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The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same.

Many SEO companies & Webmasters alike are freaking out about some recent changes that Google has made by securing search.  The following is my response.

A VERY Brief History Of Search.

The very first search engine was named Archie. It was created in 1990.  Archies mission was to index and categorize CONTENT that was being created on the newly growing Internet.

In 1994, AltaVista launched its natural language engine that was created to index and categorize CONTENT.

Fast forward to 1996, two really smart folks named Larry and Sergey created Google, in 1998, Google was launched to index and distribute organized CONTENT.

Back in October of 2011, Google started to secure search to users who were logged in.  This simply meant that searches being performed by logged in secure users were not being identified as keyword searches in Google Analytics.  This shift started to signal that Google, and the way that it indexes sites was changing.

Search Engines React To SEO Spammers / Manipulation.

Fast forward to a few months ago: Google keeps updating its algorithm to help thwart spam, and keeps telling webmasters that the name of the game is content.  Not just any content, but rich, premium, shareable, important content that gets people talking.  They also rolled out Google Authorship, once again, a sure-tell sign that they want webmasters focusing on deploying and feeding their audience with rich, amazing CONTENT.

A few days ago, Google, once again made a resounding statement by completely securing 100% of all searches.  This means that SEO firms and webmasters who have been relying on the power of keyword rankings now have zero access to keyword data in their analytics.  This move forces digital marketing firms and webmasters to focus on creating amazing, rich content for their audience that HUMANS will want to read and share.

What Does This Mean For Brands / You?

My background is that of a writer.  Before I even got into SEO, I wrote.  I wrote marketing pieces; I wrote creative prose; I love writing.  I gravitated towards SEO because I love words.

Since I opened the company in 2005, On Target has focused on delivering rich, relevant and compelling content to users which in turn, has provided our clients with strong search engine results. Google loves the rich content that we provide, and I’ve always stayed true to that sentiment. My mission has been and will always be, feed human beings the content that they are longing for, and the search engine love will follow.

On Target clients, will not see much of a change on anything, other than the focus of our monthly reports.  Our monthly reports will begin to focus much more on individual content page metrics as opposed to keyword driven rankings.  The goal here: make certain that the content that we are creating is being seen and is driving quality traffic and interest to your webpages.

How Google & Other Search Engines Rank Websites Now.

I thought it would be important for you to see some of the many signals that Google pays attention to prior to ranking your website in the search engine results.  This is all based on how buyer and consumer behavior has changed in the last 5 years.  Google researched and discovered that consumers now visit more than 10.4 places online prior to making a buying decision.  This means, consumers may visit Yelp, or ask their friends on Facebook for a recommendation, or follow your business on Twitter, or Google+. Consumers now don’t JUST take Google search results as Gospel.  They are consulting many more sources.

So, with that being said, Google has evolved to index websites based on social signals, customer reviews, video content, written blogging content, etc..

Here are just SOME of the many ‘signals’ that Google and other search engines are paying attention to:

– Social Media Channels.
It’s imperative that your brand is embracing social media as a way to enhance your rankings in the search engines.  Google pays attention to popular social media channels and how they are talking about your brand.  The more active followers that your social media channels have, the more that you will be paid attention to.

– Authorship.
Google+ WILL have an impact on search engine results and we are already seeing solid proof and evidence.  Google is seeking writers who are creating rich and amazing content and sharing that content across multiple channels, NOT JUST YOUR WEBSITE.

– Video.
Youtube has the second most used search box on the Internet. There’s a reason for that: people love video.  It’s critical that your company has a solid video strategy, and PLEASE create professional quality video; if you need some help, please ask us, it’s another service we provide.

– Citations.
A citation is simply the amount of times that your company is mentioned across the Internet. Remember the ZMOT video? Consumers are visiting 10.4 places prior to buying.  So, having your company / brand present in those 10.4 places and having your name dropped is a key sign to Google about the popularity and relevance of your brand.

– Content Frequency & Freshness.
Google wants to know that your brand is contributing to the Internet in a valuable, tangible way. Creating rich and relevant content for humans is the way to do that.  The more valuable content that is created talking about your brand, solving customers problems, showing alternative uses for your products / services, the better.  Remember, it has to be written for your audience; Google has filters in place to note when content is NOT natural, hence, the keyword move.

– Links / Link Building.
Yes, inbound links pointing to your website are a valuable way of telling Google that your website / brand is viable and important.  However, this is a quality over quantity initiative.  Having 82,342 random websites pointing back to your website looks unnatural.  Having 4,200 relevant, informative and solid links pointing back to your domain name makes much more sense and is much more natural.

– Authority & Expertise.
The more authority that your website builds in terms of content and asserting your brand as the expert, the more love that your rankings will receive.  Consumers want to buy from EXPERTS.  Your content strategy should always be to assert your expertise.

– Online Reviews & Structured Data.
Have you ever noticed a few stars next to a domain name in a Google search?
These stars signify customer reviews and are helping to influence buying decisions.  It’s important to get your consumers talking about your brand and rating your work.  It’s also imperative that these ratings are authentic and sincere.  If you happen to receive a few negative ratings, be certain to address and don’t get on the defense.  It’s also important to note, these ratings cannot be made to disappear by any SEO firm.  Once the people have spoken, Google never forgets.  The more activity Google sees in terms of reviews, the more attention they will give that particular domain.  A prime example; sites like RipOffReport or Consumer Beware sites are like train wrecks – you’ve got to open and read them.  These sites tend to get more attention in Google because of their popularity and interactivity.

– Onsite Interactivity.
Your website needs to be interactive.  Google seeks to index websites that have a conversation going on.  This could be blog posts, social media interaction, etc., but the key is engagement.  Google ALWAYS wants us thinking about our core target: humans.  The more human that your website is, the more you are gearing your website to serve the needs of humans.  In other words, focus on your audience, NOT on the search engines.

How To Measure Success of an SEO Campaign:
Key Analytics Metrics should include:
– Bounce Rate on individual content pages.
– Time Spent on individual content pages.
– Inbound links pointing to individual content pages.
– Search engine traffic sources coming to individual content pages.
– Overall traffic increases to individual content rich pages.
– Social Media shares / retweets etc., on socially distributed pages.
– Google +1’s on individual pages.

In Conclusion.

Every move that Google has made, every algorithm change, every effort to rework their search indexing has been all about two things: 1.) CONTENT and 2.) What websites / brands provide an amazing customer experience.  Sites that keep it natural, real and geared towards consumers at every step of the way will be rewarded with search engine rankings.  Adversely, sites that try to manipulate, trick, game, spam Google will fail.

SEO should always be about Human Optimization. Create an amazing experience for humans and be rewarded.

The On Target is here to help you create and share amazing online. Please let us know if we can help.

Recommended Resources:

HubSpot News Regarding Google Secure Search:
http://blog.hubspot.com/google-encrypting-all-searches-nj

Head Of Google WebSpam:
http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/

Google Zero Moment Of Truth Study:
http://www.google.com/think/collections/zero-moment-truth.html

Tom Jelneck : Owner Of On Target Web Solutions Blog:
http://tomjelneck.com/orlando-seo-blog/

Search Engine Land: SEO News & Resources:
http://searchengineland.com/