Pigeons, penguins and pandas: How SEO has evolved
My, SEO, how you’ve grown. In just a decade, the online marketing technique has evolved from a techy black art to an essential refined strategy. How has Google moved us away from the bad old days of ‘black hat’ and ‘white hat’? And how can you make the most of those changes?
Panda prefers tasty content to bamboo
Spam and stuffing (of keywords) was no longer the dish du jour for SEO. Thanks to the major Google Panda search filter update in 2011, content had to have real nutritional value to claim their rightful place in Google’s search results.
In 2012, the Penguin update also made link-building a more sophisticated craft. Too many links will look like a link-building scheme; natural links and high-quality linked content (from, say, guest blogs), will help your rankings.
One particular 2013 Hummingbird update had a noticeable effect: Google could now discern meaning and context rather than just individual phrases. Hummingbird made keyword stuffing an official ex-parrot.
This is why content marketing reigns supreme: Google loves it when you produce excellent shareable content that readers actually find useful.
Pigeon is taking over your neighbourhood
Pigeon, the 2015 update, means that Google now rewards well-optimised sites by giving them a leg-up in local search results. This makes sense, as more users are using their mobiles to find out what’s near them.
Now it’s all about neighbourhoods rather than cities.
To make the most of this tweak, make sure that you know what neighbourhood you’re in, no matter how big your city is. Make sure you know what names your hyper-local area goes by, both for locals and visitors – and keep your Name/Address/Phone (NAP) information consistent.
Neil Patel of Search Engine Land has some great Pigeon tips for you to implement so you’re top of the (local) pops.
Google’s Knowledge Graph is the answer to your questions
Where once we asked Jeeves, now we ask Google – and its Knowledge Graph tool is designed to have the right and relevant answers around concepts, rather than just offering links.
The ‘graph’ part of the name refers to their internal ‘link graph’ used to determine how pages are connected. Google then shows you the most relevant and sought-for information.
You’ll see this in action if you search for a thing, a place or a person. You might see a fact box beside the main search result, which can lead you down a rabbit hole of related links. How often have you searched for a specific person, only to read about their friends, family, colleagues, or similar people. You might also see what other people look for in relation to your original search.
The only downside is that organic results can sometimes be hidden under the pile of facts that you simply must spend hours reading (it happens to the best of us).
To mitigate against this, you can use the collaborative, open Schema.org activity to markup your web pages and emails with ‘microdata’ tags. Or, in layman’s terms, add accurate and meaningful information so that Google understands it better. That means your pages are displayed only in their most useful and relevant way.
Mobile is the kingdom where content rules
In 2015, Google confirmed that, around the world, mobile searches had overtaken desktop queries for the first time. Then came ‘Mobilegeddon’, the new mobile-friendly ranking algorithm that has us all asking if we were mobile-friendly.
It’s still important that you get your site(s) in shape for mobile viewing, since more and more of your users will be using a handheld device to access it – and of course, Google will be rewarding your search rankings accordingly.
Google’s mobile-friendly criteria involve such things as avoiding Flash and making sure it’s responsive (changes size for the device your users are using). Give your own site a quick check with Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool.