Google, like time itself, stands still for no one. Over the past 18 months or so, the search engine giant has made big changes to its algorithms. Among Google's goals: Improve the user experience by delivering relevant, fresh, quality content and, at the same time, crack down on those using questionable search engine optimization (SEO) techniques to gain an unjustified ranking position.
Moz, which delivers Software as a Service SEO and other tools, even keeps a regularly updated Google Algorithm Change History. In 2012, the blog listed 37 significant algorithm changes alone.
So what does all this change mean for online marketers who legitimately use SEO techniques? Have the rules of the game changed completely or stayed the same? Or are they somewhere in between?
SEO experts agree that creating high-quality content, which earns authentic links from trustworthy and/or authoritative sites, still is and has always been the best SEO practice. "What was important to do years ago is still important," notes Cyrus Shepard, senior content producer for Moz and formerly the company's lead SEO practitioner.
Nonetheless, online marketers should consider adjusting some tactics-if not their thinking about SEO-to continue ranking well in Google. Here's what you need to know about SEO today.
3 Pillars of SEO Today: Content, Links, Social Media
"Improving the quantity and quality of inbound links used to be the sole goal of every webmaster," says Jayson DeMers, founder and CEO of AudienceBloom, an SEO, social media and guest blogging service, but "this method of thinking has become outdated."
Today, your business should be focusing its SEO on three "pillars" of sorts: Content, links (particularly earned inbound links from other sites that point to your content) and social media "likes," retweets, +1s and other endorsements of your content, DeMers says. (These three points, plus five others, will be discussed in greater depth below.)
"Search engines are placing a much heavier emphasis on the combination and unification of all of these elements," DeMers adds. "The presence of any single element plays a negligible role in the ranking algorithm. However, when all the elements are combined, there's an amplification effect in the rankings."
As a result of the need to unify all these aspects of online marketing, DeMers believes that SEO professionals are morphing into "online marketing professionals," adding, "SEO as a vertical has disappeared and is now simply 'online marketing.'"
1. Content Is King-But Good Content Rules
In the past year, content marketing has become a big buzzword among online marketers, partly due to Google algorithm updates that penalize low-quality content.
"Online marketers should be focusing on quality content publication, both on and off their websites," DeMers says. "Content can be text-based, visual-based, or audio-based, or even a combination of two or three. The bottom line is that search engines want to deliver high-quality, valuable content to users. If you want your content served up in search results, it better have those attributes."
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