Ranking Lower? These SEO Changes Will Put You Back At The Top

You probably know that SEO – ‘search engine optimization’ to the uninitiated – is a really, really, really important factor in making sure people can find you online. Really. In fact, nearly half of all web traffic comes from natural searches.

And as an online retailer, it goes without saying that your visibility in Google search results is massively important.

So, it’s critical that you know that Google forced a big SEO change last year and you may very well have to reconsider your SEO strategies altogether.

2013: the year that was

Throughout the years, SEO has been a rapidly changing beast. But 2013 was a year of particularly dramatic change.

While Google changes its search algorithm around 500-600 times each year – mostly minor changes – occasionally, they’ll roll out a major algorithmic update which affects search results significantly.

And guess what – in 2013, there were three such ‘biggies.’

What did these updates change?

Penguin 2.0 and Penguin 2.1 – released in May and October respectively – took aim at spam sites, and particularly links from paid sites or networks, reaffirming Google’s no tolerance view on spam and underscoring the importance of high quality content.

And Hummingbird – which flapped its wings into our lives in August – was the biggest search algorithm update since 2001, affecting 90 percent of search results. Pretty earth-shattering stuff! Again, Hummingbird was all about delivering a more sophisticated and intuitive experience for searchers – and it pretty much changed everything.

In short, these updates are all about Google’s ongoing drive towards social signals and conversational search. The over-riding idea is that Google should show content and sites based on search intent instead of simple keywords. Stuff that’s relevant, accurate, current and authoritative.

In this new era of sophisticated search results, Google provides results based on a wider range of data sources than ever before – indexed sites, social networks, ad networks, and more.

Is SEO dead?

In its purest sense, ‘SEO’ – i.e., optimizing websites to be found on search engines – is not dead, and can’t possibly die as long as search engines exist.

Having said that, the ‘old’ SEO of optimizing websites using cheap, smoke-and-mirror tricks, is definitely dead…or at least in its death throes, waiting to be finished off.

Search engines remain a vital source of traffic, so how do we go about making it work for us?

What’s left?

Upon the release of Hummingbird, Google told SEOs that there was nothing new to worry about –simply have original, high-quality content. Everything that was important, still is, but Hummingbird allows Google to process them in new, hopefully better ways.

So, in short, the answer is content. Or, rather, high-quality content. The creation of tailored, informative blogs and articles, e-books and videos, which add value to your user experience.

Your 2014 SEO gameplan

Coming off the back of such a volatile year, it’s difficult to predict what changes we might see in 2014. But one thing’s clear; sites with high-quality, useful content, will continue to be rewarded.

So our tips to you for 2014 are as follows:

  • Stay honest – the cheap tricks won’t work anymore, and reflect horribly on your brand!
  • Create great content – stuff that answers questions, is useful to your audience
  • Think ‘topics’ rather than keywords
  • Be an authority and educate your audience – you are a source of great expertise that is valuable to others, so share it!
  • Don’t just use your blog to make announcements and post corporate news stories. Take advantage of this chance to talk passionately about your product and your industry.
  • Use social media platforms – specifically Google+. This can make a massive impact on your sites authority and placement in search results, as well as adding a human element to SEO.
  • Create strong pillar pages that are highly valuable, useful, shareable and easy to link to.
  • Finally, avoid bad link building strategies with irrelevant inbound links. It’s all about quality over quantity!

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