After years of SEO professionals gaming the search engines, the big dogs like Google, Yahoo! and Bing began to get wise to these evolving tactics, forcing optimizers to adapt their approach again and again. In recent years, search engines, especially Google, has released a slew of updates and algorithmic revisions aimed at debunking efforts to manipulate rankings. The changes have been a major victory for Google, effectively sabotaging the potency of SEO as a marketing tactic. The first of these updates, released by Google, signaled a major philosophical shift toward playing favorites with large and well-known corporate brands in their search rankings. Soon after, Google launched a series of changes that established quality standard for websites. These included user behavior such as the length of time a visitor spent on a given website before returning to the search results page and social signals, such as how often a website is mentioned in social media circles. The implementation of these new parameters has set the stage for heightened scrutiny of websites based on less tangible criteria like offline reputation and how end users actually feel about the websites. On the whole, the search engine industry has moved away from the tactical methods up to this point have been used and gamed so pervasively.
So what can you do? How can you maintain your internet marketing A-game as Google systematically dismantles any and all marketing endeavors that bear even the slightest resemblance to traditional SEO tactics? The bad news is that you’re going to have to change the game—adopt new content strategies and marketing techniques. The good news, however, is that we can tell exactly how you can do this: the answer is original and ongoing content development.
- Tip 1: Stock your website with loads of high quality original content. This is a legitimate way to get found organically. If you have an abundance of interesting, engaging, valuable content offered on your website, you’ll stand a pretty good chance of attracting new customers and engaging returning ones. For example, if your homepage is filled with quality articles, tidbits, photos, graphics and/or links, a visitor is far more likely to take their time exploring your site. Users who spend lengthy visits interacting with your site content are helping you satisfy Google’s user behavior requirements fairly and completely organically. Keep it up! Maybe we’ll see you at the top of the search rankings by the end of this blog post!
- Tip 2: Google’s primary focus has always been to deliver relevant content to searchers, period. That’s it, folks—content relevancy is the name of Google’s game. So when searchers track down your site to find an arsenal of quality content that is extremely relevant to what they had been looking for. Here are some tips for you to take advantage of this shift in what Google tolerates in regard to SEO:
- Record an info-packed video of a job installation and post it to your company’s YouTube account. It’s a great way to expand your online presence
- Leverage content you would not think to use at first glance. This goes for work orders, estimates and invoices, all of which can be turned them into web features or blog posts.
- Sync your blog with your social media accounts and automate the delivery of new content, expanding your reach to sites like Facebook and Twitter. (Bonus tip! Twitter is a good utility to use to get your pages indexed by Google fast)
- Have a writer listen to, document and analyze all call recordings. Generate a uniform report that tracks the success of each CSR/customer interaction. This report should maintain a format that identifies the caller’s pain points, objectives, unique challenges and goals and finally a suggested solution. Optimize this content for local search by posting a transcript of a particularly friendly and productive service call and publish it on your blog.
Although each of these updates to Google’s search algorithm did their part to progressively weaken outside SEO efforts, its real death knell came in 2011 when Google’s first Panda update was released. Panda didn’t make very many friends—quickly instituting sweeping reforms to its search rankings and eliminating upwards of 12% of its index, due to widespread low quality content. A number of releases and updates followed—each more anti-SEO than the last. And then, finally, in 2012, Google’s Penguin updates began discounting the sophisticated inbound link structures altogether. With this final nail in the coffin, the SEO we once knew was dead.
Today’s online businesses must be prepared to thrive in a post-SEO environment. Until now, the practice of SEO has been highly strategic yet almost knee-jerk in nature—just figure out what the search engines want (what factors they assign value to) and adapt to it fast. Though if you were to listen to certain SEO thought leaders these days, you’ll hear that no matter how fast or hard you work, basic tactical reaction just isn’t going to be a workable SEO strategy going forward. In fact, many companies are likely to already be feeling the pain as they struggle though outdated SEO plans that have become increasingly cost-ineffective. For this reason, online advertisers need to get back to their roots, so to speak. The next internet marketing revolution will begin beyond what traditional search rankings have to offer. In the future, as shady SEO tactics fall to disuse, some industry watchers are predicting a return to traditional advertising tactics for business and brand building efforts that have been the foundation of building businesses for the centuries before SEO burst on to the scene, lived fast, peaked early, died young and left a fully optimized corpse.
Farewell, SEO. We hardly knew ye.
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