The SERPs are falling! The SERPs are falling!
No doubt you have heard the cry a lot this year and may have groaned those words yourself. It seems Google loves to screw with the thousands of people who have built their businesses on the traffic they get from the search engine. We have jumped through hoops, pushed the limits on their terms and conditions and either bought links or did what once was condoned methods to garner links and improve our SERP positions. But Google now really seems to be changing the very way they create their search results.
I have been doing this from the start – when keyword stuffing was not bad, when text the same color as the background had not been banned, when cramming keywords in to title tags was the norm, AND they all worked. But that was before search was the main way we found location-based businesses, before social networks, before Google had a plus one or a SPyW, etc etc etc.
Just like the old methods, link building as we know it has essentially gone the way of keyword stuffing. Does it still work? Yes, but now the battle is over those limited quality links within your niche and as the vast majority of SEOs chase this and the other speculations on Panda and Penguin, IN MY OPINION, they are largely wasting their time.
Unless you have great connections or get very lucky, it is not the most effective use of your time.
Google’s move here is to drive websites to create better content. They have given us all the clues – Bill Slawski – the guru of search engine patents pointed out Google had applied for a patent on ‘content entity management’ a couple of months ago. And we know Google has always been a proponent of improving the user experience which is largely about improving the quality of the content selected by the algorithm.
Forget links! Write more content – turn your site in to the ultimate source for your niche. Too many people spend time getting specific anchor text links to pages that offer little information about the link keywords. You can’t have everything answered by your home page and the days of it ranking for all are quickly disappearing.
As PJ Fusco points out “Enterprise-level organic search engine marketing is all about optimizing different bits and pieces of web content that make up a large, complex website”. It is not a simple recipe, otherwise everyone would be doing it well.
Keep writing, keep writing, keep writing. Really, it adds to the freshness issue (recently much mentioned), it reinforces what the site is about and adds to the amount of varied information and longer tail terms you can rank for. Remember 25% of all searches are unique – or so we have been told – so the more variety the better chance of ranking for these new searches.
As Mark Jackson shows in the above diagram and in his article on highly effective SEO, the vast majority of our efforts should be about the content. Not just researching keywords and competitors, but actual content.
Once you start this content creation machine, I would highly recommend building your social network. Share the pages on Twitter, Google Plus and Facebook, throw in some LinkedIn and maybe some Pinterest and people will start to know your site has the content about your niche. Bounce rates drop as the people who come find what they want and can be led to deeper pages if done right.
I have had a site with no links other than social ones rank within a week for long tail terms that are somewhat competitive and stronger terms a few weeks after that. Google knew my site was gaining subscribers – they saw people coming to it from emails and social links.
Learning how search engines rank things is an important part of any SEO’s job. But with all the changes Google has made over the past couple of years to what they show, it is time to change our approach. Their recent SPyW – Search Plus your World – is another under-the-covers move – it has gathered info about you and your associations and bundles results based on that. If you have visited a site before you are more likely to see results from that site. Get people to come and they will see more of your listings – hence importance of social, particularly Google Plus.
So while I am not suggesting forgetting about link building, I think we need to get back to the content – lots and lots of content.