On average, Google makes about 500 adjustments to its search engine algorithm every year. Since the first Panda update in February 2011, though, many of Google's algorithm updates and other changes have been more ambitious and far-reaching in their impact. The net effect, in part, has been to elevate quality content over "thin" content, punish dubious link building practices and spammy sites and push digital marketers away from relying on keyword usage and performance data.
The changes are designed to improve the quality of search results Google delivers its users. For those who practice search engine optimization (SEO). However, the updates' collective impact has been at times confounding, frustrating and game-changing.
"I've been under the hood in this SEO game for over a decade, and I can't recall the last time the SEO community was this panicked," says Casey Halloran, co-founder and CEO of Namu Travel Group in Costa Rica. We dropped from the first page of search results to page 2 for our top keyword phrase, and we've been working to regain that position for about five months now."
Digital marketers in 2013 scrambled to keep up with all the Google changes, which included Hummingbird, a major overhaul of the Google search engine.
"Every time we react and recover from one Google update, there's another," Mike Huber, vice president of client services for content marketing agency Vertical Measures, said in a recent webinar. "It's like a game of Whac-a-Mole."
Given Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird and other big Google updates, are we moving into a post-SEO era? How will SEO in 2014 be different from SEO in 2013? What do digital marketers, businesses of all types and search engine optimizers need to do in the coming year to adapt?
CIO.com asked these questions to the SEO community and received more than 60 responses. The following is a sampling of opinions and tips from a variety of experts.
Are We Moving to a Post-SEO Era All About Content Marketing and Results Tracking?
1. SEO will always be with us. Says Brian Provost, vice president of digital strategy for Define Media Group: "SEO is like tax law. It's a set of compliance issues and strategies to optimize businesses around them. To that end, SEO will always exist as a practice discipline to market content." Smart businesses, he adds, have stopped playing "chase the algorithm," opting instead for metrics-based content creation "in line with market demand."
2. SEO has always been about content marketing. Brian Wood, senior marketing manager of SEO for Wayfair.com, says he thinks the content marketing trend is overblown. "This is what quality SEO has always been about. It only seems like a growing thing to people who were, perhaps, using spammy tactics that Google has since made more difficult.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.