The old saying goes, “content is king.” This is still true, but recent developments in search-engine algorithms have forced marketing professionals to rethink their SEO strategies. Older SEO techniques are just about useless and, in some cases, dangerous to a brand’s reach, authority and reputation. Why is this happening? More importantly, what can you do to fix your SEO strategy?
For better or worse, social media has taken over online marketing and search-engine optimization (SEO). The direct force behind these changes appears to be the search industry, but the real driving force is the online marketing industry. That’s because, in the past five to ten years, online marketers have learned to game search engines too well, so search companies were forced to rethink the way their search engines work in order to serve more relevant search results, not just the results of the companies with the most cash to spend.
How Did Social Media Take Over SEO?
The marketing industry’s relentless gaming of the system actually caused a significant drop in search performance, which is really bad for the good ol’ fashioned web surfer. And that’s really bad for the search companies, which are arguably the heart and veins of the Web.
Marketers would game search engines by manipulating backlink counts. At the time, Google assumed that pages with the most backlinks are the most relevant and carry the most authority. For example, a New York Times article may be reposted, curated and outright copied thousands of times across the Web, which would create tons of backlinks to the original article. Google realized that such articles must be important because it is the target of so many links. But what happens if an online marketer pays a few teenagers to build some artificial backlinks to that article?
What if it’s not a few links; what if it’s a few thousand links? What if it’s a few million links? In Google’s eyes, the page must be important, but if its backlinks are not genuine, chances are it’s not relevant to the end user. As a result, fake backlinks became a real problem, real fast.
Google had to diminish the SEO power of backlinking, but how would it measure authority without giving backlinks so much weight? Google learned that another signal of important content is social engagement, meaning the sharing, “liking”, reposting, commenting, etc. of keywords, content, links and brands. This is why social media has taken over SEO.
How do you adjust your SEO strategy?
Now, how can your company take advantage of the new search algorithms? First, read Google’s just-released-to-the-public Search Quality Ratings Guidelines, which the company hands out to evaluators that manually rate pages for search relevancy. You’ll learn some critical stuff, but we’ve also made a quick and dirty best-practice list to help you get started fast. Check it out below:
+ Google and search engines prefer user friendliness over relentless keyword optimization. Over-optimization can actually hurt you, and hiding keywords with invisible text or coding tricks is a red flag to Google. It was a cheap trick that worked back in the day, but those days are over.
+ Set up sharing buttons on all your posts or product pages. If you run an e-commerce store, set up the sharing buttons on the product pages. You also need obvious links to your blog and other social-media accounts. A user shouldn’t have to think twice after deciding to take a few seconds out of his day to visit your brand’s social-media profiles.
+ Content is still king (you just have to make sure it’s shared over social media). Before this year, you could submit your latest blog post to your SEO company, and suddenly you’d have hundreds or thousands of backlinks that push your post to the top of search-results lists. It’s not so easy anymore. You need real fans, not dead social-media profiles, to share your content. Work on social-media recruitment, and stop relying on services that fill your social-media profiles with fake fans.
+ Use a tool or company to find poor quality backlinks, and remove them. If you paid for backlinks, chances are they are now hurting your search engine performance.
+ If you need real fans and followers, that also means you’ll have to work on improving your content. Ugly, over-optimized content just don’t cut it anymore. It must really appeal to your fan base. Otherwise, it’s dead in the water. Amazing content is king.
+ Don’t forget about your robot.txt file and other website optimization. This makes it easy for search engines to find relevant content on your website, and it also boosts load speed to prevent impatient users from leaving too quickly.
If you plan to integrate your business with OG, the best thing to do is to learn it, understand it and, if you decide it’s worth your time and effort, plan it into a long-term strategy. This is exactly our strategy at AnyPromo.com.
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Facebook is in the process of launching a new search engine called Open Graph, which will modify your search results from Facebook or Bing by considering your social-media activity and interests. You will, of course, need to update your website and marketing strategy to stay ahead in the SEO and SMM game.
As early as last year or further back, Google began considering your businesses’s social-media engagement and popularity when measuring its authority for keywords to help it deliver relevant content to search users. Google has only increased the relevance of social media since then, and now, Facebook is in the process of launching the Open Graph protocol. If you want your business’s web properties to pull search traffic from Facebook or Bing, you’ll need to perform a few preparatory measures as Open Graph takes off.
+ First, make sure you and your business are on Facebook. This is important because it shows Open Graph that you’re having conversations with your customer base, so it means your business is alive and relevant.
+ Post to your Facebook page on a regular basis - either weekly or daily. What’s important is to engage your fans. It helps Open Graph define and identify your business and its keywords. Make sure you post any relevant content to your Facebook page, or Open Graph may not even know it exists. Furthermore, Facebook pages and posted content with the most “Likes”, comments and shares have much more authority and search relevance.
+ Implement Facebook markup (meta tags), which help Open Graph identify critical snippets of identifying information about your website, business and social-media properties. Double check your Open Graph markup with the Facebook Debugger to make sure your markup is working correctly.
+ Add a “Like” button to your web pages, blog posts and any other content where it makes sense to have one. This helps Open Graph keep track of who “Likes” what, so it can modify search results according to social-media activity. Note: The old “Like” button is incompatible with this new version. If you installed the button before November 7th, 2012, it will not work with Open Graph.
For more information on optimizing your website for the Open Graph Protocol, check out Facebook’s developer documentation and additional resources.
Join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Google+, and stay ahead of the game with an occasional laugh and non-stop marketing & business advice, news and analysis. Brought to you by AnyPromo.com.
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