But to be honest, as frustrating as these updates can be, they have made the web a better place.
Google has made it very clear that their focus is and always was a better "user experience" - it's even embedded in their philosophy!
So, even if your SEO tactics were not completely on par previously, let's take some time to reevaluate some solid SEO strategies that will continue to work moving forward...and, some that must be abandoned.
Abandon the "Tricks" of the Trade
Silver bullets or quick fixes, call them what you will. Black hat or white hat, we've all used them at some point.
I'm talking about those "tricks" of the SEO trade that are supposed to guarantee a website will gain some prime real estate in the SERPs.
These sure-fire "tactics" may border on the spammy (link stuffing, buying, or trading links), or they may be perfectly reasonable strategies that have simply been abused (guest blogging and infographics).
Either way, they do not contribute to a sustainable SEO strategy that can grow with your website and adapt to changes in Google's perceived best practices.
At best, these shortcuts are only effective for a limited amount of time. At worst, they can result in penalties for your website, as also mentioned in this SEO crash course.
However, I'm referring to low-quality tactics for the sake of links only. Guest blogging can absolutely be done effectively as part of your SEO strategy.
Another "trick" taking a bit hit is the use of private blog networks to manipulate Google's results. It's a risky business but works amazingly well if done properly.
However, as long as Google's search results depend on links, these tactics will continue.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that your efforts should be put to better use for your SEO strategies.
User Experience Should Be Priority #1
This applies as much to a website's design as it does to the content it provides. In the past, many SEO's have relied on those silver bullet tactics to drive traffic to their website.
It's not enough to simply get online users to click on your link, you must provide a valuable and pleasurable user experience.
Reevaluate your websites, with an eye towards functionality.
Are your sites overly cluttered with nonessential information or graphics?
Is the purchase path and/or call-to-action (CTA) clearly defined and easy to navigate?
If your website is not responsive (pun intended) to the user's needs, and does not provide a fulfilling online experience, you're going to have a higher bounce rate.
Google's new algorithms consider bounce rates when assigning page ranking, and a site that does not provide a quality user experience will drop in the organic SERPs, regardless of its content.
Other metrics to pay close attention to our click-through rate (CTR) and page speed.
Measuring CTR will help you understand if a certain button or widget or even link on your site is effective.
And, we've all heard that our page speed needs to be very low...like 2 seconds loading time on each page.
SEO will continue to focus on UX in the future. Make sure this is the largest part of your digital strategy.
Quality, Quality, Quality
“Content is King” used to be the SEO mantra, and to a great degree, it still is.
However, the emphasis is now quality as opposed to quantity. A daily or weekly blog post may provide "crawlable" content for the search engine bots, but if it is all fluff, soon than later you are going to lose your audience as well as your page ranking.
Save the daily posts for social media, and concentrate on creating high-quality, informative blog posts for your website's blog.
The holy grail is to get your content to go viral, but this is a tall order. Shoot for over 1,000 words in your content, and going above 2,000 words will increase your chances of virality even more.
Create high-quality content that provides real value to the end-user. Even if you end up reducing the number of blog posts per month, you will still be providing a better experience.
Make sure you take the time to create a content promotion strategy as well.
And, all of this will ultimately be rewarded in the organic search results through earned links and social shares.
Ignore Your Competitor's Ranking
Well, not entirely. But the point here is to stop obsessing over your competitor's page ranking.
Nothing frustrates more than seeing a competitor land prime SERP real estate using questionable tactics, and it's all too easy to look at their results and think “what's good for the goose is good for the gander”.
But rest assured, those black hat techniques may have gotten your competitor to the top of Google's search results today, but it won't last long.
Google's updates are becoming highly sophisticated, and they will come down hard on sites using manipulative SEO tactics to achieve higher search results.
Plan for the long game, and devise an SEO strategy that is clean, effective, and adheres to Google's best practices.
But, don't be confused. This is different than understanding who your competition is.
Know what your online competition is doing and create an experience for your visitors that far surpasses them. Your efforts will be rewarded in time.
Social Media is Your New Friend
The SEO of today is weighted heavily on authority and trust. And, as we know, sites like Facebook and Twitter are trusted heavily by Google.
But, there are other sites that we don't immediately think of that are also highly trusted and should be mixed into our SEO strategies.
For example, take a site like Tumblr.
There are so many social sites that have the power to increase your authority with links coming from these sites.
Here are a very small sample of social sites:
- Tumblr - Tactics include posting blogs with links back to your main site's content, or embedding an image with the src tag reflecting a picture on your main site.
- Flickr - Create a widget on your site that links to your photostream, and create 2-way links back to your site. Focus on tags to increase visibility.
- Quora - Create a campaign where you answer questions here, with the intention to create a blog post that dives in further on your site's blog.
- Reddit - Create controversy on a blog post, then submit a link and monitor your traffic closely.
Be creative and leverage the power of these social authority giants!
Act Like a Brand
Google is giving more preference to large brands. They show up more at the top of the search results.
Brands are the solution, not the problem...brands are how you sort out the cesspool.
Eric Schmidt / Former CEO of Google
How do we compete with them? Well, start acting more like a brand.
A brand uses its name to drive traffic in all the campaigns they do.
As mentioned in the beginning, we all know how Google's Penguin affected our link building efforts.
Make sure you continue to ramp up efforts to get more "brand" links as part of all your SEO strategies.
Have a photo in your blog posts? Take a little extra time in Photoshop and affix your logo to the image.
Also, start playing around with incorporating your brand or company name directly into your meta titles, and watch your rankings increase.
Link Building Still Works
As I've already mentioned, Google's search results still rely on links. Links to your site from authority websites do matter.
Link building and successful outreach campaigns are the cornerstones of SEO, but the methods are much different today.
In the past, SEOs went for quantity and that had many of us spending time and money on clean up efforts.
Today, it's about building relationships and community.
Become an expert on blogs in your industry. Don't focus so much on securing links. If you can place a link to your site, then fantastic!
When writing on your blog, link out to authority sites and industry leaders. This pay it forward technique will benefit you in many ways.
First, Google will view your content as more authoritative.
And second, those authors will notice and you will eventually get natural links back to your quality content.
Let's Wrap Up...
If there's one thing you can count on when it comes to search engine optimization and content marketing, it's that change is always around the corner.
For your SEO strategies to succeed long term, you must be able to roll with those changes.
Look for structured data to be a large part of the web in the future as well.
Create a diverse strategy that relies as much on creating quality content and providing a rich user experience, as it does utilize the latest SEO tactics to enhance your brand's online visibility.
And, make social media a HUGE part of your SEO moving forward.
The secret to staying ahead of Google's updates is not trying to outrun, but managing to adapt to them.
Let's all keep our eye on the prize, and that prize is quality.