Search engine optimization (SEO) is a term that is so ingrained in the language associated with eCommerce and website ownership that it’s practically synonymous.
Over the last several years, website owners have tried to keep up with the ever-evolving landscape of SEO, including Google’s ceaseless algorithm updates, and with the dawning of a new year many website owners and bloggers are wondering what’s next. Fortunately, there are fewer drastic changes coming in 2014 than the web world has experienced in the last two years.
Much of this has to do with the fact that algorithm creators have discovered what works in the online world, how users behave and search, and how best to connect those who search with those who provide. However, SEO is inherently fluid and will always be changing, and being able to look ahead can help website owners prepare so it’s easier to deal with algorithm changes and best practice shifts.
By People, For People
In the past, SEO was a complicated task that was almost as much of a science as it was an art form. Including the correct keywords in the right way with the proper density was the name of the game, and even as recently as last year keywords played a big role in how SEO functioned.
Fortunately, though, keywords are not as important. That isn’t to say that keywords aren’t important at all – people still search for things, and what they search for needs to appear on websites. But the keywords to be included on-site should be more natural. For instance, instead of “florists Austin”, which is a nearly impossible keyword set to include naturally in text, it’s now more beneficial to write “florists in Austin”.
The reason for this shift is that people search the way they talk, and algorithm creators have figured this out. (The rise in mobile search and voice search has also helped with this development.) So since people are much more likely to think “I need a florist in Austin” instead of “I need florist Austin”, the keyword set “florists in Austin” is a very feasible (and accurate) keyword to include in website text.
This development actually works to the advantage of those who create content for and run websites. Gone are the days where odd robotic keyword combinations have to be included in website text. Now, it’s just a matter of including keywords that are natural and make common sense.
Engagement is Evolving
For those who have been paying attention, a shift in what is considered a high quality page seems to be shifting – and it is. Before, a high quality page was one that had a lot of incoming links, had great keywords, and, more recently, had a large amount of quality content.
All of these things are, to one extent or another, still necessary. But now, social engagement is extremely important. Not only is having a social media following important, but having engagement on-site is important, as well.
Having a blog on-site, a place for comments, posting surveys, and linking to social media is now more important than ever before. The reason? Algorithm developers assume that if a person or company has a large following of people it’s more likely that company or person is genuine, is good at what they do, and provides something of value – all things that make for excellent search results that users will be pleased with.
Google Authorship is a new and developing platform, but all signs point to the fact that it will soon be very big. While many groan at the idea of a new social media outlet to contend with, this one is actually relatively simple.
Website owners should have a Google Plus account, link to sites where they have been published or where content has been attributed to them, and try to keep their Google Plus account at least somewhat up to date.
Once a week should be sufficient. Google Authorship might seem like another burden, but it is actually quite beneficial to website owners because having authorship allows them to be seen as an authority in their field, it helps build trust, and it increases their following and engagement – all of which boost SEO and help to grow business.
SEO is still changing, but at least the recent changes seem more feasible than some of the odd algorithmic requests of the past. Natural keywords, common sense search phrases, social engagement, and authority and authorship remain important, and content is still king.
In short, website owners who provide valuable information and high quality service, keep users engaged, and establish authority will be rewarded by the SEO algorithms.