Google is a large company and one with considerable influence on the internet. Much of what is searched for online is sourced via Google’s search engine, but the technology company is more diverse than simply answering internet users’ questions. Google uses a number of complex algorithms to moderate the quality of content shown. If Google deems your site to be of a low quality it may slap you with a penalty and you’ll find yourself with an expensive bill and a lot of hassle to remove it.
Google updates its algorithms frequently and both Panda and Penguin were designed to target sites that distributed bad quality content, content farms, spam links, and over optimised anchor text links. Those updates however weren’t that far reaching in scope and they only affected search engine results. That’s not true of another update – Hummingbird.
The Hummingbird update was released in 2013 and it’s an entirely new algorithm that represents a significant shift in search science. A search algorithm is effectively a computer program that works to analyse search queries and return information that’s the most relevant to what the user is searching for.
Anything typed into Google’s search function has the potential for hundred of thousands, sometimes millions, of webpages that could be relevant to the user’s search query. The information that internet users are trying to access is often the same as it has been in the past. What’s changed however is the way that users attempt to access that information and from what device type.
Hummingbird is an update that intends to support semantic and conversational search capabilities. These are both much more focused on “long-tail searches.” Technology that allows you to interact via voice commands (Siri, Google Now) needed to be prepared for the future of searches online. People expect answers from Google now, and ones that are clearly linked, and specific, to the search query input by the user. Google has had voice search capabilities in the past but its most recent Hummingbird update is a much more advanced achievement.
Google’s cleaner internet
Google has used its most recent updates to clean up its search results. The company has developed major spam-fighting tools that have changed the SEO landscape. Guest posting is no longer what it once was, and professionals and everyday bloggers alike need to understand what these changes mean to their sites.
It’s worth remembering just how important a successful web presence is. In fact it has never been more important to be online and to interact with your audience – your competitors are definitely doing it. The potential to increase profits via the internet has never been higher, but if you’re trying to cut corners or using black (or even grey) hat tactics it will not work in your favour. SEO professionals must understand the changing Google paradigm and the importance of high quality content.
For those reading this, that feel nervous about all of these changes or just for those who want to write the best possible copy, here’s some thoughts on how to avoid a costly Google penalty.
Don’t forget what you already know
Websites that try to cheat their way to the top of Google search results will find it increasingly hard to do so. It’s likely that Google will continue to adjust its updates throughout 2014, making it necessary to develop both link quality and high quality content.
Marketers would do well to keep an eye on their link profiles and make sure that they perform periodic checks to ensure that they remove inbound links that are unnaturally high. It can’t really be stressed enough; high quality content matters now more than ever and the same can be said for links. Invest in content that people want to read and avoid creating content that’s specifically designed for black (or even grey) hat SEO purposes.
For a good SEO performance in 2014 it’ll need to be based on a foundation of really understanding what happened in 2013. It all also rests on understanding the changes in the SEO landscape and adapting both strategically and tactically for this new environment. It’s important to understand just how drastically SEO practices have changed this year.
Make no mistake, thanks largely to Penguin and Panda (the latest version of the latter has just been released), it’s no longer acceptable to chase links. If this is something that you do, then realise that you’re playing with fire and could easily be hit with a penalty if you carry out too much guest posting.
Marketing is more important than ever before
Content marketing, long considered simply a buzzword, will become ever more integral to any online strategy. From an SEO perspective, Google will be considering companies that work hard on content marketing efforts. Google will see all of this work as a sign that the company is worth validating. And Google validation is a make or break area – if they don’t think you’re work is worth indexing you’ll lose out hugely.
A good content marketing strategy includes:
- Regular, helpful content targeting your audience
- Signs that you’re sharing your content on social channels
- Achieving reader engagement with your content
- Signs that your site is not only alive but growing
- Increased authority of both you as a writer, and your site as a hub
This is all pretty standard fare but it shows that the focus is on high quality content. Content must be written with the purpose of saying something, not simply as promotional content for your website. If the content is good your site will get the validation you desire and for the right reasons. Remember that social sharing is increasingly important too, so ensure that you’re writing copy that’s accessible, clickable, and useful.
Perhaps the best news is that Google has drastically altered the landscape. Yes, things have changed but the key area to work on is your content itself. Write for your readers not for search engine rankings and you’ll be rewarded.