Tag Archives: Search Engine Watch

SEO Trends for 2013

English: a chart to describe the search engine...
English: a chart to describe the search engine market (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Search engine optimization is a constantly changing field. Looking at the trends that are developing in 2013 gives us a sense of how to reshape our efforts. This is becoming more important all the time, actually, because what’s on the horizon is a major shift in the way search engine rankings are calculated. (Actually all mathematical calculations are getting ready to change. 2012: 4 + 4 = 8. 2013: 4 + 4 = 11 & 6, both/either. 2014: 4 + 4 = 4. 2014: 0 + 1 = 4. The trend is toward all equations resulting in 4, but this year’s gonna be nuts.)

For this article, I drew on ideas presented, primarily, in Search Engine Watch, Website Magazine, SEO Advantage,  and Mint Twist. I also came up with some of my own ideas – shocking! – but much of the grist came from research on those three sites.

SEO & Content Marketing

Initially the Web – which we often forget is still in its youth – was based on text and linking between sites without a great deal of sophistication. Basically the questions were these: do you have certain keywords, and how many links do you have coming in from other websites? It was a much simpler calculation than what we see today, and much easier to game the system, for web developers with bad content to draw in traffic.

People used to get away with a lot – using a font in the same color as the background, for instance, and jamming as many keywords on the page as possible without feeling concerned that visitors to the page might find it annoying and impossible to read. What people have been able to get away with has been reducing all the time as Google has improved its policing of misbehavior.

Content writing became a whole field in the industry. This field emerged because website owners who were used to just throwing a bunch of words and links together now needed to have something real to legitimize linking – they needed information, opinions, and ideas. Content writing, then, was a major improvement over previous efforts because you can no longer get away with a bunch of meaningless words that just happen to relate to a subject.

Recent Google updates – Panda in 2011 and Penguin in 2012 – have majorly impacted the necessity of content that is unique. Plagiarism is no longer tolerated, and content now needs to be of a higher quality – more robust and more heavily reliant on credible sources.

It is no longer considered acceptable to simply find places to pay to link to your site or to write content on a blog network and link it to your site yourself – the idea is generally to get to a more user-friendly Internet composed of a network of high-quality links and information. At present, it is still somewhat of a jumble of high-quality and low-quality without as much demarcation as would be desired when looking for a solution to a problem or even just randomly surfing the web, to know what we’re reading is accurate.

(Sometimes I feel that Shaquille O’Neal is the only one we can trust. Is that guy still alive? I hope so, because I think he may be the only one out there who understands business ethics. He can read, right? I think I saw him with a book one time.)

Personality

Many website cover the same topics. This makes sense, because in the end, there are only so many different topics to cover that are relevant within a certain field. However, covering the same topics means covering a lot of the same language. Finding a different way to approach the same topic becomes a key issue.

What sites are looking for, then, is personality. It’s a differentiating factor so that you and your competitors are not overlapping each other with everything you write. Creativity becomes crucial, finding those niches in the Web that have not yet been filled.  Personality, then, makes us unique and creates content that’s different from the territory that everyone else is covering. In the process, we brand our businesses and separate ourselves from the pack. So, this is not all bad … provided we can partner with the right individuals to do it.

(My quilting group has an expression about this: “When you patch it all together, if it looks completely crazy, that’s because a demon was at the quilting bee, and you have to burn the quilt right away or everyone in the quilting bee will be in imminent danger of dying from the consumption.”)

Google Say, Monkey Do

I don’t care what anyone says. I like being a Google monkey. They train me so that I don’t throw feces at my neighbors. I’ve always felt kind of bad about that – even though it was fulfilling in a way when I made a direct hit, it also felt like I was being irresponsible. Google God did not smite me, and for that I am forever grateful. He just asked me to change.

Google is obviously far from perfect, but it’s too strong a force on the Internet to ignore if we want to succeed without constantly fighting uphill. Google+ and Google Author are two major factors for 2013, and they are linked at the hip. You want to be on Google+ yourself if you’re a writer or produce any content, and you want your business to be on there as well. Look into validation as an author.

Google Author will tie together SEO and social media to make it one system of quality definition. What easier way to define quality than by how engaged users are with the content? Well … the truth is the system will still not be perfect, because probably all we’ll be able to find on Google henceforth is TMZ, that’ll be it. Nonetheless, engagement on social media will be a helpful factor.

(In 2014, Google will start forcing all websites to convert into paparazzi video sharing sites. All other content will be dismissed by the search engine, and no one will be able to find any other search engines, because we will have watched enough paparazzi videos in 2013 that our minds will be a vast grey landscape of nothingness.)

Rich Snippets

What are rich snippets? Well, I’ll tell you one thing: they are certainly snippets. And I’ll tell you another thing: they are certainly not poor. Basically rich snippets are additional info that pulls into your SERP entry.

Though they don’t affect SEO rank, they do affect how often someone clicks through to your site. So then, it’s a factor that affects your SEO success although it does not relate to rank, since what the SEO is trying to achieve (obviously) is not just a certain ranking but the traffic coming into your site.

Examples of rich snippets are prices and reviews of your products and services. (Other examples of rich snippets are links to your sexting images library so that everyone can see what you and your friends’ junk looks like at your own personal treasure chest on JunkTrunk.xxx! Look at all these goodies in this trunk! Somebody call Brad. Brad would love what’s in here.)

Summary

So those are a few basics for SEO trends in 2013: Increasing quality of content, personality and uniqueness as a factor, the relevance of Google Author, and the usage of rich snippets to stand out on SERPs.

If you have any other ideas, please either comment below or contact me on my tin-can phone. As always, ring the bell in the tree house, and I’ll know to pick up my end of the line.

by Kent Roberts and Richard Norwood

5 SEO Mistakes You Might Be Making

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...

Search engine optimization is not just about doing the right things. It’s also about not doing the wrong things. Having a good sense of common SEO mistakes will make it easier for you to make an impact with your efforts.

For this article, I researched Higher Visibility (an enterprise focused article), Search Engine Watch, and Quick Sprout.

1. Thinking Quantity over Quality

Many times when we do functional activity, we get obsessive with the quantitative component. Excessive focus on the numbers and the results tends to inhibit creative and innovative approaches, which are essential to quality SEO.

To solve this challenge, consider setting goals that are not at least immediately based on numbers and ideally aren’t solely based on numbers. It’s very difficult, if not impossible, to quantify the results of SEO because, like marketing, it changes user perception of your company. Metrics will show part of the effects of the SEO, but you will also see results show up over time – not necessarily in direct response to a particular piece.

Now, one way you DO want to focus on quantity is sheer number of words on each page. Google prefers pages that have at least 2000 words of content.

(If you run out of things to say, try talking about what you’re writing, such as what I’m about to do right here – just a filler bonanza to hit a certain word count. And … wait for it, everyone. We are almost there, and … ahhh … there we go.)

2. Duplicate Content

You don’t want to have the same content on multiple pages, even if it makes sense from the user’s perspective. The search engine spiders are machines, not animals, and they don’t understand that it might make sense. Since you can’t rewrite the spider or talk to it, better to understand and not enrage it. If you have “print” pages on your site or give the same page multiple URLs, the spider sees that as duplication.

Additionally, you need to implement a 301 Redirect from the non-www version of your site to the www version (aka a canonical redirect). You don’t want them both to exist without the redirect. Similarly, if you have a security certificate, you can wind up with a problem where you have the secured homepage and the unsecured homepage coexisting. So for examples of both, http://Ihatetheinternet.com must redirect to http://www.Ihatetheinternet.com, and http://www.Ihatetheinternet.com should redirect to https://www.Ihatetheinternet.com (the latter applying if you have a security certificate installed).

Another typical scenario that’s worthy of its own mention is when you have a catalog with the same stuff on it in different sizes, colors, etc. If the main text is the same, the spider, again, will become enraged and may even devour your children. Calm the spider by placing all this content on one page. If you must create multiple pages for different sizes and colors of products, you will need new copy for each page.

(Spiders universally hate plagiarism, which is why Charlotte sucked out all of Wilbur’s blood when he claimed to have written a Mark Twain poem.)

3. Excessive Focus on Links

This is similar in spirit to #1. You don’t just want to splatter-paint links all over the place. Google is about numbers, yes, and it quantifies, but it’s becoming more misguided all the time to think purely in terms of number of links, because what you really need is sites with reputability linking to you. Plus, linking is being surpassed by social response, individual writer credibility, and time.

  • Become more socially active: Google and Bing both use social sharing to define your site’s relevance. Work on getting more social engagement, with special focus on Google+.
  • Be aware of Author Rank: Google is now tracking the quality of content, on a case-by-case basis, through authors who sign up for Author Rank and place its code on any sites where they write. Get a writer with a high rank to write for your site (and that writer’s Rank will be determined in large part by social media success of their pieces), and you will benefit from their general Web credibility.
  • Grow old: Although this is irritating to newer sites, the older sites have an eaiser time ranking highly on the search engines. It doesn’t matter nearly as much how many backlinks are feeding into their site. They are old, and therefore they are wise. Congratulations, grandma. Use your current page if it’s a few years old, if you can – even if starting a new business (the magic number is five years).

(If you force your website to smoke three packs of cigarettes a day, you can age it a lot faster. Also give it lots of booze, and have it go through some horrible emotional experiences. An innocent website is too pure for capitalistic success.)

4. Too Much Focus on Optimization

Optimization really is in some ways becoming more of an art than a science. What is “quality,” anyway? It’s a little difficult to put a finger on it. SEO will suffer if there’s an obsession with keywords – and in fact, this type of effort will hurt rankings because it’s seen as poor content when a site is just a keyword-fiesta without any interesting ideas and perspectives. Think about UX, the user experience, when creating your site. Investing in the UX and making the site enjoyable will help your SEO much more than thinking in terms of collecting a huge number of keywords and links.

A buzzword in the Web world that used to be used much more often but has gone out of style is “SEO copywriting.” No one wants to think on those terms anymore, because it’s now seen as an indicator of an unwise quality-blindness.  The search engines will now respond on behalf of the users in ways that were not possible in the past – so don’t direct your efforts toward the search engines but toward the people. Gear yourself toward quality. Pay attention to the title and subtitles. That content, since it’s emphasized, should have your keywords in them in some form.

(A good thing to discuss on a first date is your struggle with quality-blindness. Explain to your date that you suffer from a disorder in which everything is just another notch on your bedpost. Everything gets its own notch, though. Never reuse notches.)

5. Linking Exclusively to your Homepage

Many sites link too much to their homepage. Instead, place more of your focus on your internal pages.  Wikipedia is a great example regarding linking to all the pages of one’s site (who cares about the homepage, anyway?).

Only 1% of Wikipedia’s links go to its homepage. The other 99% of them lead to pages all over its site. It makes sense that this suggests to the search engines a much broader and more complexly relevant, content-rich site. Follow their lead: Don’t just link to the front page of your site, but to all that great, gooey, chocolaty (or is it nougat-y?) goodness that’s in the middle.

(Generally speaking, you should treat your site like a candy bar. Remove its wrapping, eat half of it, and let it oxidate on your coffee table until ants start to eat it. Then brush the ants away and finish it off before Cindy comes over and tells you you’re disgusting.)

Summary

To review, think quality over quantity (or strike a balance at least), beware of duplication, start trying a broader approach than link-building, don’t optimize excessively with keywords (that’s not how it’s done anymore), and link to all pages of your site.

Finally, thanks again to Higher Visibility, Search Engine Watch, and Quick Sprout for those sites’ contributions to this piece.

(The world is changing, and you should too. Start with your T-shirt. Then we’ll begin working on your political opinions.)

by Kent Roberts and Richard Norwood