In recent times, SEO has clearly become the byword in internet marketing. Most websites now pay attention to their keywords, increasing their backlinks and updating their HTML to best optimize their content so search engines will take notice.
Unlike paid services such as Google AdWords, email campaigns, and the use of social media to grow your website traffic, SEO works organically, bringing in customers for free.
Search engine giants such as Google and Bing constantly up their games to ensure that the best, most relevant content reaches the website audience.
Keeping track of Google’s algorithm updates may seem an uphill battle. When done right, however, your knowledge of industry trends and the latest algorithm updates, can help you increase your ROI almost effortlessly and gain an edge over your competitors.
Google continues to give prime importance to quality content, and that must remain your top priority to gain long-term, happy customers. Because many websites come up with backhanded methods to increase traffic, Google’s algorithm updates are constantly tailored, about 500- 600 times a year, to identify genuine and useful content from the sea of information available online.
Off to the SEO basics-
Your website rankings are analyzed by Google’s “spiders,” automated software that crawls the internet, identifying your use of keywords and using that data to designate your website’s relevance.
Once you identify what kind of keywords influence your ranking, you can optimize your content to use them. Make sure you include them organically in your website’s titles, content and metadata, which are the areas usually accessed by spiders.
Keep in mind the online behavior of your target audience. Try to get into their shoes and consider their interests. If your target audience is photographers, you may gain traffic if you include links like “10 Tips to Improve your Photography Skills.” You’ll generate more clicks and provide your audience with free, informative content. And maybe they’ll click through to your e-store and tell others about their shopping experience.
Website design matters as well. How user- friendly is your site? Is the information your audience needs easily accessible? Working on these details can go a long way in providing users with a hassle-free experience.
Now that Google has declared that mobile search queries have overtaken desktop searches in many countries, your website’s mobile-friendliness is a factor you can’t afford to overlook. Following Google Search’s update to include mobile-friendliness as part of the ranking criteria, higher priority was given to sites that optimized their content for users’ mobile devices.
Again, your website design choices will influence your website ranking. Take into consideration that ads may appear on desktops on the far left corner but on mobiles as full page windows.
Skimming through them may irk users who have switched to mobiles for a quicker, simpler experience in the first place.
You can test your site’s mobile-friendliness using the Mobile-Friendly Test tool, which shows you how Google Search sees your website.
Now that we have covered the basics, let’s explore some of Google’s significant search algorithms and updates, which have had a major impact on their search results. This information can guide you to more informed SEO decisions that will impact your website traffic in a big way.
1. Hummingbird Algorithm
This algorithm launched in 2013, revamped Google search results by including the “conversational search” feature. Conversational tags such as question-based keywords figure heavily under this algorithm. Interestingly, one of the most significant conversational keywords is the “how to” phrase.
Unlike conventional search results which focused solely on the key terms in a query, Hummingbird examines the meaning behind the query. It attempts to understand the user’s intent by going beyond matching pages to keywords in the user’s search query.
Each word is given due attention, so that pages matching the meaning of the search query are found. Google reported that this update wouldn’t affect SEO efforts as their top priority continues to be original, quality content.
What does this mean for your website?
This algorithm identifies long-tail keywords over seed-head keywords. While long-tail keywords are very specific keywords that describe exactly what you sell, seed keywords are the base keywords for SEO. Make sure you use long-tail keywords.
- Ensure fast page loading, optimized images
- Page flow should be natural and easily navigable
- Provide original, relevant, high-quality content
- Use titles that are clearly defined and accurate
2. Panda Algorithm
The Panda algorithm is a hands-on, interactive algorithm. It scans through data looking for specific solutions to queries. It simplifies the process of going through numerous comparisons and calculations by arriving at the best match for a specific solution.
It separates websites into “High Quality” and “Low Quality” using the Quality Rater Survey to score them. The Panda score affects the website’s PageRank, which measures the importance of website pages.
It helped combat spammy websites and affected the traffic of content farms, which typically produce large quantities of poor-quality content.
What does this mean for your website?
Model your website on sites that have been given the go-ahead by the Panda algorithm.
Following this algorithm, SEO experts agree that longer content pieces work better than thin (duplicated) content. Update your posts regularly, adding fresh content that will be crawled by the Google spiders.
Make sure that your site does not have low-quality inbound links. If sites like content farms are linking back to you, it is time to take notice! Instead, ensure that high quality sites offering content similar to yours link back to you.
As with the Hummingbird algorithm, the conversational quality of search queries is given emphasis. Once again, useful, relevant, in-depth content wins. Provide engaging content that prompts visitors to interact with your page (i.e., click further links.)
If your site experiences a high bounce rate and many visitors stop at a single-page visit, you’ll be listed lower on search engine results pages (SERPs).
Check out your Panda Quality Score here.
3. Penguin Algorithm
This search algorithm was created to detect sites that purchase links to increase their web traffic. Penguin helps detect bogus purchases that affect link quality.
What does this mean for your website?
Don’t indulge in excessive link building
Avoid keyword stuffing
If you provide high quality content, your site will receive inbound links naturally. Check how many visitors trust your website using Web of Trust , or conduct a link audit to assess how your website has been impacted by Penguin.
4. Pigeon Algorithm
This is an algorithm that provides more specific and accurate results for local searches. Location cues are now interpreted differently, and more emphasis is given to local listings in a search.
This update has benefitted both users and local business communities. It has influenced search results for both Google and Google Maps. Review sites and directory listings, such as TripAdvisor, have higher visibility now.
5. Exact Match Domain Update
An Exact Match Domain (EMD) is a domain name that contains the same words as your search query, such as buyshoesonline.com. Whether or not the website is an authentic provider of quality content, its domain name is a shortcut to ensuring that it is at the top of the (SERP).
This puts legitimate companies at a disadvantage while exposing the user to risk. It’s a practise that is best avoided, considering Google’s EMD update-a filter launched by Google in 2012 to prevent poor quality sites from using this tactic.
What does this mean for your website?
- Avoid keyword stuffing, using low quality links
- Use links that improve your brand image and presence
6. Top-Heavy Algorithm
This algorithm downgrades the ranking of websites that display a distractingly large number of advertisements at the top of the webpage. Such ads take away from the user experience and have been addressed by the algorithm’s modification of page layout requirements.
7. RankBrain algorithm
Rankbrain is a machine-learning artificial intelligence system that helps process information and search results.
What’s new about this update is its increased emphasis on machine learning, suggesting that Google is revamping its techniques to a point where computer programs (instead of humans) are in control of search results and website rankings. Computers are teaching themselves how to process data at a speed and efficiency unparalleled by humans and previous programs.
This has definitely thrown a spanner into the works of webmasters and SEO specialists, who are continually trying to keep apace with the ever-changing industry trends at Google.
It’s a more sophisticated approach to interpreting search queries, focused on finding matches to the user’s intended meaning rather than matching keywords. By refining queries through automated processes, RankBrain ensures greater speed and efficiency, contributing to the overall user experience.
Now that we have discussed Google’s algorithmic updates, let’s consider their impact on your business’ conversion rates.
Although Google’s algorithmic updates have been designed to ensure that relevant, high quality content reaches users, there are bound to be glitches in the system. Your website may experience a sudden drop in traffic even if you provide authentic, meaningful content. Google is constantly on the lookout to address such issues, but there are also a few pointers you can use to prevent this situation:
1. Google AdWords Keyword Planner
Search for keyword and advertising ideas, get statistical updates and see how a list of keywords might perform. You can also check combinations of several keywords together and predict their efficiency. Keyword Planner is a free AdWords tool that helps you choose bids and budgets in line with your search network campaigns.
Algoroo is a Google algorithm tracking tool that monitors about 17,000 keywords to 100 search positions. Both negative and positive movements are added to create a single SERP flux metric called “roo.” High roo value indicates volatility in Google’s search results. Low roo value is unlikely to be affected by any algorithmic changes at Google. The site features a list of the weekly winners and losers along with a graphical depiction of their movements.
MozCast calls itself the “weather report” of Google algorithms. It detects turbulence, or how much Google’s rankings have changed. They also produce Moz Pro, a toolset designed to increase organic traffic using ranking data and SERP feature tracking.
Here are a few more industry trends to keep track of:
1. Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs)
As mentioned, Google’s focal shift to mobile-friendliness may greatly impact your website ranking.
AMP allows you to build web pages that are optimized for fast loading. It includes AMP HTML, which replaces some HTML elements with custom tags to provide reliable performance.
The AMP JS library ensures that nothing on the page blocks easy rendering of AMP HTML pages. The Google AMP Cache delivers valid AMP documents, caching AMP HTML pages for faster rendering.
2. The Impact of Machine Learning on SEO
Two of Google’s major algorithms, Penguin and Panda, are said to be backed by machine- learning systems. Major players such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple have also begun implementing it in their software.
For SEO specialists, it is important to keep track of these changes and align their strategies with the industry trends and demands. Google’s machine learning system continues to emphasize good quality content and user experience. Leveraging this information would mean that businesses should integrate their SEO strategies with effective content marketing.
3. Google’s Knowledge Graph
Launched in 2012, Knowledge Graph attempts to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible”. Once again, the emphasis is on semantic search. In Google’s words, it finds “things, not strings.” It includes the knowledge panel displayed on the right of the SERP and an answer box shown above other organic results.
What are some of the other means of effecting conversions? Let’s take a look at live chat, used to interact with website visitors in real-time.
Including a live chat feature on your website can increase website traffic and ratings. Consider a visitor who has engaged in a conversation with you regarding the sale of a particular product. Even if he doesn’t make a purchase then, the live chat feature may draw him back to continue the discussion.
Live chat helps you lend the human touch necessary to convert a cold prospect to a hot prospect. When you directly engage your leads, you can send them recommended products, customized deals, etc.
The bottom line is that live chat works on the same principle as Google optimization- providing quality content driven towards assisting the user/ customer.
Yes, keywords, backlinks and HTML are important SEO practises to optimize content. But this doesn’t take away from the significance of original, relevant, high- quality content designed to aid and inform users.
Mobile search is the way forward: Implications for design (faster page loading, optimized images, easily navigable and freely flowing pages) , Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs)
Semantic search:Writing content for users, not search engines.
Content is king. Provide and link to original, high-quality content. Avoid keyword stuffing, and use clearly defined titles.
Keep the user’s experience in mind . Avoid distracting, irrelevant ads.
Optimizing your content for Google means aligning your SEO strategies and marketing efforts with their algorithms. Your efforts should be aimed in the direction of providing content that is useful and relevant to users. Pretty simple, no?
7 Replies to A Starter's Guide on how to Optimize your Website and Rank Better in Google
Thank you it is very helpful article.
Hi Sneha Christall, really, This is one of the most SEO insightful article for an SEO learner
Hi Dipankar, I'm glad to know you found it useful!
Thank you, It is very useful as all your posts ? I am using this approach on a project for a year now, but without the ads and paid traffic, and the traffic seems to always drop after it raise. I use social media, bookmarking, blog commenting, tried but failed guest blogging etc.. Do you have any idea what should I do about the constant drop? Thank You, http://www.seoindiarank.com/
Thanks for your feedback Madhushalini! You could try republishing your content on other sites and social media. Join blogging communities that share and discuss similar content as yours. That way, you can network and grow your knowledge base. You could also use a combination of SEO tools like Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools to know what kind of keywords work best. Make sure your content is accessible across devices. You could use tools like Google PageSpeed Insights to test your site speed and efficiency.
Thanks Stefan for this information! I have a website and it is 2 months old. The problem is I still have no traffic. I try to publish articles 3-4 times a week, so I add content regularly but traffic is not coming, maybe 2-3 people per day. Also I`m using low competition keywords but ranking is bad and that`s why I have no traffic. Do you think that the reason for this is because my site is still very new to google? And if I continue to put quality content regularly, how long is going to take to start getting visitors? Thanks for your answer! Thank You, http://www.iperidigi.com/
Hi Shreelatha, thanks for your thoughts :) Publishing relevant, original content is the first step to organically growing site traffic and you're already there! You could post your content in blogging communities and networking platforms like Linkedin. You could use SEO tools like Google Analytics, which provides you with the most effective keywords to use in your title and description tags. You could also analyze your SEO strategy with this free tool http://neilpatel.com/seo-analyzer/