Gavin Hirst - Friday 7th November 2014

The changing landscape of SEO

Following on from our rather lovely infographic last time out, we thought we would expand a little on the changing landscape of SEO and what it means for your business.

Algorithm updates

As we know, Google makes changes to their algorithm hundreds of times each year – many of these are so minor they do not even bother to tell us but roughly every quarter, they tend to carry out more significant changes that can dramatically affect the ranking of your pages and overall site. They cycle of updates we currently find ourselves in are known by Google as Penguin updates and we are now on to the sixth major revision (as of late October 2014).

The latest change (Penguin 3.0) impacts less than 1% of English queries so is unlikely to have a major impact this time around on your rankings. Previous changes have caused previously very successful sites to see drastic declines in rankings and following on from that, web traffic.

So what does the latest change mean for you and why do Google make so many changes to their algorithms?

There is no tricking Google

The main purpose of Google algorithm updates is to benefit the end user. Google has had to work extremely hard over the past decade to eradicate the issues that were caused by SEO ‘experts’ tricking Google into thinking their site was authoritative for certain keywords and phrases. This was done by keyword stuffing pages and creating lots of low quality links pointing back to the site using those keywords.

The Panda algorithm was set up to tackle these issues and combat spammers and low quality user interfaces. Penguin is now taking this one step further and ensuring that companies are required to ‘earn’ links, not ‘build’ them.

Earning links starts with quality content

So the Penguin algorithm is helping to cut out the number of ‘dodgy’ links and ensure that when people are sent to a website, it’s because the information contained on that site is relevant to their search.

So, how do you earn links rather than build? Here are five top tips to help you start earning quality links back to your site today:

  1. Quality content

    This is a lot easier said than done, however make sure the content you publish on your website is high quality and relevant. If you own a car rental company, you need to put up quality content about renting cars and where you can go in them once you have one. By providing quality content relating to journeys you can make in your car, you will start to drive (no pun intended) traffic to your site who may not necessarily be browsing the web for car rentals, but they now have you on their radar. By tracking these customers, you can see if they come back later to make a purchase and put some ROI on the content on you have produced.

  2. Blog posts

    These can be a great way to drive traffic to your site but you must ensure that they remain relevant and also have a goal of driving traffic to your site. Let’s take this post as an example. We want to provide you with some quality tips on improving your SEO and keep you up to date with the latest developments. Sure. But we also want you to recognise our expertise in the area and trust us to help you build your business online, whether that’s writing blog posts that convert or setting up an Adwords campaign to help drive more relevant traffic to your site. Content marketing like this helps to build links back to your site from trusted sources i.e. social media and other bloggers

  3. Social media

    Speaking of social media, the latest algorithm changes (going back as far as Penguin 3 in October 2012) have focussed on the quality of social media links. What Google has tried to do is clamp down on companies who use social media sites like Facebook and Twitter as publishing feeds. This is not what they were set up for and it is not why people use them. Google wants to see quality customer engagements leading to a link back to your site; not just a series of posts with direct links back to your site. What does this mean for you? Get involved more and talk to your customers, not at them. Engage with them, banter with them and once they have your trust, they are then more likely to ask relevant questions which allows you to provide them with a quality link back to your site.

  4. Website design

    User experience is a key term when thinking about content marketing. Google rewards sites where they can see that a user has had a good experience; they have visited a number of pages, they have spent time on those pages, they have made a transaction/further action (i.e. share, bookmark etc). Therefore the design and architecture of your website becomes crucial. In a previous post, we asked whether graphic designers are ruining the web and to some extent they are. We definitely still need them as otherwise our sites would look boring and unappealing, however they must work closely with a web designer/SEO/UX to ensure that the site is structured in a way that encourages users and enables them to find what they are looking for quickly, not just look pretty. The first port of call if you’re thinking about redesigning your site is to sit down and find out what exactly customers want from your site – you can use analytics or market research to do this but ignore it at your peril.

  5. Free stuff

    We know you are in business to make money, however giving away free stuff is a sure fire way of helping to build customer trust and loyalty and we’re not talking about free prizes every week. We’re talking about free content. Something that you give away for free that benefits your customers. This could be anything from a pdf manual to a guide to a map of NZ – this has a couple of benefits; it gets your customers engaging with content on your site allowing you to track this and build a database of potential customers and it also puts your brand in their hands. These examples are things that can be downloaded but it could be as simple as a weekly tip on Twitter to say, grow your own plants – the world is your oyster!


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