The SEO landscape is constantly changing, and no one but Matt Cutts can say that they understand it perfectly 100% of the time. New lessons can always be learned, and strategies can always be improved.
Here are 11 new facts you need to know before your status drops from SEO expert to SEO rookie.
Fact 1: The Bigger, The Better
The accepted word count for articles is growing.
Originally, a 300-word article was acceptable. In 2013, 500 words was the optimal number. Now, the Search Engine Journal says to expect 1,000 words to be the new norm, and don’t be surprised if that number has risen to 2,000 by 2017.
Google prefers rich content because we prefer rich content. There is a direct correlation between the length of content and the number of links. People find longer content more informative and are more apt to reference it in their own material.
This is why the top 10 search results in Google are typically more than 2,000 words.
– Don’t write bad content just to reach a certain word count. Quality still matters.
– Get to the point with your posts. Avoid rambling and stuffing in unnecessary context.
– Test how long form content converts users. There are always exceptions to the general rule.
Fact 2: Guest Blogging For SEO Has Decayed And Is Dead
Matt Cutts has been forecasting the demise of guest blogging for a while, and back in January, he finally came out and said that it was pretty much a dead practice.
The main reason?
It has gotten too spammy.
There are too many services out there claiming that they can raise your PageRank by pumping in spammy links.
I agree with Matt when he says that, “This is why we can’t have nice things in the SEO space.”
What was originally an authentic, effective practice has now been ruined by people and businesses trying to cut corners and beat the system.
Guest blogging still has its uses. It’s still a good way to gain exposure and spread your brand message. Just don’t bank on using guest blogging for SEO purposes anymore.
– Focus your guest blogging efforts on creating exposure, expanding your network, and building relationships.
– Be wary of posting guest articles on your own site.
– Like with any piece of content, avoid over-stuffing links.
Fact 3: Search Results With Author Snippets Are Decreasing
Back in January, Google really shook things up in terms of authorship. In a study done by The Moz Blog, they found that there was a significant drop in searches displaying authorship mark-up, the result of Google having reduced the number of authorship snippets.
Matt Cutts explains that a 10-15% reduction has actually strengthened the search quality.
No need to panic if you lost authorship for some of your keywords. You’re not being penalised. Google is just raising the bar in terms of authorship because they felt its prominence was lowering the search quality.
Moz assures us that while authorship is nice to have, it isn’t the end all for your SEO program. Don’t get caught up in keeping track of which keywords have authorship and which don’t.
– Don’t rely on Google authorship. It’s not an SEO shortcut like many make it out to be.
– Keep creating rich, informative content and you will see results. Authorship is just a label. The actual content is what counts.
Fact 4: Google Is More Revenue Focused Than Ever
Paid advertising is making it tougher and tougher to get noticed organically.
Which makes sense—paid ads are where the bulk of Google’s revenue comes from, so why wouldn’t they be prominently displayed?
Google Analytics is used by millions of businesses, and you’re probably one of them. While some insight can be taken from the software, the functionality is still biased toward paid advertising, which makes the organic picture a little foggy.
As a result, many businesses are using other analytical tools to get a clearer picture of their organic search performance. They aren’t solely relying on Google Analytics; they’re compiling data from multiple sources to get the most accurate insights possible to drive SEO decisions.
– Crosscheck your Google Analytics data with free analytics tools like Open Web Analytics, Piwik, and Clicky.
– Or invest in more robust analytics software. KISSmetrics and Mint are both reputable and affordable tools.
Fact 5: Social Media And SEO Need To Be Pulled Together
Social media plays a critical role in online user experience. While many small businesses see SEO and social media as being mutually exclusive, integrating these two digital elements can have a large impact on your bottom line.
Social networks are goldmines for link building. The more social shares your content gets, the more Google starts to pay attention. A link that has been re-tweeted fifty times is considered “better content” than a link that has never been tweeted at all.
Additionally, content posted by users with influence—users that have many quality connections and followers—will be noticed more than users who have only a few connections.
Social media isn’t just a tool you can use for competitor research and customer service. It can also enhance the quality of your SEO efforts.
– Keep building your social community to build influence. Comment, post, pin, like, mention—engage in conversation!
– Make sure all content on your website is easily sharable.
– Include strong calls to action in both the content on your website and when you share links to your followers.
Fact 6: Mobile Site Usability Is A Must
Your mobile site needs to be a priority. If it isn’t, this will impact how you show up in the search results.
Mobile is a big deal right now, so Matt Cutts has outlined a few things that should be taken into account when optimising your mobile site.
– Google will not show flash sites in the search results for phones that do not display flash.
– Route mobile traffic to the page the user is attempting to access. Websites that route all mobile traffic to the homepage will be ranked lower.
– Rendering speed is almost more important for mobile than for desktop. The faster the better.
– Avoid using flash in your mobile sites.
– Reduce the amount of content and graphics to avoid overwhelming users and slowing the site’s rendering speed down.
– Make links within text easy to click.
Fact 7: Older Content Can Still Be Used For Link Building
Creating fresh content is really important to link building, but most businesses put so much energy into publishing new articles that they forget about their older content. This content can still be put to good use. It just takes a little effort to revamp and recycle.
Stats are the first items that everyone chooses to update in older posts and for obvious reasons, but I urge you not to stop there. If you can find a way to add more value to your posts, people will keep linking.
As you search for posts to update, also keep an eye out for irrelevant posts that can be deleted like time-sensitive promotions.
– Take a look at visits, social shares, and referral traffic to find older content worth revamping.
– If you have any microsites floating around, revisit them and make sure they link back to your homepage.
– Reformat posts visually. Turn list posts into slide decks, or leverage SlideShare to give them more of a visual pop.
– Make dry content more entertaining, and add an “update” so you have an excuse to tweet it to your followers.
Fact 8: Search Context Is Critical
The new Hummingbird update has impacted more than 90% of searches worldwide, making it one of the biggest changes to Google’s algorithm in recent years.
This update improved Google’s semantic search capabilities, which means context has become a critical factor. They announced in their blog that the algorithm now associates concepts related to a search.
“For example, if you search for principles of physics, our algorithms understand that “angular momentum,” “special relativity,” “big bang” and “quantum mechanics” are related terms that could help you find what you need.”
Keep in mind that Google sees this semantic search technology as an addition to their algorithm, not a replacement for the traditional keywords.
– Leverage geographic location, local news, and current events when developing content to understand the context surrounding certain keywords and phrases.
– Provide in-depth content that covers relevant topics in detail.
Fact 9: Searches Are Becoming Wordier
Back in 2004, no one did 8-word searches. Since then, 8-word searches have grown 34,000%.
Generally speaking, the number of people searching for 2 and 3-word phrases is decreasing, while the popularity of 4, 5, or even 8-word phrases is increasing, according to Neil Patel.
These long tail searches offer an opportunity to attract more clicks. While no one long tail keyword will provide an extraordinary number of clicks, the clicks combined from all of these phrases can make a large impact.
These long tail keywords generally have less competition, and they convert better than more popular terms because they attract customers searching for something specific.
– Track your long tail trends or use a long tail keyword tool to see what phrases your customers are searching for the most.
– Create longer, richer content to increase the likelihood of being noticed by these long tail searches.
Fact 10: Reading Level Matters
Google does take reading level into account for different search terms and topics.
The better you can understand your audience and the better you can create content targeted toward them, the better chance you have of showing up higher in the search results.
Google is all about user experience, so it stands to reason that they want to provide articles tailored toward the needs of its users. If an article is too complicated, the user isn’t going to stay on that site very long.
In addition, proper grammar and spelling are also taken into account because they’re elements that contribute to the articles overall quality. Don’t worry though—errors in comments aren’t going to hurt you.
– Draft content targeted toward the lowest reading level of your audience.
– Keep product and service descriptions clear and concise, and avoid unnecessary technical jargon.
– Use readability tools to test the reading level of your content.
Fact 11: Pages With Top Heavy Ads Will Be Penalised
Again, this has everything to do with user experience. Websites with advertisements above the fold are being penalised because users don’t want to have to scroll past them to see content.
Matt Cutts recently released the Top Heavy Algorithm that addresses this problem. He doesn’t specifically mention how much is too much in terms of advertising, but he does encourage web developers to monitor how their content appears above the fold.
While this algorithm has impacted less than 1% of searches, it is still important to note that content placement on a webpage plays a factor in search ranking.
– Reduce the number of ads above the fold and then be patient. It could take several weeks for Google to notice the change.
– Use heat maps like Crazy Egg and Clickheat to see how willing users are to view content lower on the page.
SEO rules and guidelines are ever-changing, and if you want to stay on top of the search rankings, keeping updated with new trends and facts is a must. Check back to get the latest SEO updates so you can be proactive and keep driving up the organic rankings.
What other new SEO facts are important to consider?
Leave your thoughts in the comments!