30 May 2013 – Tina Courtney-Brown – Featured –
2013 is already halfway over, and there’s been a flurry of SEO changes (thank you, Panda) to keep track of. Now is the perfect opportunity to review what’s occurred, take stock of current trends, and look to the remainder of the year for impending updates. With each day that passes, SEO becomes more and more critical to businesses, so keeping your finger on the search engine pulse is a wise move indeed. If you’ve fallen a bit behind, keep reading and get yourself up to speed.
Content Marketing Climbs to the Top
Google’s latest Panda release made what many already knew a cold-hard reality: Quality trumps quantity in the world of search engine supremacy. Those without fresh, relevant, valuable content are feeling the squeeze in a big way now, and those with excellent content practices are also scrambling to decipher Google’s preferences and land at the top of each competitive keyword marketplace.
Content marketing, therefore, could arguably be seen as more important than traditional on-site SEO. Offering your visitors useful resources and engaging content is now the key to landing prime ranking spots across the various search engines, but don’t count-out the necessity to balance this with SEO tactics.
The Guardian’s Jonathan Piggins recently expressed the same, stating in an insightful article about content marketing that SEO is not dead, just transformed.
“These scenarios do not herald the ‘death of SEO’. Far from it. The future lies in collaboration. The relationship between content marketing and SEO only reaches its true potential when it’s designed to be symbiotic. This means that brands need to underpin their content with SEO strategies like strong internal navigation… The idea is to use varied skills to build hubs around interdependent content and search terms in order to nurture cross-selling potential.”
The Rise of the Small Screens
The buzz around new technologies like Google Glass aims to shift SEO strategies all the more. It remains to be seen on a large scale what these screens really mean for rankings, but it’s likely that the need to reach page 1 results will now be usurped by needing the top 1-3 rankings all together. Mobile has already created this urgency with their smaller screens and impatient users, so things like Google Glass and the rumored iWatch will only up the ante. When users only see a few lines of results, it’s clear that most businesses won’t be able to stop at anything less than the top slot if they are after the lion’s share.
Mid-Year SEO Must-Do’s
As you become familiar with what’s changed, don’t forget to keep a constant eye on your existing sites, and keep your content and strategies clean and current. Now is a great time to dust the cobwebs off your Google and Bing Webmaster accounts and study your latest results. Look for SEO and crawl errors, 404 patterns, and other issues that are begging for assistance. Even small changes can help you optimize your site performance and speed, not to mention bump up those elusive SERPs just a little bit more.
It’s also an ideal time to review your keyword strategies. Use tools like those listed in our SEO Tools for DIY Webmasters article to help you analyze your current selections, study what users are actually using in the majority, and shift meta data, content keywords, and related on-site sections to help you capitalize on the most effective tactics for your niche.
Do a run-through on all your social media profiles and campaigns as well. Make sure all contact data, company info, and current promotions are up-to-date, engaging, and doing all they can to gain you loyal followers and fans. If you’re not staying connected to your customers in this space, it’s time to make a solid schedule to do so. Your Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and other social pages should never feel lifeless or outdated, or you’ve lost the chance to get these respective audiences excited about what you’re going to do next.
What the Rest of 2013 Holds for SEO
Google search engine representative Matt Cutts recently released a video outlining what to expect in SEO in the coming months. In it, he stresses the obvious (writing quality content), but also alludes to a forthcoming update of Penguin. “We’re relatively close to launching the next generation of Penguin,” states Cutts. “We call it Penguin 2.0. It’s an attempt to target black hat web-spam. We expect it to go a little deeper and have a greater impact than 1.0.” So if by some chance you’ve been employing less than honest SEO practices and have thus far gotten away with it, Google wants to make sure that won’t last throughout the year.
In the spirit of nabbing spammers, Cutts had this to say:
“We’re also looking at some ways to go upstream to deny the value to link spammers. We’ve got some ideas on ways to make that less effective. We expect that will roll out over the next few months. We’re working on a more sophisticated system, we’re still in the early days for that.”
Yes, that’s vague, but it does tell us where at least part of Google’s strategy still lies – in finding and punishing all those looking to cheat the system. How do you cheat in SEO? By tricking the engines to grant you high rankings without providing anything of value to your visitors.
Finally, Cutts also indicates that author rank will continue to be critical for top rankings later this year, stating: “We’ve been doing a better job of detecting an authority in a specific space. And trying to make sure those rank a little more highly if you’re some sort of authority or a site that we think might be a little more appropriate for the users.”
In other words, continue to be an online authority for the fields you specialize in. And when you hire writers to help you spread the word, find those that also have credibility in the space. Not only will you amass more valuable content, but the author rank scenario will offer a potential SERP boost too.
The SEO roller coaster has been wild and wooly this year, with no end in sight. By staying focused on your quality business practices and content offerings, you’ll give yourself an edge as Google continues to tighten the reins. In the end, a targeted blend of on-site SEO, keywords, and content marketing is the strategy that’s most likely to see you doing the victory dance at year’s end.