A recap of SEO in 2013 includes a number of algorithm updates and releases from Google with Penguin, Panda, and Hummingbird. Encrypted search capabilities, with Google’s move to secure search in September, have undermined keyword data. This move has caused an SEO identity crisis in some and provoked an answer to the call of the survival of the fittest in others. Google moves in 2013 have led Forbes contributor Jayson DeMers to voice the lingering question, Is SEO dead?
Answer: not exactly, but the new playing field has seriously altered the game. By analysing and anticipating changes, SEO professionals can respond with strategies that increase ROI, even with high competition. Updates to Panda and Penguin are targeting both technical and content quality. According to DeMers, removing red flags like unnatural inbound links to artificially boost rankings is a smart move. Instead, an emphasis on strong content marketing will prove more successful in gaining Google’s support.
Strong content – targeted content that engages audiences – is a crucial element of content strategies adapted to the new playing field. Fresh and authoritative content marketing wins out. Rather than resorting to manipulative “grey hat” tactics that may have worked in SEO’s murky past, diversifying social media strategies is the direction to move in 2014. According to the Content Marketing Institute, companies rating their use of content marketing as “very effective” use an average of seven social media platforms. Choosing social media platforms relevant to the industry and to customers is a key strategy worth adopting
Can the new game be manipulated? Naturally. There are ways to work around the obstacles Google has placed to boosting splogs (spam blogs) and for accessing performance metrics. Google’s 2013 updates and releases have created about 200 page signals that now determine page ranking. Some black hat players are successfully finessing these factors. Adopting the practice of validating website construction by using simple tools, for example, will win Google’s favour post-Hummingbird update.
Incorporating simple strategies, like avoiding penalties for slow-to-upload sites, to outwit the new rules shouldn’t be overlooked. Nonetheless, anticipating and embracing the search engine changes away from manipulation and toward true content marketing quality will prove the most effective long-term strategy.