Two key changes to Google’s search algorithm this year have, at long last, tipped the balance away from SEO `experts’ and put the emphasis back on readable, sharable content. Penguin and the Disavow Links tool.
In the beginning, the internet was an information resource; a way of connecting people’s ideas and gleaning nuggets of knowledge.
But over the last decade, SEO has become a Harry Potter-esque black art. Basically smart-arsed geeks have spent all their waking hours trying to figure out ways to bend Google’s rules.
Well, there’s a load of money at stake for the websites that make page 1, positions 1-5, so who can blame them?
But now, it seems, Google’s had enough of all that sh*t.
Pandas and Penguins are Really Bitches From Hell
Google pushed ahead with both the Panda and Penguin updates earlier in 2012. In essence, both changes were about rewarding fresh, original content and high quality backlinks.
There were a raft of technical changes too, but it’s the emphasis on editorial content above the fold – that’s the top section, or most visible part of your homepage – not marketing, competitions, or spammy links to crappy `Mom Lost 57lbs With This Weird Tip’ adverts that counts.
Without doubt that has damaged the ranking of thousands, maybe even millions of websites, but you know what, most of them deserved it. People don’t really want to visit sites stuffed with keywords, copy written by machines, or peppered with dodgy links.
Fact is, the old methods of employing SEO experts to optimise your site for Google ( and Yahoo and Bing if you’re really thorough) are rapidly coming to an end. Which in my opinion, is long overdue and a good thing.
Google is Going Back To Its Roots Baby
For those of you too young to recall the internet pre-1998, there were search engines which didn’t provide much relevant content in their results. Search then was like a fairground lucky dip. That’s why Google became the dominant player in the market; it just worked better.
Well now, Panda and Penguin are doing the same job – delivering relevant information to those who search for it. The bottom line is that if you don’t put truly relevant information on your website or blog, and write your copy for humans, not search crawlers, then your site is toast.
By all means, keep wasting money on link farms, syndicating the same dull PR via content scraping `news’ sites and paying outsourced bloggers 58p per page for 4% keyword-rich drivel if you like. It won’t work.
So What The Hell is A Disavow Link Tool and Why Does It Matter?
Glad you asked.
There was another little Google tweak a few weeks back. A Disavow link facility was launched and this means that webmaster can stop crappy sites from linking up with them.
Now links matter, big time. Probably 70-80% of your site’s page rank is determined by the quality, as well as the volume of your inbound links. So for example, a link from Salford University, the BBC, or Huffington Post carries more weight with Google than say a link from weBuyAnyPreOwnedMeds.com
I hope that site doesn’t actually exist. But you never know.
Worse still, low quality links can damage your site. Google sets store by `trust and authority,’ so poor links from dodgy sites will shove your home page back down to page 37 of Google’s SERPs.
So now, you can take action and Disavow the link. Break that daisy chain of pills, porn, gambling, or tedious home insurance adverts. Excellent. You can use Google Analytics to see which sites are linking in each week, test their page rank using SEO Majestic or Alexa, maybe even visit the site, and then if you don’t feel it’s a quality website, Disavow.
Nail those bitches into the cellar of spam. And throw away the hammer.
Be A Real Person, Be Social
Now, I’m going stick my neck out and say few people will disavow a link from Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, You Tube and a whole load more social networks.
All of which should mean that traffic from those networks will become intrinsically more valuable as far as Google is concerned – no matter what they say in public.
If Google wants to maintain its credibility, then real, human interaction – the water cooler effect – has to have a defined SEO value. It also means that a site’s rank for say `best deals in iPhone covers’ will ebb and flow, according to how viral their content is. We should see SERPs evolve into a kind of Top 40, with sites going up and down pages 1-3 with more volatility.
What Can A Small Business Do to Combat The Big Boys?
Get an editor on your website listed as an author, with a Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter and WordPress or Tumblr profile. You really do want that author to pop up in the new Knowledge Graph search feature that Google is rolling out soon.
They should aim to become an authority info resource, in old journo parlance, the ‘go to’ person for a quote on a topic.
Another key point; make sure the social sharing buttons on your home/news pages are at the top of the page – in 20 years working in old media, I can tell you that advertisers paid more for those page positions because IT WORKED.
Don’t put the sharing buttons at the bottom of a news story – lots of people simply NEVER scroll down the web page. Here’s a little web page eye-tracking research for you.
You absolutely have to – no excuses – get your content shared via Twitter, Facebook, You Tube, Pinterest etc. That social aspect of your news section on your website is crucial now. There’s no dodging around it.
You need quality copy, sharp images, all alt tagged so they pop up in Google Images, plus a You Tube channel – Google owns it and you can see YT results popping up on P1 of SERPs.
But you want your YT clip to be shared right? So you’d be crazy to think your video content doesn’t need a strategy, a HD camera, a decent audio track – professional editing basically. Stop cheap skating and get on with it. Or die in the search rankings.
The internet is becoming a place where credibility, honesty, authorship and the craft of writing relevant copy, not keyword-infested rubbish, is going to be rewarded in search algorithms – praise the Lord and pass me the ammunition.
You Cannot Code Human Interest Stories, Someone Has To Write Them
The thing is, good content goes viral and site visibility is becoming a fight to the death for our attention span. Why does this matter? Well, where our eyes go, our money often follows.
Hire yourself a damn good, creative, news-hungry writer – or watch your site wither and fade and lose business. We are all deserting the High Street and shopping via mobile phones, tablets, Kindles and apps over the next decade. It’s an unstoppable, structural shift in our economic way of life.
Your website isn’t primarily about clever code, sitemaps, meta descriptions, tags and 101 other pieces of geeky, trivial architecture. Without beautiful, seductive words and images, it is nothing.