Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, has come a long way since the 90’s when the search engine algorithms relied heavily on things like keyword density and meta tags. This left the ranking pages open to inaccurate or irrelevant search results, since those early algorithms relied on the information provided by the webmasters who could easily abuse and manipulate it to increase their page ranking.
Since those early days, the algorithms have grown more and more complex as the search engines strive to keep their results as relevant as possible. Now, rankings are based more on site popularity, quality backlinks, and overall value provided to those searching for information. Black hat SEO tactics (illegal or frowned-upon tactics) result in removal and banning from search engine results pages, while white hat tactics (ethical tactics) are rewarded.
Much progress has been made, and the constant improvement of search engine performance continues to shape the way that quality search engine optimization evolves and improves over time. Even in the last 6 months, many advances have emerged that all businesses and providers of SEO services should be cognizant of as they work to build sites that thrive in the results pages. Here are some of those improvements:
1.) There’s been an increase in what Google (the go-to search engine that was ranked as the most visited website in the world) calls “responsive web design”, or designing a website to adjust to the screen or window of whatever device it is being viewed on.
Updating websites to such a design makes pages more optimized for people’s varied viewing needs. But more to the point, responsive web design also marries the URL for the mobile site and the main site, making each URL stronger from an SEO standpoint.
This was in response to the rise in the percentage of people who make online purchases through their smartphones and tablets. Websites with mobile-friendly pages attract and retain more business than websites that haven’t adapted to meet these rising needs, and stronger URLs draw more traffic to those websites in the first place. It’s as plain and simple as that.
2.) For the first time in over a decade, Google implemented an entirely new algorithm. The Hummingbird algorithm has, according to them, impacted 90% of all search queries. This is quite a significant milestone in the evolution of search, and the full effect of this change is still unfolding as time passes.
Hummingbird has made searching more natural and conversational by catering to longer queries and shifting the focus away from driving keywords to actual meaningful content. It has improved search functionality by making opinions and vague questions more answerable and by equipping it to better answer questions that users might have otherwise asked others in their social circles.
This is Google’s attempt to change Internet searching from a list of potentially relevant links to actual answers to questions, and it seems to be working.
Basically, this new advancement in search capability is designed to favor sites that provide value to users through relevant and useful content. This means that SEO services should be focused much more on genuinely helpful information and appropriate content rather than on keyword density or number of backlinks.
3.) There’s been a general shift in mindset– necessitated by the above points– from seeing SEO as an industry of link building to an industry of aspiring marketers.
The push from these advancements created a desire throughout the industry to not just create as many links as possible to business web pages but to provide as much benefit to clients as possible through real information and real quality.
The days of being able to utilize SEO to trick the search engine algorithms or to incorporate less-than-ideal means of driving traffic to sites are drawing to a close, and being replaced with ones in which search engine results pages show better and links to more relevant content and less web spam.
SEO campaigns will now be focused more on delivering excellent content, ensuring that it is accessible across all devices, and assessing content performance within the entirety of the search ecosystem. Brands and businesses will be recognizing these “answer machines” and attempting to influence those answers by creating content that is both authoritative and useful.
Search engines are smarter and more efficient, and so must anyone be who hopes to optimize sites to their fullest potential on the web.