Web is a very democratic medium unlike the print and television where you need to pay for access to good quality content and software. Therefore, for content developers and marketers, web is an open medium where there is an equal opportunity for the content to be seen by the visitors but depending on how Search engines display the search results on a particular key word or words.
Until a few years ago, it was popularly believed that all that mattered was usage of popular key words in title, body text and description of websites. And articles and blogs need to just focus on popular keywords and Google will do the rest regarding top placement in search results. But the fact is that most websites and marketers were adopting the same strategy of key word based promotion and content creation with the result Search Engines had to become intelligent to understand the relevant ones from the irrelevant ones, quality ones from mediocre and also had to identify the original content from plagiarized ones.
Search engine leaders Google led the research in this area and came up with several new alogorithmic changes with the objective of providing the best results for search queries by people. Naturally, enough website developers and marketers focused on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) as a strategy to get top page ranking Google and get into top search results for their relevant keywords. SEO refers to the process adopted by website developers to improve the visibility of the site on organic (natural or unpaid) search engine results pages (SERPs). This is achieved by incorporating search engine friendly elements into a website.
Quite frequent changes in search engine algorithms made people think that Search Engine Optimisation is dead. But it is far from true. Google and other search engines continue to innovate with their search engine algorithms to bring better search results for internet users.
SEO Trends and how it will impact marketing
Brian Dean, a SEO expert has outlined several key SEO trends based on a million search results in Google and this can help content marketers and SEO marketers to better understand the dynamics of search engine functioning and devise ways to achieve better return on investment (ROI)
Avoid over-emphasis on key words:
Many people still believe that key words are most important factor in SEO but research shows that the number of times a keyword appears in a section, title or article has no bearing on your page appearing in top search results. Google now looks at how much depth the article or web section has gone into that key word or phrase.
For example, when a net user searches for the keyword, ‘who’s the Infosys CEO’, Google crawls for sites that contain the key strings Infosys CEO or so it was thought. However, research shows Google looks for websites that cover the topic in detail, not how many times the keyword has appeared in a page or section. In this case, it would look for pages that contain in-depth information about Mr Vishal Sikka, who is the CEO thereby bringing the most relevant search results for users. Therefore, any article related to IT industry where Infosys CEO is deliberately or randomly mentioned here and there without much relevance to Mr Vishal Sikka as a person or his work, may not get a place in search engine rankings.
Topically,relevant content important:
A topic or a subject can be covered in-depth or at the superficial level. However, the new algorithmic changes in search engines give prominence to in depth coverage of a particular topic or key word. So the average length of an article or blog should ideally be around 1900 to 2000 words to get noticed.
Original Content & Photos Vs Plagiarised content:
A few years ago it was common place for websites and blogs to earn good popularity and income just by copying content from various sites and compile them. Some others went to the extent of rewriting and editing the content from other sites. Now intelligent alorgithms can detect copied or rephrased content much easily and it applies to photographs and illustrations too. Therefore, it pays to investment time and effort to create original content to stand out. In other words, what matters most is how original the content is and how popular the topic is among the people, not the popular keywords repeated in it.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Content with image has a better chance to get on top of search rankings although too much photos aren’t that useful
Shorter URL’s perform better:
Every website and page has got a universal resource locator (URL) that helps identify a page or a site on the World Wide Web (www). For example, www.indiagov.org, the portal of India Government. Research indicates that shorter URLs are likely to get better rankings in search results compared to longer URL’s. Google algorithms look at the first five words and give lesser importance to the words after that.
Exact match not required in title tag keyword:
Most often effort is taken by SEO experts and content developers to put as many popular key words in title tags. However, it doesn’t appear to be relevant in Google search as exact match is not what search engines look for, but the most relevant content related to the title tags.
Backlinks to webpage, quality matters most:
For long, SEO trends had focused on backlink building as an effective strategy to increase page rankings and appear frequently in search results. However, it is not the number of backlinks that are important now, but the quality of the sites or blogs that are backlinking our page or site that is more important.
The frequent changes in search engine algorithms make it challenging for SEO to deliver results. Therefore, it makes sense to focus on both online and offline SEO strategies on a continuous basis. Online strategies include page loading time, use of Https vs html, URL length while offline strategies include link building, keyword promotion, content length and depth.
SEO Strategies That Will Deliver Results
Changing search engine algorithms create a need to devise appropriate strategies to make our content stand out and deliver results.
Understand the objective of SEO:
At the outset it is very important to understand the purpose of SEO and its role in marketing and promotional activities online. The goal of SEO for any content developer or marketer should not be to get as many visitors and landings on our page but to direct the most relevant searches to our page. The objective of SEO is to inform the search engines what is our content and how it may be relevant to the users searching for a particular information.
In the absence of SEO, automated search bots that crawl the web, follow links and index content in massive databases will find it harder to locate useful content easily. Without SEO, websites and blogs may remain invisible to search engines, according to some experts.
Bank on most relevant key words:
Sometimes SEO tactics can be overstretched a bit so that some key word or content related to it is frequently used in a site out of context just because it is a hot keyword. World Cup Football may be a hot keyword when the event is going on, but what relevance has it to a site that is devoted to jewellery, finance, medicine or banking? Such strategies may attract traffic because the topic is hot that point of time but attracting an audience interested in ‘World Cup Football’ may not add a penny to your sales. So, it is utmost importance to bank of key words that are most relevant to the industry or profession.
Use HTML content:
The search engines perform a complex set of activities in the backend to index the contents and make it accessible for them. HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) is the most easily indexed while images, flash files, java applets and non-textual content may be ignored despite the advances in crawling technology.
Certain tools such as SEO-browser.com, Mozbar or Google’s cache may enable you to see what contents of the site are visible to search engines and indexable.
Crawlable link structures:
The success of a website depends on how easily crawlable it is for search engines and how easy it is to navigate for users of web. A crawlable link structure is vital for enabling search engines to find all pages in a website. This will be an obstacle to indexing of pages and therefore lose out on page rankings.
Forms submission pages:
Many websites have content that is accessible only on submission of a form or a password protected login. Crawlers tend to bypass such pages and hence any pages related to it will also be invisible to search engines.
Maintaining a website, its mobile site has its own costs in terms of retaining domain name, maintaining servers and creating new content to engage the audience. Despite these overhead costs SEO marketing is often considered a cost effective strategy to build traffic to the site and enable sales conversions. Compared to traditional advertising, costs may appear to be lower. Yet, web searches often witness a volatile trend and is in a state of constant flux due to changes in algorithms done by search engines. Many sites have simply vanished after making good money, as they couldn’t survive the changed scenario created by algorithmic innovations.
A firm that depends on SEO marketing alone may be doing so at is peril as organic rankings should not be the sole source of traffic for any website. SEO is a long drawn out process and would take months or years to show any tangible result on the bottom line.
SEO marketing cannot show any tangible results in a few week. Moreover, some website owners tend to be rigid when it comes to content and not willing to make changes to make it SEO friendly. This would cause harm to page rankings in the long run.
Some companies try to emulate SEO strategy of their competitors and could end up nowhere. As trying to be a copycat will only put our efforts one step behind our competition.
The goal of SEO should be to make the job of search engines easier but not to outwit them. There are broadly two types of SEO strategies adopted by companies- White Hat and Black Hat. The latter violate search engine guide lines, try to exploit weaknesses in search engine algorithms. It includes link spam, keyword stuffing, cloaking, hidden text and hidden links. On the other hand White Hat techniques use HTML links, focus on content quality, make content indexable and crawlable. Some SEO trends have shown that SEO experts use gray hat strategies that don’t cross the line into black hat SEO but well outside what should be considered white hat techniques.
The pertinent question is whether an SEO experts service is required in-house or outsourced. SEO implementation has a qualitative as well as a technical component. The basic part takes care of using appropriate keywords, titles and descriptions and ensuring that content is of a high quality and relevant to the audience being addressed. The technical part involves the help from programmers and analysts for implementing HTML coding, making sites navigational or crawlable for both visitors and search robots.
White Hat and Gray hat techniques enable the website and mobile sites to be noticed by search engines and get higher in page rankings while black hat strategies may help gain some results in the short run but may get blacklisted for unethical behavior.
The rapid growth in social media has made it inevitable for websites to have integration with several platforms such as Twitter, FaceBook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google Plus and others. Along with SEO, proper social media management can help achieve the goals and objectives of online marketing in an ethical and organic way.
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