Getting found in Google – the SEO game keeps changing

Feb 28, 2011 19 Comments by

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategies continually evolve, but two recent announcements from Google are likely to affect your rankings in Google and other search engines as well.

It’s always a challenge for businesses to get found online,  and the position of your business in Google’s search results may make or break your online marketing.

Different experts have their own favorite strategies, but two strategies are in the process of changing – and you may need to change what you are doing as well.

1. Article Marketing

Getting links from respected 3rd party sites back to your site has long been important in getting content on your site ranked highly in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).  The more back-links you have, the higher  the page ranking credibility for your site within search engines – as long as these back-links come from credible sites.

One of the popular strategies for doing this has been “Article Marketing”, where you

  • create some content by writing an article on a topic of interest;
  • incorporate the right number of relevant keywords on that  topic into the article; and then
  • submit the article to sites that will display it together with  a back-link to your site.

The back-link is visible to visiting humans and able to be followed by visiting search engine bots or spiders.  Many links on the web are coded as “No Follow” links, which means the search engine bot will not follow them – and therefore a “No Follow” link will not become a back-link.  Article sites that will give you a link that can be followed become more valuable for SEO work.

But over the past few years, the creation and submission of poorly written articles that have little substance other than key-words on a topic has seen a lot of crap content flood the web. This crap content is often written by people with little or no subject matter expertise, and  sometimes the content has actually been written by automated software.

The task of  ‘Article Spinning’  has emerged, where one original article is spun – i.e. turned into multiple articles  that vary just enough to be treated as different articles by search engine bots.  Article spinning software is available to do this automatically.  The spun articles can be awful, and Google has often served these  up in their  search results as authoritative content because of the keywords in the articles and the  preferential page ranking treatment given to some of “credible” article sites.

Google’s Answer

On 24 Feb 2011, Google released  a blog post advising that it was making changes to its search algorithm to give better search results.

You can read Google’s full blog post  here, but here’s part of what it says.

This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites—sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.

So far so good, right?  It makes sense to improve search results and Google has been continuously doing this since it began.  (Oh yeah, please note this is for searches in the USA only to start with.  Google will roll it out elsewhere later on.)

Danny Sullivan runs Search Engine Land and is one of the global leaders in understanding search engines, how they work and how you can best use them.    You can read Danny’s thoughts on the changes to Google  here.  Danny and his team have some interesting analysis about who the winners and losers could be.

Strategy For Business

Articles: This change by Google does not mean that Article Marketing is dying, but it is changing.  There is no point at all in creating crap content and getting it spun into even crappier content.  Why bother?  Focus on quality.  Quality will always win out – eventually.

And there is less point (and soon perhaps no point at all) in submitting articles to some of the previously popular content farms.

But it is still very smart to work with credible resource centers online and get your well-written valuable  articles published in these places – with back-links to your site.

Video: One of the interesting aspects from Danny’s post is that You Tube is now being treated as an  even more authoritative source of content. For a while now,  YouTube content has been given high ranking in Google’s search results.  This is going to increase.

More and more video is being produced and viewed on the web.  When the videos are uploaded with relevant keywords, and attract some immediate interest from other YouTube users, the video is seen as being credible and authoritative – and is more likely to be given high rankings within Google’s results.

These videos may provide users with better information they are looking for, but remember that Google owns YouTube and Google has a vested interest in in getting you to watch video on YouTube as it can display more advertising messages to you.

For your business, consider making videos where you can – and uploading them to your own channel on YouTube with specific keywords likely to be used by those people searching for content on that topic.  These videos don’t have to be professional broadcast quality – and you don’t even need to have great visual effects in them.

Think about getting articles or other content on your website produced into short videos. It’s easier than you may think.  You can get a local video production person to do it professionally for you or if  the amateur approach appeals to you, then you can record decent video on your smartphone or video camera.  For recording your computer screen you can use the free Jing software or buy its big brother, Camtasia.  There are open source alternatives as well.

Many videos can be  small clips of presentations.  You don’t want to create death by powerpoint on video, but you also don’t need something that could win an Oscar.  Sincere amateur video that adds value on a specific topic can win for you.

One trick is to get some other people to watch and rate your video soon after it is added.    You can get this done through various places online – including at www.Fiverr.com where you can get small tasks done by others for just US$5. You can even get videos made there as well, but check for quality.  It’s always  Garbage In, Garbage Out.

2.  Google Changes Social Search

Google is now engaged in a strategic battle with Facebook.   Facebook is a big threat to Google as Facebook could start producing better and more targeted advertising than Google based on the  detailed – and often intimate – personal information Facebook has on its users.

As part of the battle,  a couple of weeks ago  Google  launched an upgrade to its search engine algorithm, giving more social results for users who are signed in to Google with their Google accounts.

When you’re signed in and  search on a topic, the results will start to include prominently display input from your friends on various social networks including Twitter, Blogger, Flickr and LinkedIn.  But importantly, NOT Facebook.

Remember, this is part of the battle – and this is Google trying to differentiate Google searches from searches you may do through Facebook now and in future.

HubSpot did some good analysis on this which is here and is well worth reading for more background.  Here’s part of what HubSpot wrote:

This change will be HUGE for your business. The more active your brand is in social media, the more you’ll show up in search. Why should you care about this latest Google update? Because Google is scaling personalized and social search. This means that everyone who searches will see a different page of results, based on their location, search history and their connections across the social web. Google is improving content relevance by measuring the frequency that links and videos have been shared by users’ friends.

Strategy For Business

It’s both easy and complicated.  Take social media seriously, get active, build connections, add value and be valued.

There’s plenty more on social strategies here at Digital TrendCatchers.

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  1. James Bull says:

    Hi Richard,

    Do you think we will start to see a flood of crap videos to replace the crap articles?

    Another question for you – do you think being actively engaged in social media has much value at the moment for businesses in B2B marketing? It seems more relevant for B2C, at this stage anyway.

    James

    • Richard says:

      Hi James,
      I think the production of crap videos has been with us for a long time already – and yes, it is likely to get much larger.

      As I mentioned in the post, it is relatively easy to make a video these days and upload it to YouTube, and whilst it is as bit harder to ‘spin’ a video, it is still easy enough – especially with a video just needing to contain some audio and some vision. With article marketing, Google and other search engines are clever at analyzing text to check for keywords and repetitive chunks of text that may be used elsewhere as well (ie duplicated articles). BUT it is a lot harder to have a bot automatically analyze audio or vision on a video – and currently (AFAIK) it is not done much, if at all. (Automated face recognition of photos is now being done, but AFAIK, not with audio or video.)

      So, one of the next smart strategies for SEO will involve greater use of videos. Absolutely. And many of these will be crap.

      Q2. I think social media in B2B marketing can be hugely valuable. Stating the obvious, social media is about connecting with people, engaging with them and in some way, adding value to each other through the connection and engagement. Value is measured in many different ways – not just monetarily. (for example, friendship has value to to our mental health, especially to the many people who live an isolated existence even online – aah, but I digress.)

      The key (IMHO) for every B2B marketer to realize is that they are NEVER selling to a business, and they are ALWAYS marketing and selling to a person as an individual or to multiple individuals within the business.

      As a company, the business itself may be an entity – but I’ve never known a business that makes a buying decision. It is the people within the business that make the buying decision. And within that business, there are many people who can influence the buying decision and often many people who can say “No” to prevent a purchase, but few who can say “Yes” to authorize the purchase.

      So, even for B2B sales and marketing, the use of social media can be incredibly valuable and powerful to connect and engage with individuals within the prospective customer business. BUT, if B2B marketers focus on the target business rather than individuals within it – and try to sell to the target business using social media, they will seldom (if ever) be successful.

      And that, in my opinion, is why social media seems more relevant in the B2C marketspace – because the customer clearly is an individual person and marketers know it already.

      But social media is not just about making sales. it can be hugely valuable in customer service, after sales support and in gaining feedback from happy and unhappy customers. And of course, it’s useful for creating advocates for a business and generating ongoing referrals. Plus a whole lot more…

      James, thanks for your comments.

      cheers
      Richard
      http://www.digitaltrendcatchers.com/wp-admin/edit-comments.php#comments-form

  2. James Bull says:

    Thanks Richard,

    Good point about the people aspects of B2B.

    Yes, people buy from people (something I first learned about a century ago)….funny how we get dazzled by the “newness” of social media when it all it really is another way for people to connect with, and talk to, each other…which is what people have been doing for thousands of years.

    James.

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  11. Mark@ Make Them Click says:

    I think the real point here is to stop trying to write articles for the search engines and start writing them for the people (customers) you want on your website.(same goes for videos.)

    If you just focus on the search engines you get locked into a never ending arms race, which ultimately you can’t win.

    However, if you focus your content strategy on your customers and develop content that they actually want and enjoy, they will keep coming back to you. (And that incidently is also what Google wants.)

    And in the end, repeat customers are what it’s all about.

    • Richard says:

      Absolutely right Mark. I totally agree.
      It’s about content that is written/created/produced for people and not for search engines.

      The point here is the changing significance that social networks may play in Google ranking.

      Thanks
      Richard

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