SEO isn't what it used to be, there's no denying that. Long gone are the days of keyword stuffing and spam links unfairly boosting your search engine rankings. The fact of the matter is if you don't stay current with Google and their frequent algorithm adjustments, you'll be on the losing end of trying to boost your content to the top of the Search Engine Results.
Warwick Bettles, head of Digital Strategy for Digital Affair, said, "The heart of seo is understanding Google's motives. They want to connect the world with relevant information as easily as possible. Provide that and earn authority and your site will rank."
In recent years, Google has made it a point to demote spammy and low quality writing; especially links bought and paid for using keywords in an obvious manner. But businesses and marketers far and wide still chase after the sought after Page 1 search engine results. So, how are marketers and businesses winning the SEO game in 2016? To sum it up in two words: value and relevancy.
1. Valuable content trumps all else. Over the past two years, since the Panda and Penguin updates, Google algorithms have been adjusted numerous times in an effort to tune out spammy links and promote more "in depth" content.
In 2013, one of the biggest updates was the Authorship Shake Up adjustment Google made, which promised to reduce authorship results in searches. While most people were not completely clear what this meant, it was evident from some studies that Google was focusing more attention on authors that were of "high quality". Reducing authorship results led to what Matt Cutts called better quality authors.
Greg Miles, Managing Director at Bumbl explained, "Five years ago you could game the system and SEO was often seen as a bit of a dark art - but the tactics that worked then don't work today."
In short, focusing your SEO campaign on better quality content versus a higher frequency of content is key.
2. Don't leave out localized content. Another update called Google Pigeon resulted in localized content being highlighted more prominently in search results, specifically with regards to more accurately targeting parameters in which companies can be found. In short, if you're a local business or if you have something to offer to a local market, take full advantage of this.
3. Artificial Intelligence rewards high quality sites. A positive change was reported in late 2014, as more sites were being searched and indexed for news headlines. The latest statement from Google in late 2015 is that they are experimenting with Artificial Intelligence in order to constantly "learn" what high quality web pages are.
"The future of SEO is in machine learning and AI. Search engines will know what a user wants before they realize it and tailor search results based on their past behavior, interests, and demographic," explained Jonathan Tavarez of Vantage Internet Group.
All of these updates can be confusing for SEO companies, let alone regular business owners trying to make an impact but the general consensus is; don't skimp on the quality of your website. It pays to take care of your onsite SEO just as much (if not more) than it does offsite SEO.
4. SEO and PR will continue to become more intertwined. Today's SEO places a much bigger emphasis on public relations as earned media backlinks are becoming more valuable to today's marketers.
Steve Morgan, SEO consultant and Morgan Online Marketing discussed the conglomeration of PR and SEO by saying, "I've previously blogged and spoken about how PRs have the power and they may not even realise it. They have the ability to get inbound links from some very authoritative sources - although a link is often considered an afterthought or an added bonus, not the goal. "
In previous years quantity mattered more than quality and too many companies and writers created cheap web pages that established instant links. Today's smart marketers know better. SEO of today places a much bigger emphasis on creating valuable content and disseminating it on reputable news sites and authority blogs. Thus, the melding of Public Relations and SEO, which has caused many SEO companies to begin offering pseudo-PR services. Bottom line: if you don't understand the value of real PR, now would be the time to learn.
What Does Evolved SEO Mean For Businesses?
Lauren Wilkison from CSC Interactive, an SEO company, gives this word of advice about search ranking strategy. "We always tell our clients that Google and Bing and other search engines consistently update their algorithms. SEO isn't a once a year process, but a matter of doing the right thing consistently. The right thing is ensuring your website is SEO friendly and creating content that has real value."
In the competitive and convoluted world of digital marketing, SEO certainly hasn't "died" but it has evolved into a marketing strategy that rewards marketers and businesses that consistently provide real value.
Moving into 2016 and beyond, local businesses, startups, online businesses and everything in between will continue to be rewarded by valuable content, high quality web pages and social engagement. The recent changes to SEO are everything reputable marketers have been waiting for for the past decade.