Search engine optimization (SEO) has undergone quite a transformation over the last year. Optimization techniques that used to be good are now bad; optimization techniques used to be marginal are now central.
As a consequence, firms that have failed to update their SEO arsenals may be firing blanks – or even worse, shooting themselves in the foot. Here are three of the most important adjustments every company should be making, starting yesterday.
Back in the day, acquiring inbound links was an exercise in “the more, the merrier.” However, Google has gotten very good at evaluating the quality of sites linking to you; therefore, if links to your site come from suspicious sources, Google will ignore them or even penalize you for them.
Looking backward, firms should clean up their link profiles by, wherever possible, severing links from bad sources such as link farms, certain article banks and directories, certain types of reciprocal links, and most types of paid links.
Looking forward, firms must be selective in building links, making sure the sources of those links are credible and relevant. Quality, not quantity, is more important than ever before.
Link Anchor Text
While it is going too far to say that today the reverse is true, Google is definitely looking for links with “natural” anchor text. When Google sees nothing but keyword-optimized links, it gets suspicious. Natural anchor text is what normal people would use, as opposed to what SEO tacticians would use. Today, the best bet is to change up anchor text to a given web page with a variety of:
- URLs (e.g., http://www.straightnorth.com/drupal-websites).
- Click here, learn more, etc.
- Your company name.
Today, SEO specialists and the firms that hire them need to think like their target prospects and customers, not like technicians.
Quality Content and Authorship
Back in the day, quality didn’t much enter into the equation. For SEO purposes, content was basically a bunch of keywords padded with pronouns, conjunctions and punctuation. Again, the emphasis was on quantity – how many keywords can we publish anywhere and everywhere?
Understandably, Google has no interest in ranking that kind of content, since it has little or no value to readers. And as Google has become more sophisticated in evaluating quality, it can now separate the wheat from the chaff and give the best rankings to the best content.
On a related front, Google Authorship is a new program that connects authors to their content, regardless of where it is published. The more authoritative the author, the more search visibility the author’s content will have.
This new emphasis on quality and authorship has enormous implications. In the past, firms could outsource SEO content to anybody with a keyboard and watch their traffic increase. Going forward, it will be increasingly necessary for firms to generate their own content – and it will have to be pretty darn good in order to move the dial on rankings.
Strategically, the best way to approach SEO is to focus on readers and pretend SEO didn’t exist at all. Google and all the other search engines want to give users links to content that are relevant, authoritative and helpful. This is a high standard, but it’s the right standard, and one that forces businesses to succeed at being relevant, authoritative and helpful in order to succeed at SEO.
From an advertising perspective, this is terrific news. In the past, SEO was rather disconnected from such things as establishing thought leadership and building brand loyalty. But today, with quality being such a priority for search engines, firms can’t have one without the others.