Google’s likely to penalize websites for too much SEO—at least that’s what the newest changes to its algorithm suggest. Matt Cutts’ mention of an impending algorithm change at SXSW this past week seems certain to make content marketing–and the creation of relevant content–even more critical to businesses of all sizes. And yes, Virginia, apparently there is such a thing as too much SEO.
This, combined with Google’s focus on semantic search as recently covered in the Wall Street Journal, really means just one thing. Google’s goal is to use technology to more fully understand what searchers seek, get smarter and serve up better, more relevant results more quickly–and perhaps even keep users on the site longer.
The latest (and not yet official) news is that Google’s pending algorithm tweak will actually penalize highly optimized sites. You’ve no doubt seen some of them – they sometimes don’t look great, they might even have content that’s not all that great, but they’re optimized to the hilt with keywords out the wazoo and all kinds of links, so they’re ending up on page one of Google’s search results.
While we are huge fans of SEO and the many brilliant people we know who are experts at optimizing websites for search, we’re also fans of great content. And now it appears as though it’s even more imperative than ever that smart search engine optimization and great content strategy go hand in hand.
And so now, what we’ll see is businesses—and SEO firms—of all sizes scrambling to actually produce content that will be considered by Google as relevant to the rest of the content on the site, as well as to how the site is optimized for search. Uber-optimized sites will no longer, by default, win the search engine wars, which means there’ll be lots of companies out there looking for content. This makes me sigh just a little, as I’m certain that we’ll soon see snake oil content marketing ninjas join the forces of social media gurus–and businesses that don’t know better or don’t do their homework will get taken advantage of. More.
In theory, these changes and the focus on semantics are intended to get to the heart of the searcher’s interest and serve up results that don’t require the searcher to leave Google in pursuit of different sites served up as search results. As a frequent searcher, this only makes sense. So, what does this mean for you and your site?
What to Do To Get Your Site Ready For Google’s Algorithm Changes
What to do? One thing’s for sure, if you’re not paying attention to this change, chances are you might see a dramatic drop in search. This isn’t new news – it was actually announced a few months ago, but it’s probably not a stretch to say that not a lot of businesses are paying attention—yet. Here’s what we think you can, and should, consider doing to get your site performing in the best way possible:
Toss Out Your Old Keyword Strategy: Embrace the Use of Synonyms
Google’s going to be looking for less of a particular keyword density and perform more of a contextual analysis than ever before. When you think about it, it’ll probably result in not only more effective content, but better written content.
Build Up Your FAQ Page
This really only makes sense. People go to Google (or any search engine) because they have questions. If you have a section of your website devoted to answering questions, it can only serve to benefit you. A robust FAQ page, designed to truly answer frequently asked questions, is a prime example of delivering relevant, frequently searched content. If you aren’t currently using a FAQ page, you might consider starting. Soon.
Quit Selling, Inform
This is not anything that’s new—at least to us. Truly relevant web content should sell less and inform and educate more. When you know what drives people to your site, serving them up information that will be useful to them in a myriad of ways is the key to a number of things, including stickiness, return visits, leads and the crown jewel of all websites, conversions.
Delivering the best, most complete results for searchers is the ultimate goal and Google’s not been shy when it comes to talking about their focus on that. Like it or not, change is afoot.
The time to consider your website and its current state of search engine optimization is now. If it is “uber-optimized” … and you probably know what that is because you’ve been paying a pretty penny for it, it might be a good idea to have a meeting with your SEO team, your content development team and your marketing folks and decide how you’re going to modify your content marketing strategy and what you’re going to do to ensure your site will still rank given these impending changes.
Image via SEOMoz