Caffeine, panda and penguin are terms that seem unrelated to most businesses, but for digital marketers they have induced flurries of action and emotions ranging from pride to panic. These are the code names given in the past few years to three major updates of Google’s website search ranking algorithm.
Businesses that were hit by these updates typically suffered losses in Google rank from being in the top three on page one to getting buried on page 50 or beyond, search engine traffic dropping by more than 70 percent overnight and significant losses in revenues. Each update created a fundamental shift in how Search Engine Optimization tactics either benefitted or harmed a business’s ability to be found — and more importantly, found at the top of the results — in Google searches by their target customers.
“Search Engine Optimization and Marketing are dynamic and rapidly changing specialties that businesses need to keep pace with,” says Kevin Hourigan, president and CEO of Web design, Web development and online marketing agency, Bayshore Solutions. “The key to staying ahead of the curve is to have a comprehensive and connected strategy with your marketing, website and SEO.”
Smart Business spoke with Hourigan about how to keep your online marketing and SEO driving top search engine results, leads and sales growth for your business.
How do I stay ahead in SEO?
The recent SMX Advanced Conference in Seattle, one of many Web industry educational events, offered practical insight and in-depth education on the latest search marketing trends, technology and best practices. One session featured a Q&A with Matt Cutts, Google’s most known insider and spokesman on search quality and algorithm matters. This very popular session revolved around the impact of Google’s latest algorithm update, called Penguin, and what kinds of SEO behaviors and tactics are being either rewarded or demoted in their search engine rankings as a result.
This scenario of face-time with Matt Cutts has been featured at search industry conferences for many years. While the tactical details keep changing, the central message Cutts delivers is the same: Google continuously seeks to return the highest quality and most relevant results to people for the keywords they use in a search.
As SEO practitioners of varying ethical orientation develop practices for attracting high search rankings and traffic for their client’s websites, Google’s algorithm adjusts to keep those results relevant and offer credible answers for searchers. What was once seen as a SEO best practice could now be a very real detriment. So it is essential that the person you entrust with the SEO for your business is not only a competent tactician, but is up to date with today’s best practices.
Why isn’t covering the SEO basics enough?
The SEO building blocks of appropriately using of keywords, metadata and link strategy used to be the complete tactical toolset, but are now just the first steps. In a very simplified nutshell, three recent major Google algorithm updates addressed these ‘Quality of search’ experience issues:
- Caffeine: Focused on recency or ‘freshness’ of information available, incorporating rapidly updated content such as Facebook and Twitter posts. This heralded a new tactical approach to Social Media and SEO.
- Panda: This focused on the quality of the user experience, including page design and user interface, website content quality seen from human versus algorithmic ‘eyes’ and site usage metrics that signal usefulness and popularity of a website with searchers. This caused a paradigm shift for SEOs to balance tactics with design, development and audience communication or consumer psychographics measures.
- Penguin: Focused on quality of content and particularly on devaluing websites containing linking schemes, duplicate content and using blog and article networks that post low-quality content with commercialized links. This creates a major change in the kind of linking tactics a business can successfully use and significantly changes content marketing distribution and syndication throughout the Internet.
These algorithm updates increasingly emphasize that implementing SEO in a silo is a sure path to online marketing failure. Your SEO experts now need to be Web strategy experts. They need to have a strong understanding beyond classic optimization of all your marketing elements including how they interact and how to strike an ongoing balance among them to align with search and marketing best practices.
Where does this fit in my overall sales and marketing strategy?
There are many technical complexities and best practices to stay abreast of in SEO and online marketing. That said, it is essential that your SEO implementation is driven by a strategy that is connected with your Web design, website functionality, customer service and audience communications strategies both online and offline. Be sure that any Web marketing partners clearly communicate the tactics they use on your behalf, and that all your online tactics promote the best possible user experience of your brand and business.
The people in your Web audience are more important than search engine crawlers because they are the ones who can get excited about your brand, share your message, lift your legitimacy in today’s search engines and become your customers. As we are seeing through recent search algorithm updates, technology is enabling search engine crawlers to ‘see’ and evaluate experience more and more like their human website-visiting counterparts. So the best way to win the SEO game is to present a Web experience that wins the confidence, trust and business of your customers.
Kevin Hourigan is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or http://www.BayshoreSolutions.com. For a snapshot of Bayshore Solutions Web marketing methodology, visit: http://www.bayshoresolutions.com/about-bayshore-solutions/methodology.aspx.
Insights Web Design, Development & Internet Marketing is brought to you by Bayshore Solutions