Google gets smarter all the time. You need to get smarter with it.
If you want to know how to ensure that your SEO works – and your search rank survives Google updates –start by thinking about what Google likes and why, and go from there.
SEO’s Need to Know What Google Wants
Google’s first priority is to put up the very best possible search results for people looking to find things. Why? Because if it stops putting up great results, you might go somewhere else. And since Google’s financial success depends on attracting massive numbers of visitors, any shift to another search engine would hurt.
So Google is legitimately trying to identify high quality websites and content. And it’s getting better and better at it.
Google Optimization in 2013
I’ve visited Google in Mountain View California, and broken bread with some of the very smart people who work there, including a few with PhD’s in computer science and linguistics.
It’s this combination of deep expertise in computing and in language that is Google’s stock in trade. Which is why Google appears to be increasingly able to distinguish between content that adds real value and content that has been hacked together solely for SEO purposes.
So before you start to post ‘just anything’ keep in mind that Google is looking for quality. And here are some of the more obvious and reliable cues the search engine is probably scanning for.
1. Create ‘Quality’ Content – Remember those studies that say that an average newspaper is written at the grade 8 level? Well if someone could tell that from scanning a newspaper by eye, Google can do it too. Quality content likely means content that is of a reasonably advanced level, is properly structured, not overly repetitive, grammatically intact, etc. In other words – don’t just throw up anything.
2. Focused Pages – Most people think in terms of optimizing a whole website. But Google results come in the form of single pages, not full websites. Google is trying to find the very best ONE page that matches a search. So make your pages focused on one core topic – and you stand a better chance to reach the top of the leader board.
3. Fresh Content – Quantity is not quality. But frequently adding content does suggest that a site is active, involved, and more likely to have useful current content.
4. Clear Titles and Text – For both your users AND for Google, use clear titles. Where your text is long, break it up with subtitles. This allows users to scan the page for content more easily, and my suspicion is that Google also uses these subtitles and maybe sees them as a sign of quality in an of themselves since professionals usually use them.
5. Natural Links – Don’t buy links. Earn them. SEO professional and website managers who routinely buy links got a rude awakening with several of Google’s updates in recent years. It’s a fairly easy thing for Google to spot. Instead of spending money buying links, spend money or time to create useful content and it will get linked to. Create an infographic, or a checklist, a white paper, a discussion area or even a book. Give a free download of a font or blueprint or template. Create a useful step-by-step instruction or share a recipe. Anything truly useful will generate links.
6. Social Media Buzz – Social media buzz now serves the same function as links did in the past (and still do). Social media chatter around your website tells Google this site is worth talking about. If it’s worth it to some, it’s probably worth it to many.
7. Meaningful (Relevant) Links – Meaningful links are links that are not just links from ‘anywhere’, but links that are from other legitimate sites, especially those with related content. Links from strong sites in your area of expertise are the best votes of support you can have. While these may be generated from the ideas in point 5, you can also seek out relevant links on their own, if your site is worth linking to, others in your industry may be willing to do it just by asking.
8. Media – Media (audio, video, PDFs, etc.) has double value because a site with a good media offering is more likely to be a quality site, and because media itself is searchable.
9. Sound Technical Structure – There are many technical features that can influence your overall site quality score and if you have concerns there are specific checks that can be done for excessive script or slow loading pages, heavy graphics, etc. But generally technical issues are more able to hurt your SEO than help you. If your site performs well and is not overly complicated (simple in this case can actually be better), you’re probably okay.
10. No Tricks – Google doesn’t want to be tricked. Ever. Which is why shortcuts to SEO success are becoming harder to do. So don’t do it.
SEO and Internet marketing are getting more complex – and competitive – for small business. You’re going to need to fight harder and be smarter.
Is Google SEO Getting Harder?
I’ve been doing SEO for over a decade.
I try not to tilt at windmills. I follow changes of course, but I’ve never had to dramatically shift what I do. Because I’ve always just tried to think about what Google is looking for – and to provide it.
For me, SEO isn’t getting harder, it’s getting better. Top rank positions are just as winnable as ever. The key is to produce quality content and encourage connections. What works yesterday still works today – if you were doing the right things. And if not, I supposed it has gotten harder. But it’s never too late to change.