Listening to the Search Engines – the Key to SEO

by Guest Author on July 5, 2012 · 4 comments

We all know that SEO is a changeable industry – you always have to stay on your toes and be aware of the most up-to-date trends and advice. Search marketers spend a surprisingly significant amount of their day checking sites such as this one for the latest information – there aren’t many industries where your success or failure can change so drastically overnight.

Take Penguin as an example. Search engines have been saying for years that you shouldn’t buy links, or build from low-authority websites. But it didn’t stop agencies and webmasters being shocked when their rankings plummeted in April when Penguin was unleashed.

The problem stemmed from the fact that the short-term, anti-webmaster-guidelines approaches had worked very well for a long time. Building large volumes of links worked – and it often worked quickly. It made businesses happy to see their rankings riding high, so the building of quantity-over-quality links was the methodology of choice for many SEOs across the board.

The issue is that those using these ‘black hat’ techniques did so under a potential threat of it coming back to haunt them – and it did. Those whose rankings stayed up after Penguin were (mostly) people who had put their efforts into following webmaster guidelines and created great websites with engaging content that could be easily shared by readers.

So, lesson learned, we hope. We’ve always said in our SEO course that the #1 SEO technique is to listen to the search engines! This doesn’t mean chasing an ever-changing algorithm, but rather just listening to their advice about the kind of sites they intend to reward well in the SERPs.

So what are Google and Bing saying now? What words of advice should we be listening to?
Responsive Web Design
After skirting around the issue for a while, both Google and Bing have said recently that they recommend designing responsive websites over building and maintaining separate static sites for mobile and desktop access.
This is great for users, who will always get a great browsing experience from a responsive site; and good for the crawler traffic which will have much less ground to cover. It also makes life a lot easier for webmasters who will only have to build and maintain one website!

Webmaster Guidelines – what IS Good Content?
When it comes to building this all-important engaging content, Google states that you should “make sites primarily for users, not search engines”. We’ve all seen oddly-phrased sentences on home pages and realised they’ve been manipulated to squeeze in some extra keywords. The best copy writers will be able to get keywords into the text but retain the readability.

Bing similarly focuses on the user when it comes to their advice on creating content. They emphasise the importance not only of checking for spelling mistakes but of making sure that everything is well-written and of genuine use to the reader. Their case study of good content goes through all the pages you’d want on your site but also all the other types of content you can write to add value – to give the reader more than perhaps they came for, but certainly not less.

This type of content should also bring you extra traffic – but you will always need to avoid the temptation to draw in people who weren’t looking for what you offer. They’ll only leave straight away, and this will increase your bounce rate and impact your SEO.

Local Search is Important
If your business doesn’t depend on people coming to see you, e.g. if you are eCommerce or have a blog about fashion, you might be tempted to ignore all the recent developments in local search. Don’t. Both Google and Bing have been making frequent announcements about developments in the way they rank and show local results – Google have rolled Google Places into the fold of Google Plus with Google+ Local. Bing have enlisted Yelp to “help you do more with local search”. The very fact that these changes have happened so close together means Local search needs to be taken seriously. Now is the time to listen to the engines and follow their advice.

About the Author:
Aaron Charlie works for Silicon Beach Training; leading providers of SEO resources and training courses.
Image by ky_olsen on Flickr

Google+ Comments

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Simon Fryer July 5, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Hi Aaron,

This is a great post. It seems like every time there’s a major algo update (although supposedly there’s more than one every day on average), the SEO world goes into a frenzy over what’s changed in the industry, how to avoid problems caused by the update, and how it’s changing our profession.

That being said, fundamentally not much changes each time. Certain strategies that are, shall we say, less ‘genuine’ may become redundant, but the fundamentals of what we do are still the same. It’s better to look at SE’s ambitions for search in order to get a long term view of what’s going to work. As you’ve mentioned, it’s important to keep an ear out for what SE’s feel is important, particularly with the development of their products like local search.

Thanks for the post!

amarinder July 5, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Your information on what is good content is superb. Everywhere people are talking that content is the king now, but it always left one confused that what new one need to bring to content which was missing earlier. With the Bing article explaining everything in deep detail about it, thanks to you. One more thing, Can I add new information to my article even if its published few months back. Ofcourse, I won’t change the old information but can i add what was missing. Would the google bots mind it?

Fish Tank Media July 8, 2012 at 11:55 pm

It depends on whether you are looking to make a quick buck or whether you are creating a brand. Many people over the years have used link buying and other anti-Penguin tactics to make loads of money. Even JCPenney did it successfully but they were too big to fail in Google’s eyes. Your best bet is to always think of the brand first and do what the search engine say.

Good post!

Aaron Charlie July 9, 2012 at 1:16 pm

Thanks for the comments.

To reply to your comment, Amarinder, there should be no harm in revising and updating old content – in fact, it should be rewarded by Google as they want to give people up-to-date answers to their queries.

If it’s a news-y post, I like to highlight what’s been added and when; but if it’s a page of information then you should be able to just rewrite it as and when you need to. Fresh content is a good thing, for readers and for the search engines!

Hope this helps, thanks again for reading the article.

Aaron

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