With the New Year right around the corner, it’s time to take a long hard look at our online marketing efforts and evaluate just how much they are paying off.
After unleashing yet another algorithm change, Google managed to kill the majority of SEO tactics that had previously worked wonders.
By the end of this article, you will have learned what doesn’t work anymore in terms of SEO, how to change your marketing strategy appropriately and how to improve your ranking to get off to a good start in the new year.
The Google Updates
There was a time when a website with barely a sentence in straight English could rank towards the top in Google search results. Then, in 2011, along came Panda – the filter Google designed to weed out websites with poor content in favor of those with text that offered relatively higher value.
Since webmasters quickly caught up with this development and once again started circumventing the rules, a new set of penalties was inevitable. Always striving to put the best content forward, Google came up with Penguin in 2012. The update was hard at work to root out spam links through heavy penalties for the websites sporting them.
The Hummingbird Algorithm
Updates appeared to be doing their job only partially in 2013, when Google released its most powerful tool yet – a complex algorithm, Hummingbird, which focused heavily on semantic search and utilizing the Google Knowledge Graph. In short, the search engine figured out a way to keep track of how useful readers searching for a certain word or phrase found a particular site in the listed results.
By giving preference to content-centric, regularly updated websites with valuable articles that visitors actually spent time reading, Google basically eliminated most SEO strategies used to date. It was clear in August 2013 that digital marketers everywhere needed to roll up their sleeves and come up with a new approach to their campaigns.
So, after the Hummingbird release, what SEO strategies don’t work anymore?
· Spinning articles – the last time this tactic worked was in the pre-Panda days, so you should not bother investing in software or services that promise to spin or automatically generate content by rewriting existing articles. Google hardly tolerates useless content these days, and spun articles often don’t even read in comprehensible sentences.
· Going for exact match anchor text – the Penguin update tackled this one pretty effectively back in 2012, so the exact and even the potentially less-risky partial match anchor text should be out of your SEO toolbox.
· Buying links – not only is it extremely risky, especially for well-established brands with reputations to look after, but this strategy doesn’t seem to be accomplishing the same results it once did.
· Creating so-so content – it is clear that Hummingbird came with the higher purpose of promoting good, even great content. Bland, recycled articles, which fail to engage readers and keep their interest for long simply don’t do the trick any longer.
· Hacking other sites – besides being morally reprehensible, this SEO tactic is no longer as effective. Hacking higher ranking sites to place your links there is extremely risky and results are not guaranteed.
The winning SEO alternatives
Then what works? Here are 10 SEO tactics that effectively please Hummingbird and succeed in generating traffic, as well as improve your Google ranking:
1. Outstanding content
The longer and more informative the article, the better the chance a reader would spend time reading and interacting with the content. Google takes notice of these metrics to rank such websites higher.
2. Effective keyword research
Moving on from researching specific keywords and phrases, successful marketers are increasingly researching actual topics. Google has given preference to search results that reflect the natural way a person would search for relevant information. Questions (such as “How to get rid of dandruff?”), for example, are a good way to figure out search volumes.
3. Naturally used keywords
When creating content, focus on writing with the reader in mind, instead of writing specifically for SEO purposes. This is the shortest (if not the easiest) way to a higher Google rank.
4. Useful page titles
As I mentioned before, topics are becoming more important than keywords alone, so coming up with original, useful titles for your posts and pages, is essential. This doesn’t mean you should not still include the keyword in it, but don’t make it the single focus.
5. Page loading time
Google takes note of the time it takes for your site to load, so directing your efforts to shortening loading time pays off. Optimize the website for speed and find the optimal hosting service to please the new algorithm.
6. HTML tags
While it may be a good idea to include your target keyword or phrase in an H1 heading, don’t overdo this, as it might seem fishy and you may end up with a penalty, rather than a higher ranking.
Including your keyword or phrase in the URL of the page works, but is counterproductive when done in excess. For example, if you are discussing raising turtles, a URL such as www.raising-turtles.com/raising-turtles may be a bit much.
8. Mobile responsive web design
With up to 55% of American adults moving to their mobile devices for their content needs, rather than reading on their computers, it is vital that your website has a mobile version. Your page will load faster, and people won’t be leaving disappointed that the content is unreadable on their phones.
9. Guest posting
You need to be careful here. The way we are used to thinking about guest posting simply doesn’t apply any more. You can no longer send a link-ridden post into the blogosphere and expect Google to tolerate this. The right way to guest post these days is to create content-driven articles for quality blogs, concentrate on sharing ideas, rather than on backlinking. If in the process you manage to bring up issues worth spreading and readers decide to check you out through the byline link to your site, you’ve done your job.
10. Internal links
As long as you are linking to content on your website that is related to the topic being discussed, and that readers would find useful, inserting internal links is still a winning strategy.
As Google evolves in trying to bring the best and most useful content to readers and root out purely profit-driven sites, so must SEO marketers. While letting go of dead SEO tactics may be difficult for some, adapting to the new requirements is a challenge every single online business is currently facing. This gives you a clean slate to work with and rise above the competition.
So, now it’s over to you. I am curious to know the SEO tactics you have declared dead and gone. On the other hand, what are the strategies that have worked well for you after Hummingbird? I’d love to hear your stories and suggestions, so head over to the comments section and let us know.