Most businesses have heard of SEO and professionals throughout the world offer their “expert” services to improve SEO and help a company rank higher for specific keywords. While this sounds good in theory very few people actually understand what SEO is all about, how it works, or how it has evolved over time. Before you hire someone, or embark on your own SEO project, it is important to understand the basics of SEO and recent Google changes. If you remember one thing, remember to be yourself. Interact with people online just like you would in person and that authenticity will help you in the long run.
SEO in the Beginning
Search engines have only been accessible to the public for the past two decades and have revolutionized how we get information. If people had a question before they likely headed to the local library. Now they only need to pull out a smart phone, open their web browser, and type in a question or keywords to find the answer. When search engines first came out the information was manually edited by humans until web crawlers were developed to index entire pages.
In 1998, Google launched PageRank to rank websites in a more accurate way. PageRank used incoming links to determine how high up the site should appear in search results. In 2000, Google launched their SEO toolbar so SEO specialist can see a websites page rank and determine which sites they should get links from. Companies started link bombing and Google has been cracking down on unnatural links ever since.
Google has been trying to create the best user experience since it opened its doors. As such, they keep cracking down on SEO tactics that are unnatural and could potentially take away from a user finding the best quality information. This includes:
Unnatural link building
Cloacking (showing search engines and users different content)
Over optimization of anchor text
Google has released a series of algorithm updates that have changed SEO. Each time an update comes out a new batch of websites are penalized for using black hat SEO techniques. Some of Google’s more recent updates include multiple versions of Panda that were geared towards penalizing websites with bad content. If you posted terrible content (for example keyword stuffing), your site would be pushed lower in the search results. Next came Penguin where sites with low quality links were punished. Most recently Google came out with Hummingbird, in an attempt to provide answers to people’s search questions rather than simply using a keyword results. Each update aims to improve the overall user experience by bringing up the most relevant search results.
Google has increased the importance of social signals in SEO. When you publish, a piece of content that is shared or liked it gives a “social signal” to Google spiders that the information is valuable and relevant to the user. It is essential for businesses to have a social media strategy that encourages fans to share content.
Companies that try to trick Google eventually get caught. Many people are aware of how BMW and JCPenney were each penalized by Google. More recently Rap Genius was hit hard by a Google penalty. The popular tech company has created a cult following around users adding the meaning behind text, lyrics, and anything written. Google found out about a link swapping scheme they were doing with an affiliate program. Basically, they asked people to sign up and post a link to Justin Bieber lyrics in a blog post than Rap Genius would promote the post. Google hit them so hard that they went down to the sixth page of search results for their own name. Where before they were on the first page for popular song lyrics, those too have also been moved to the fifth or sixth page.
The lesson to old and new SEO experts is clear – Google isn’t going to stop penalizing people. Black hat techniques may work in the short term but if you get caught, the ramifications could destroy your business. Entangle Media works to stay ahead of Google trends and deliver real SEO with lasting results. If you want to know what will happen next, give us a call.