The new rules of SEO: Three tactics every company should be using

The world of SEO is constantly evolving and changing. And just when you think you have it figured out, Google comes along and changes the rules again. (And, with all due respect to Bing, let’s face it, Google is the search platform that sets the rules). Google’s most recent release, Hummingbird, is the biggest game changer we’ve seen in three years, and possibly even longer,  impacting more than 90% of all searches worldwide. Since Google quietly rolled out Hummingbird in September there has been a lot of speculation — and disagreement — around just how much of the SEO tried and true best practices have become obsolete. Complicating the matter even further is the removal of keyword data from Google Analytics, making it much more difficult to measure how and which keywords are driving traffic to your site.

So where does this leave online marketers and SEO agencies? Many industry insiders argue that despite the changes, and even the unknown elements of Google’s altered algorithm, SEOs should not abandon basic best practice.”While some people may be panicking that their SEO strategy needs to be revamped, if you’ve been progressing with the natural evolution of SEO, there’s nothing to worry about. You’re on the right track,” explains SearchEngineLand’s Jim Yu. However, if you’re like me you’re probably still feeling a bit nervous about not being able to see that keyword data and are saying “yes, yes, following my existing strategy is all well and good, but what else can I do?” Here are three actionable areas you can expand upon or add into your SEO strategy.

Firstly, make sure you are actively using Google+. “Google’s social network is essential in helping to identify your online brand, connecting it with concepts and serving your content in the Google results,” says Yu. One of the key elements to ensuring you secure a top spot in the SERP, especially against sites with similar content, is how Google ranks your authority and Google+ has a big part to play in this. Actively using the social channel, sharing content, growing your network, and engaging with followers will improve your authority ranking and tell Google your content deserves to be highlighted.

Hummingbird search funnel

Image courtesy of SearchEngineLand.com

Second, consider how your SEM strategy can better support your organic SEO strategy. Benny Blum, Vice President of Performance Marketing and Analytics at SellPoints says that his agency has been looking at ways to get more creative with their PPC in order to benefit their SEO efforts. “PPC has much more immediate and measurable results than SEO, and as a result, we can use paid search as a testing environment for SEO strategies,” explains Blum. “The goal is to provide a proof of concept before investing any long-term resources into a project.” While it might seem risky to spend money on a PPC campaign as a means for “testing” new SEO tactics, chances are your company is already spending money on SEM anyway, so why not utilize the data collected as a means to better inform your SEO efforts? Identify your highest converting and highest cost keywords; use A/B testing to identify ad copy that gets the most conversions and use this to influence your meta descriptions; measure the conversion rates and interaction with your content, once users click through from your PPC ads to influence changes to page copy.

Finally, there’s still no substitute for good content.  Google’s new focus is on contextual search and answering questions, not on keywords. Therefore, anticipating what your users want and need to know and serving up content that answers and informs is key. But don’t forget that one-size doesn’t always fit all, and understanding your target audience and developing a set of personas for them must happen before you can create content that serves their needs. “Your content may have four or five different types of users, who are searching for the answer to a query,” says Yu. “Understanding what’s being served to which user and catering to those important segments with a good user experience on your site is key.”

While SEO best practice hasn’t really changed, if you’re looking for a few areas you can actively focus your efforts or mix things up, try some of these.

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