SEO is very much alive
SEO has been proclaimed to be dead repeatedly yet, if you want to top the search engines, SEO is the method of choice most marketers and business would choose.
While PPC (pay-per-click advertising) can easily be ahead of the organic result in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), most users still seem to click on organic listings ahead of the ad’s. For many them, the term “Ad” is a put off, so organic would seem to be the way to go.
Ever Changing Ranking Factors
While backlinks are an important part of SEO and have been ever since SEO started, in a recent study by SEMrush, backlinks have fallen to the 6th most important ranking factor. This is a game changer for many business owners who have set aside some time to learn the basics of SEO but because Google changes with numerous algorithm updates every year, it can be hard for business owners especially for those in the SME marketplace, to be able to put aside yet more time to learn how to change their SEO strategy in accordance with the algorithm updates. Especially when the need to concentrate on running their business and do not have the resources to hire a dedicated SEO professional.
Sitting just ahead of total number of links in the raking factors table of importance is the number of total referring domains (perhaps this is to illustrate diversification in the source of your links which looks more like they have been organically earned).
The four factors above that are all user related mostly because Google is becoming more user-centric in its approach to search now. To a degree it can be combated by addressing the users query and answering what they want to know or see, improving user experience and having a mobile friendly well laid out site with easy navigation without clutter.
The fourth most important ranking factor is Bounce rate, e which will be lower if the page/site addresses the users query more completely. When users are more likely to spend time (dwell time) on the site and more probably than not look at other pages in your site before leaving.
The third most important ranking factor is closely related to bounce rate – pages per session. The same things that address bounce rate will have a positive effect on pages per session and for the same reasons.
Also related to these two ranking factors and the second most important of ranking factors is Time on site (Dwell time) once again by addressing the two points above, this will be positively affected.
The most important ranking factor at present is direct website visits. Which will grow with authority as organic search traffic increases and your brand is becoming better known. When people in general, think of buying a product or service, many will have a preconceived idea of where to go to find it. Therefore building your brand is so important, so people think of you when looking for a specific product or service.
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Google’s “Hummingbird” algorithm update came into force in September 2013 and for SEO, it means that Google now pays more attention to each word in a query, ensuring that the whole query, sentence, conversation or meaning is considered, opposed to specific words. Their goal is to deliver the best possible results for a user’s query so pages matching the meaning (of the query) do better, rather than pages matching just a few words. This update has affected billions of pages across the internet to deliver better results.
Google Panda Update
Introduced in February 2011 Google’s Panda Update (and game changer) is a search filter meant to prevent sites that had poor quality content from working their way into the top SERPs. Panda has been updated from time-to-time. When this happens, sites that have been previously hit (or filtered out) may recover, provided they made the right changes and whilst that is certainly true and factual, the reverse side of the coin is also fact, and Panda could catch sites that escaped previously. Some of the Panda refreshes released as Google tweaked it to make it more effective often caused hysteria in the search landscape and the word “Panda” would strike fear in to the most hardened of webmasters in case their sites were penalised by Panda. However, as the update was dissected, SEO’s were able to overcome the penalties imposed by Panda. The last update before it became part of the Core Algorithm was 4.0. Panda affected more sites globally than any other update released by Google.
Google Pigeon Update
Google Pigeon update was released on July 24, 2014 and is a new algorithm tweak designed to provide more useful, relevant and accurate local search results. The pigeon update was tied more closely to traditional ranking signals. Google told Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Land and Rusty Brick that “the new local search algorithm ties deeper into their web search capabilities, including the hundreds of ranking signals they use in web search along with search features such as Knowledge Graph, spelling correction, synonyms and more. Additionally, Google said that “this new algorithm improves their distance and location ranking parameters.”. Pigeon affected a host of sites local results.
Google Mobile Friendly Update
On April 21, 2015, Google released its new mobile-friendly algorithm update. Designed to give a boost in rankings for mobile-friendly pages in Google’s mobile search results (NOTE google now uses it’s “Mobile first” index as mobile search continues to overtake desktop and laptop searches). This change had such an impact for a plethora of sites across the internet that it was being referred to by a variety of names, the most common being “Mobilegeddon”. The best way to address the update is to use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool, this will allow you to assess what needs to be done to make your site more mobile friendly and thus rank better.
Google Penguin Update
In April 2012, Googles Penguin update became the next update to strike fear into webmasters and SEOs alike. It was intended to catch sites spamming the SERP’s, primarily those involved in paid links or links from link farms and networks designed to boost rankings. When Google tweak penguin sites that have taken the appropriate action of removing bad (toxic) links requesting webmasters hosting the offending links to remove them and failing that through the like so f Googles Disavow tool to remove the spam and regain rankings. A lot of sites across the internet where affected by this update.
Google Pirate Update
Introduced in August 2012, Google’s Pirate Update is a filter designed to prevent sites with a lot of copyright infringement reports from ranking well in Google’s SERPs. The filter is periodically updated and when this happens, websites that were previously impacted may recover if they’ve made the right improvements.
Google EMD (Exact Match Domain) Update
The EMD update is a filter that was released in September 2012. Solely designed to filter out poor quality sites that had the search query in their domain name, for example (and only started recovering in November 2016) B & Q’s domain – diy.com
Google Top Heavy Update
The Top-Heavy Update was released in January 2012 in an attempt to prevent sites that were “top heavy” with ads from ranking well in its listings (probably due to poor user experience). Top Heavy is periodically updated when penalised sites that have removed excessive ads could begin to regain lost rankings.
What is the Future of SEO
In short, no one really knows what Google will do next. Many SEOs and industry leaders believe we are heading towards the single answer result and while that is the state of play with voice search in the personal assistants and products like Alexa and Google Home now, I think that search will continue to evolve with various updates moving the goalposts for SEOs to prevent their system from being gamed but as people continue to research products and services online, I don’t think that it will be too different than it is at present, certainly for desktop and laptop searches.
I do think that we need to be aware of voice search and start optimising for it, because more and more people are using it and it’s only going to get bigger and I do believe that mobile and voice search will be the two biggest verticals, maybe not today or tomorrow, but very soon.
The point is, in the “now”, we need to be optimising our sites for the users answering typical queries (although over 35% of all queries have more than 3 words) and questions. If we can do that, then we will rank well, get better known and receive more direct website visits. Rich snippets and knowledge graph etc will be the single answer version on desktop and laptops.
What works in SEO yesterday doesn’t work today and what works today, may not work tomorrow that’s what keeps it challenging and why I love it
SEMrush, Search Engine Land, Google Webmaster Central Blog