My first foray into the world of SEO was back in 2013, when I was working for a small business on their newly installed marketing team. Google had placed the company under penalty in 2012 for black hat SEO tactics, which was a fancy way of saying that they, like many other companies at the time, found a way to cheat the system.
In order to help with the effort to pull the company I was working for out of penalty, it was necessary for me to learn the most radical changes that Google made to their algorithm. One of the most important lessons that I learned throughout my first round of SEO education is that to be a true master of SEO you have to constantly stay on top of changes Google will make to their algorithm and then follow suit to ensure you are playing by the rules. Otherwise, your brand will pay the price of disappearing from organic searches.
Many of these rules that were put in place back in 2012, still exist today. Here’s what’s in, and what’s out, when it comes to using SEO to your business’ advantage:
Out: External Back-Linking
When Google caught on to how people were taking advantage of their algorithm, they changed it, making it harder for companies to work the system. Some of the changes they made regarding linking focused more on quality than quantity. For example, they stopped giving weight to the number of links you have that lead back to your website and instead are focused on the links back to your site that have a strong domain authority.
In: Internal Linking
Internal linking, or linking between different pages of your own website, is another change that became more significant to SEO in the past 5 years. Internal linking aims to help the user better navigate your website and potentially improve the user experience. Since the main change to Google’s algorithm placed greater emphasis on content, internal links are an excellent way to showcase all the great content you’ve created for your website. And if you don’t have great content for your website, it’s probably hurting your SEO efforts.
Out: Keyword Stuffing
Some of the changes Google made had to do with the overall quality of content, in a
way that organically takes the user experience into account. This was perhaps one of the most significant changes to the algorithm, as it was no longer enough for brands and businesses to stuff each page with target keywords in order to rank higher in a Google search. Google’s bots have gotten a bit smarter and now have the ability to determine whether your keywords are in context with the rest of your content, or if they seem out of place and unnatural.
In: Quality Content
According to Google’s own Quality Guidelines for SEO, they list basic principles to follow as you are either building out content for a brand new site or reworking the website you already own:
Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.
Don't deceive your users.
Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you'd feel comfortable explaining what you've done to a website that competes with you, or to a Google employee. Another useful test is to ask, "Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn't exist?"
Think about what makes your website unique, valuable, or engaging. Make your website stand out from others in your field.
Basically, Google is telling us that the main focus for every business and brand should not be how they are ranking in a search, but rather how their website can help customers better interact with what they are selling.
SEO, Content and Growth
If you feel as though you could use some help when it comes to your SEO strategy and your on-site content, contact HYC. We specialize in reworking and reorganizing website content to create a better user experience, optimize blog posts with long-tail keywords that make sense for your audience and help you manage your social media efforts—all of which play a big role in determining whether or not your business will outrank the competition.