I wanted to share with you a popular article that I have written for my industry's high profile publication called SiteProNews.
The article answers the question of "What has changed on search engines?" and "Why am I having so much trouble with getting and keeping organic placement?"
There have been big changes with search engines over this last year and this article may demystify exactly what you should do as a business owner to help your website be visible in this new world.
There's lots of chatter in my industry about the future of search engines and how Google's new algorithms are changing the landscape of how business owners work to keep and improve their website’s placement on Google. What seem apparent to me is that the following important trends are surfacing and impacting what we see in the organic results.
1. Search results returned by location specificity. But not only your Google.com preference location that you have set, but by your mobile search history and actual Google recorded locations over time.
2. Search results returned by click through rate and bounce rate gathered by Google by users of the Chrome browser and Android tablet and smartphone operating systems. Anything Google can track it is and it appears to be using this aggregate information in returning search results.
1. The ability to impact search results by building links and enhancing on-site keyword density.
2. The ability to impact search results by crafting title tags and H1 tags by page to try to boost search rankings.
3. Links from social media and activity on social media. Google is appearing to devalue these types of signals which is a reversal from their announcement that they were using them in their search algorithm over a year ago.
As social activity can be spammed just like link building, Google appears to be devaluing these items in favor of location specificity through concrete user tracking based on search history and location. Just try to turn off Wi-Fi on your smartphone and you'll see what I mean. In your Android system, Google keeps turning it back on as it uses Wi-Fi to track your location in order to know where you are so as to develop a better profile on you to determine what results to show you. Even if you turn it off, it will go back on.
Keep in mind that Google has now actively worked to tie your smartphone number to your desktop and tablet Google account and so now understands the full picture of who you are, where you live, and what you do based on your activity online and offline.
Google is using all this data on you to serve search results tailored just to your needs. It's all about relevancy.
What Can You Do to Boost Placement - Anything?
Based on what search engines are valuing and devaluing for organic placement what's a business owner to do with optimizing their website to try to garner top organic search placement?
1. Build your site and create your content as if there were no search engines. Over time, organic search results will become so unique and so personalized that there will be no way to beat the system in the future. So instead, it is by far better to start now focusing on creating a winning online presence that caters to your local users and focuses on creating your business as an authority in your industry.
2. Look for more ways to promote your business and website in ways other than just in the organic search results. Consider pay per click advertising promotion, newsworthy press releases, writing articles for industry magazines, and creating question and answer articles for your local newspaper.
3. Focus on location specificity in your content and on your website. Work to own your local marketplace. Make sure your phone number and address with full location and zip code are placed on every site of your website.
4. Work to connect with local resources like the Chamber of Commerce and other local business organizations. You can participate plus show a link to your website when you become a member. But remember this is way more than just building local links; this is about working your local network and building a location specific base. If you are a brick and mortar store, building loyalty programs with a smartphone app now becomes incredibly important as Google will use the data from smartphone users who actually visit your location to boost your results in the organic search results both in mobile and on desktops.
5. Watch the bounce rates on your website pages. It used to be a good strategy to include a lot of informational content on your website to build traffic numbers, but now that strategy may be driving a 70% to 80% bounce rate on your site which you must now work actively to lower to the industry average of about 46%. That may mean getting rid of articles and informational content that had been built before to solely establish industry authority.
Many of the things that search engines are now valuing to provide tailored organic search results are simply not scammable. It is becoming very difficult to garner search placement based on a strategy of serving content to please search engines. Instead, I recommend the tactic of becoming meaningful to your location specific users and supplement national visibility with pay per click advertising.
What Should You Be Reviewing and Updating?
Like never before, you've got to keep a careful eye on your content; reviewing your online message for authority and placement. Google is penalizing thin content, duplicate content, and link-heavy content.
How can you make sure your content stays in the "green zone" versus the "red - penalty zone"? Here are a few tips to identifying and solving content related issues.
1. Check the bounce rate of your pages in Google Analytics. Look for pages where your bounce rate is higher than 75%. If the page has over 300 to 350 words of content you may want to consider if you want to keep the page. It may simply be a one stop page that does not lead prospects further in to know about your product and may need to be removed or updated to entice them to travel further into your site. Or if the page has under 250 words, the page may be too thin and need a rebuild.
For some of our clients, a 75% bounce rate may appear on pages that had previously been built for in-depth articles or to build site authority. These pages, although valuable years ago for SEO, may now be penalizing a website with a high bounce rate with Google as the site reader comes in to visit, but never makes it off that one page.
2. Consider using a tool like Screaming Frog to scan your site (up to 500 pages for free more with a license) for word count. You can watch a video of what the tool does on the Screaming Frog website. Target the pages that you find that have about 250 words only and then review the bounce rate in Google Analytics. Additionally I would recommend you take a look at pages that are over 1,000 words. In today's mobile-sensitive Google extra long pages that will not render well on mobile or may cause excessive scrolling may damage your placement as well. Consider those extra long pages as candidates for a "break-up" into multiple pages that will be mobile reading friendly.
3. Use a tool like the MOZ Site Explorer to get a snapshot of what is happening with nofollow links and authority of inbound links. Use the tool to find your top linked pages as well as the top anchor text. Although you can see a few things for free the paid version will unlock more data if you decide to buy it. Taking a look at outbound links from a page may give you additional possible content related penalty insights.
Content pages under about 250 or so words, with lots of outbound links, and that have a high bounce rate may actually help to lower your website's overall Google placement. Although one page or two certainly will not play a big factor in your overall ranking having a significant number of problem pages may set up your site for a Google thin content penalty.
With many website owners not reviewing their content except when they update to a new website, some businesses have content that has not really been reviewed for over three years and in some cases much longer than that.
If you have not taken a careful look at your business online presence recently it is important that you take a look now, as Google is factoring in thin content and bounce rate into their organic placement algorithm.
If you need help identifying areas of opportunity for your website and to create a new strategy for visibility, I invite you to visit our website to find out about the new services we offer.