Since its inception, search engine optimization (SEO) has been the bane of many web masters’ existence. Just when you thought you had it mastered, the algorithm changed and you were back to square one. The newest Google update is no different and has had many throwing up their arms surrendering attempts to make the search engine happy. However, SEO isn’t dead and if you focus on what Google is trying to do, you can be successful at helping it find and rank your website.
Originally, the goal of search engines was to index and rank websites so that people looking for information could find it. That started with giving web pages name related to their content as opposed to page1 and page2. Later, meta tags such as titles, keywords and description were suggested to assist search engines in understanding the page. Next, SEO experts recommended headline tags and use of related keywords in the content. And finally, when Google started ranking sites based on the number of incoming and outgoing links a site had, backlink building was encouraged.
The problem was all the scammers and schemers who used these techniques to generate traffic to poor quality sites filled with ads. These are the sites Google is attempting to eliminate from search so that surfers find the information they’re looking for. It’s a good and noble goal. The problem is that in the effort to clean up the gunk, many quality sites are being penalized, often for infractions that are difficult to fix. For example, websites can’t always control other sites that link to them, and yet Google will penalize a site that has link from a web page Google thinks is unworthy.
So what does this mean for SEO? In the end, the basic rules haven’t changed that much.
1) Content remains king. But instead of any ole content, you’ll do best with quality information that people want to read.
2) Optimizing your site is important. Helping Google understand what each page of your site is about is still necessary. The difference is that you need to focus on words and phrases real people use, not just the words themselves. This is where studying your analytics can help.
3) Backlinks still matter. Google continues to judge you by incoming and outgoing links; however, it’s all about quality not quantity. Instead of links for links sake, Google wants sites to share links that offer useful information. This is probably the biggest challenge with the update because Google may not like the links you provide or the sites that link to you. Further, many sites are giving up and simply adding the no-follow attribute, essentially telling Google not to pay attention to the link. However, this is offset by social media, which is the ultimate in link sharing.
Ultimately, focusing on quality content that people want to share is the key to search engine optimization. At least until the next update…