It’s quality content that drives SEO. Danielle Haley at FSE Online Ltd surveys the current search landscape and offers some tips
It is not often that mainstream news channels talk about SEO, but recently, The Guardian did just that. An article in the business section by Mark Smith,Master SEO and Rise Up the Google Rankings, took a look at how Google has dramatically shifted the SEO goal posts in the last few years to build a search engine that promotes the best content, rather than the sites with the most links.
The article pushes the idea that links are still crucial for SEO, but content is the most important factor. It finishes with five tips to help you improve your SEO. But before we discuss the latest top tips, let’s take a look at how Google has radically changed the search landscape in the space of a few years.
Build it and they will come
If there has been one myth of SEO since day one, it is the idea that all you need to do is build a website to reap the rewards. This has never been the case – just as a website in 1998 needed links to rank well in Google, it still needs links in 2015. However, the nature of link building has changed, and now Google uses over 200 other signals alongside inbound links to position websites in the search results.
The power of Google
Google is, for the vast majority of people, the doorway to the internet. Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, once said that “if it isn’t on Google, it doesn’t exist”. Although the rise of social media means that this is no longer strictly true, Google is still the most popular search engine – around 88 per cent of British residents use Google to find services, products and information. To put this in perspective, Google’s servers process 3.5 billion searches every day.
SEO and the wild west
Between 1998 and 2011, it was relatively easy for anybody with a little know-how to quickly improve the search positions of just about any website. 1998 was the year that Google launched and also the same year that it released details of its PageRank algorithm. SEO may have been around before Google, but it certainly came of age in 1998. For 13 glorious years, SEOs could manipulate Google’s search engine by creating their own links to game the PageRank algorithm. What sounds like nefarious activity was almost standard practice for many years. SEO was an arms race – if you wanted to rank, you started building links in every way possible. ‘Black hat’ SEOs were born and automated link building plagued the internet.
Skip forward to 2011, and Google stepped up its battle against webspam with the launch of the first Panda algorithm. This tackled the problem of thin content, copied articles, doorway pages and other on-page tactics to help rank a website. The following year, the first Penguin update was released, which started to tackle inbound link spam. In the space of four years, Google has largely taken back control of its search engine.
SEO is a slow process
The Guardian article goes on to talk about how SEO is a slow process today. Phil Morgan, from Delineo, said: “SEO results are only keenly felt long-term, and therefore it can be difficult for small business owners to see the value in taking time out of their day to write about their industry.”
Content is king, but how can SMEs create great content on a regular basis? The answer lies in outsourcing. Whereas SEO agencies used to build links for their clients, the best agencies are now creating great content for their client’s websites. Content creation and promotion is the new SEO.
The Guardian’s top 5 SEO tips
The Guardian certainly did their research – their top five tips are also those that we preach to our clients:
1. Create great content. Write informative articles about your products and services. Avoid copying at all costs. Learn the basics of journalism and learn to structure a news article.
2. Get some good quality links. Yes, links still count! Great content should lead to good links, especially when combined with some outreach and networking.
3. Learn to write engaging titles. Titles attract attention, so think about how it will look in social, in search and on your own website. You can modify the META title tag to create a different title for search and social – but remember, Google does sometimes ignore this and show a title of its own choosing!
4. Get social. Build a social audience on all major channels. Social has no direct impact on SEO, but you are more likely to attract the attention of a blogger or journalist via Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn than by email outreach.
5. Get mobile! Assume that everybody owns a mobile and will look at your website on mobile first. If it does not load on mobile, they won’t bookmark it for later viewing, they won’t share it on social media and they certainly won’t want to link to you.
If you liked this article, why not hire FSE to produce content for your own business blog? Or, if you’re a keen writer but just don’t know how to go about sharing your content, read our piece on 10 ways you can promote your business blog.