Yesterday marked day one of SMX in London and I have closely followed the talks, presentations, tweets and blogs to be able to highlight to you the key moments and takeaways from the event.
SEO Ranking Factors:
SEO as we know it changes all the time but in the past 12 months or so its changed quicker than we have ever seen before. Rankings factors are the collative key things which make your website rank on search engines. For every new factor being taken away or devalued another one comes in and takes its place. Here is what we can expect to see being used in the next 12 months.
SEU – Search Engine Un-optimisation?! – You read that correctly! A newer ranking factor seen to be working in recent tests is to actually deoptimise your content and the page it is placed on. I’m not talking stripping it all away and leaving no trace but major toning down is needed. Perhaps we are forgetting that Google is getting clever and with Hummingbird is actually beginning to understand your content, its purpose and the audience it applies too. Remove all of those internal links purposely put in for Google’s benefit, remove the tons of links you have spamming up your footer and remove thin content pages created purely for Google and create well written engaging pages. Do this and you’re onto a winner.
Quality & Reputation – This is simple and SEO’s have been pushing it for a long time but not enough people are taking note; don’t create 5 pages roughly based around the same subject with awful content, no images and nothing to engage your user. Instead create 1 page which covers the whole subject, add images and videos and really show the visitor that you know your stuff. An engaged user is obviously more likely to convert through to sale rather than one who couldn’t find what they wanted and just clicked away.
Engagement – Engagement is no longer just about how long a user visits your website before clicking off. Many people forgot that Google are tracking these visitors, what pages they go on, how long they stay on the pages or if they are completing one of your goals. Analytics allows Google a full view of your website so if people are not engaging well, why should you remain ranking well? Simply you shouldn’t. If your visitors are not engaging well on your website, look to see why and put yourself in the customers shoes and ask yourself what am I looking for? What information did I want? Then simply implement it, test it and if it works thats great, if not go back to the drawing board and start again.
What Not To Do – This hasn’t changed much in all honesty. It remains as simple as do not over optimise pages or content, don’t build spammy exact match links, don’t get links from spammy websites which offer no value (think that Google is watching these websites like it is watching yours for engagement) and do not buy links! You should not know where a link is coming from before it goes live, such a simple rule and not a worthy risk.
Links – Despite the rumours of links disappearing from ranking factors they remain as important as ever. Ensure that your backlinks are authoritative, relevant and as natural as possible. Branded anchor text is a must, remember you need to build your brand authority and not just your websites authority. You need to be monitoring your backlinks on a regular basis to deflect any negative SEO from happening. If a link appears and you don’t trust it contact the website owner and request it removed, if that fails add it onto your disavow list.
Structured Data – Schema is a way of formatting certain parts of your website to make it easier for Google to understand. Schema is growing at a very fast pace and you need to be implementing it on your website. Start with using the schema markup for your address, name, logo and products if applicable and go from there. If something is wrapped in a schema code, Google can extract it as a rich snippet and display it to searchers when relevant which means you’re more likely to get a click through.
The biggest changes in the ranking factors this year are:
- Site Speed – Twice as important than it was in 2013. Your website needs to quick, anything more than a couple of seconds to load and you’re going to suffer.
- Length Of Content – Tests are showing people are implementing more and more content onto website pages. This again should be quality not quantity. 100 words of relevant engaging content is far more valuable than 1000 words that no one wants to read.
- Branding – Websites with a lot of focus on branding are ranking higher than the websites with keywords stuffed into every page.
The 4 Main Categories To Get Your SEO Off The Ground
When you start an SEO campaign you need to build from the ground up starting with your website.
Onsite SEO has remained a very important factor in ranking but now operates in a slightly different way. We have moved on from the days of “BUILDER RUGBY” repeated 20 times between page titles, meta descriptions, headings and content. We can now be much more fluent with the words and form them into actual well read sentences because Google now understands these and is working to understand a user’s actual meaning of what they wanted from the search. This is a favourite of mine which I hope to see stick in the future, websites are looking more natural than ever and its great!
Content quality is also key moving forward. Stop writing content for search engines and start writing content for users benefit. No one who searches on Google is looking for the best optimised website, they are looking for answers and you need to be one ready to provide it because if you don’t the user will bounce off the website and bring your engagement rates down.
Links as covered above remain relevant but nowadays quality over quantity is certainly key.
Social Media is the underdog is SEO at the moment and people tend to be ignoring it a little bit too much. You need to be building your brand and the best way to do it is across social media. Write engaging posts and share them, interact with you audience so they want to share you with friends. Its debated how useful social media is for SEO but studies are showing its growing in relevance.
They are the four main things you need to jump start an SEO campaign. These are not nearly a complete campaign though so keep that in mind; Google has over 200 different rankings factors currently and ideally you should not risk doing SEO for yourself as you risk damaging the authority of your website, instead hire experts in the field so you can remain future proof with all of Google’s changes.
The key thing you need in an SEO campaign is a plan or strategy that you need to stick to. Know what you want to rank for and understand that with Google changing its algorithm multiple times a day, chances are you keywords will move around by dropping a couple of places or moving up a couple of places.
Don’t be beaten down by people wanting instant results and reassure them that slow and steady wins the race because if you rush into SEO and spam your website content and build a ton of links chances are you’ll get a penalty which could be hard to recover from.
With SEO changing as much as it does you can of course refine your original plan but try and stick the original goal.
Hummingbird & Entity Searches
Hummingbird has created waves in the SEO industry since its release and mainly because I don’t think people quite grasped the concept of what Hummingbird was actually for. Unlike Panda and Penguin which came after spammy content and links and dropped the rankings of those websites, Hummingbird was a natural growth in Google’s algorithm which allows Google to understand context within a users search. Hummingbird allows Google to try and understand your actual intent when searching for something.
Lets take an example: A tourist in London may not know what Big Ben is called because they might not have seen it before, or heard of it. To us that is unnatural but only because we know what Big Ben is. So instead of the tourist searching for Big Ben, they might search for “big clock in London” and that is exactly what an entity search is; searching for something you can describe but not searching for it by its actual name.
With contextual search gaining traction quickly we need to start getting ready for entity search which links us back round to Structured Data. Including content based around Big Ben on your website which includes things like “is the largest clock in London” will allow you to come up for an entity search because your content was wrapped in Schema code which allowed Google to pull it from the website and display it in a rich snippet.
I would advise to get started on this now because as Google grows, contextual and entity searching will only grow with it. Google is now understanding a user’s intent so you need to be making sure it understands yours as well.
So much to take in! It is a lot of information to digest buts its essential for a successful SEO campaign and making sure your campaign is future proof.
This is covering day one of SMX London and I will be back tomorrow morning with a post covering day two.