Search has changed drastically over the last 10 years. As a geek wannabe, I attended a talk given by Charlie Kalech of J-Town Internet Services last week at the MegaComm Conference, and was humbled to learn that instead of the Google Gods driving a change in human behavior, how we conduct searches and consume information has actually changed. Such a change is dictating an evolution in how search engines retrieve and categorize results. Basically, it’s not you, it’s me.
When Panda was released in 2011, it was primarily aimed at measuring a website’s quality and ranking based the level of content on the site. Sites heavy with advertising were suddenly ranked lower, which was a shock to the industry. Then when Google released Penguin in 2012, irrelevant back links were attacked. The poor optimizers who had been counting on driving up rankings by pointing links from random sites all had coronaries, and had to change their approach, fast. Hummingbird, launched last September, completely changed search once again. Although keywords used to be all the rage (keywords are soooo 2012), Hummingbird adapted to user intent.
As information consumers, we are no longer plugging keywords into our search bars. Now we’re asking questions. Since Google also launched its new predictive search feature, oftentimes it will know my question before I even finish typing it. Google has learned how to personalize our results based on the types of things we’ve searched for previously. Scary, I know. But honestly, Google is really trying to give us better results. They’re trying to adapt to how we search for and consume information.
Even if you wanted to hang on to the old model (keywords, links, clean code) rather than the new model (relevance, authority, functionality, responsiveness), you cannot do so. This is because if you look closely at your Google Analytics, most keyword searches performed today are unique. While you may find a word or phrase that has brought a multitude of visitors to your site, it is more likely that each user is getting to your site via a unique keyword. It is impossible to optimize (or compete for) an unlimited number of keywords, therefore rendering such efforts fruitless in today’s search landscape. Instead of trying to trick the search engines by saturating your content with keywords or pointing every site you can think of toward yours, why not simply focus on the user’s intent, and actually give them what they want?
Today, your content should answer the consumer’s question no matter how he asks it. Instead of thinking “tactics”, consider intent – what questions are your potential client asking, and is your content providing the answer? You no longer have to drive yourself nuts creating back links, because if you’re contributing value to your community, you will earn the backlinks. If you’re creating and circulating quality content which addresses your audience and their topics, you will earn not only a reputation as a resource, but you’ll earn likes, re-tweets, shares, and in turn, clients.
Submitted by Hilary