solutions can help your company succeed with web marketing, give us a shout. We’ve got some good stuff to show you.