Back in the day, SEO was more technical and less, well, semantic. Now I realize that for most a term like semantic query relevancy might as well be the name of computer programming language, but the fact is Google’s customers, the searcher and the advertiser, are no longer content with results based on related page keyword content. This Wall Street Journal article explains Google’s take.
To improve accuracy Google and Bing both are attempting to understand what is actually meant by a search and refine results based on things like recency, location, context and of course relevance.
For example if you search “best place to buy a MacBook Pro” there was a time when search engines would return results of blog posts about good places to buy a MacBook Pro or maybe even computer reviews. From that you might have been able to find what you were looking for, but with semantic knowledge graph built in Google is more likely to think – oh, you want to buy a MacBook Pro and I know where you are and I know the inventory levels of the nearest stores with sale prices, so here are your results.
What this means for website owners is they can no longer count on writing content about a subject, optimizing it and going to work on links to the page. Sure, that stuff will always play a role, but there are other significant factors at play today.
Google officially rolled out a new search algorithm recently that employs a great deal of their progress in semantic search. The update is called “Hummingbird” and while traces of it have been coming in previous updates, this one is significant and lasting.
Search has been heading this way for some time now. So, no SEO is not dead once again, unless you mean quick SEO – SEO that doesn’t contain relationship and authority building. Bottom-line though – quality, frequency, depth and authority matter more than ever.
Below are five realities that site owners and SEO professionals must address in order to remain relevant.
Social signals matter a lot
One of the biggest factors baked into search results are signals that search engines can receive about content quality based on social interactions. How many +1s a page has matters greatly as do shares, likes and retweets. My guess is that it’s nearly impossible to get most content to rank without it.
In depth is the new snack sized
One of the things blogs ushered in was the ability to create small little bits of content frequently. While readers seem to enjoy this, often the content lacked much depth and certainly did not engender many retweets and shares (unless you are Seth Godin and you’re followed by 113,000 people on Google+ even though you’ve never shared anything on Google+)
Many people still throw out thinly disquised lists as link bait, but nothing gets shared and strongly indexed today like long, in depth narrowly cast articles. Google has even created markup standards for in-depth articles as long as 2000-5000 words.
Who writes it matters too
Authority based on authorship has grown to be a major ranking factor. Claiming your own Google+ Authorship for your content is vital. This includes telling Google other places where your content appears.
While there is no “kloutlike” scoring system as of yet, understanding whose content is thought of authoritative because that’s your relationship building hit list!
Link building is networking
Past Google updates with names like Panda and Penguin were different than Hummingbird as they we updates to fix stuff, mostly artificial link building. Like it or not the more sophisticated algorithms become the harder it is to fake link relationships. Link building in the old school SEO fashion is going the way of the compact disc so you better get good at writing high quality content, sharing high quality content and building authoritative relationships with people that Google thinks matter when it comes to content.
In case that sounds like good old fashion networking that’s because it is.
Keyword not provided is the new deal
Site owners long ago made a deal with Google – let us crawl your site and we’ll tell you who is visiting your site and why – just kidding – take a look at your Google Analyitcs these days and see if your “keyword not provide” or what terms someone searched on that brought them to your site is hovering in the 100% range like mine is.
There are some clever ways to hack together this data (future post on that) and word on the street is Google may find a way to sell it back to you through some sort of premium analytics, but look for some 3rd party tools to fill this gap and get used to a world without the ease of knowing why someone came to your site. (I suppose this is actually a step back into the more technical SEO need.)