So the dust is now settling and 2012 seems to be a historic year for algorithm changes with search engines – most notably, Google (News - Alert). From additional “Panda” updates in January to the recent “Exact Match” domain update at the end of September, Google shows that one thing is certain: what determines what website shows above what website will forever change.
Each year, Google changes its search algorithm numerous times. In 2012, we had eight major algorithm changes. While most of these changes are minor, every few months Google rolls out a “major” algorithmic update that affects search results in significant ways.
A great source for monitoring these updates is SeoMoz, the definitive source of these updates, from the ones mentioned above to updates to page layout to EMD (Exact-Match Domain).
For search marketers, knowing the dates of these Google updates can help explain changes in rankings and organic website traffic.
In our work with some 2700 Web properties over our 20-year history, we’ve learned in constructing, managing and marketing sites that although search engines change the metrics of what they measure on a given site within a given industry, they never seem to change the foundation of what they measure, which is “credibility” and “popularity.”
The foundation of all search engines is to place the best, most qualified, most respected and most popular sites at the highest point on their results page as possible. What the search engines spend considerable time tweaking is “what” determines credibility and popularity.
The credibility topic has been discussed and debated for years now as search engines deduce a site’s credibility, in most part due to the quality, quantity and geography (percentage of links pointing to home page vs. sub pages) of its inbound links. What is relatively fresh on the scene, comparatively, is a site’s popularity.
In 2012, my team and I saw search engines move a substantial amount of emphasis toward what is called “Social Signals.” Social Signals can be Facebook (News - Alert) shares, retweets and Google+1s.
The amount of Social Signals a site carries has a direct correlation to how popular the site may be.
This past summer at Today’s Growth Consultant, we switched our core point of view about sites we work with. Our stance is to go right at the issues of both credibility and popularity. We do that in three ways:
First, we make sure we construct a quality sharable site. Essentially, this means make it easy for visitors to interact and share content from your site. Tips include update content frequently to keep people coming back. A blog is a good method to do this. Include share buttons on the site so it’s a simple task for visitors to share content or go to your social media sites. Offer links to your social media sites as well. Allow people to opt in to e-mail distribution from the site. And provide comment capability so folks can engage in the conversation. Finally, RSS feeds are a must.
Second, make sure your site is strategic when it comes to valuable and sharable content. When creating shareable content, it is important to do research in strategizing what to create. We research two ways. First, we use tools like Google Alerts and Google Trends to see what are the hot topics in each industry. Second, we go direct to the people spending time on our site and ask them what they’d like to see from us in the future.
Lastly, promote sharable content. Blogging is an obvious way to drive people back to your site for relevant content. Other methods we use include linking content from your customer e-mail newsletter or from press releases you might have distributed. Personally connecting with industry media contacts are essential and getting known as a destination site for certain content is similar to building brand awareness overall. One can consider paid media such as banner ads and paid search, but there are many ways to promote your site by linking to others that won’t cost a dime.
So remember, if one builds and markets a site that is sharable on all levels, it’ll eventually pick up the quality mentions on other sites and the quality Social Signals to satisfy search for both credibility and popularity. And that means your relevant content and your brand will gain greater traction.
Ken Courtright is the founder of Today’s Growth Consultant and Income Store, where he helps people take advantage of income opportunities on the Web. For more information, visit www.todaysgrowthconsultant.com or www.incomestore.com.
Edited by Braden Becker