It's no secret that Google are continually revising their core updates in order to improve search results to their users. Therefore your positioning in the results can change accordingly.
But you may wonder why would your position change? Google actually give a simple analogy for this situation: Imagine you made a list of the top 100 movies in 2015, then in 2019 you refresh the list. Obviously the results are going to change. New movies may have come out, or you might reassess ones you previously saw and think they deserve a higher or lower place.
So apply this thinking to your website and understand that If your site drops.......it doesn't mean there's something necessarily wrong with it. It's just that newer sites may have come along, or possibly existing sites have increased the quality of their content to rank higher than they previously were.
Which brings me to the crucial word: Content!
Google doesn't rank your site on how artistic and pretty it is.....it doesn't care. In fact it can't even see how attractive it is because the search engine spider doesn't actually have eyes......it's just a machine that's scraping data off the page. It wouldn't know whether an image showed a Spanish Beach or the Spanish Inquisition unless I put in an "alt tag" to tell it that information. The visuals are just window dressing for your users......nothing more.
Of course your site must look attractive and professional.........but it has no bearing on your search positioning.
On-site optimisations to present your content to users and search engines are important........but ultimately you will live or die according to what your content contains. There's no way round this fact, and as I always say......"There is no Magic Bullet".
Google have just released an updated directive confirming what it is they look for when assessing a website. Full information HERE!
There's nothing in it that they haven't stated before as per previous Google Search Quality Guidelines, but it's worth you just browsing through these to get a better overall perspective:
Content and quality questions
Does the content provide original information, reporting, research or analysis?
Does the content provide a substantial, complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
Does the content provide insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
If the content draws on other sources, does it avoid simply copying or rewriting those sources and instead provide substantial additional value and originality?
Does the headline and/or page title provide a descriptive, helpful summary of the content?
Does the headline and/or page title avoid being exaggerating or shocking in nature?
Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
Would you expect to see this content in or referenced by a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
Does the content present information in a way that makes you want to trust it, such as clear sourcing, evidence of the expertise involved, background about the author or the site that publishes it, such as through links to an author page or a site’s About page?
If you researched the site producing the content, would you come away with an impression that it is well-trusted or widely-recognized as an authority on its topic?
Is this content written by an expert or enthusiast who demonstrably knows the topic well?
Is the content free from easily-verified factual errors?
Would you feel comfortable trusting this content for issues relating to your money or your life?
Presentation and production questions
Is the content free from spelling or stylistic issues?
Was the content produced well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
Does the content have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
Does content display well for mobile devices when viewed on them?
Does the content provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
Does the content seem to be serving the genuine interests of visitors to the site or does it seem to exist solely by someone attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
So forget what the SEO mail spammers say, forget what the bloke in the pub says, forget what the internet blowhards who claim to be the world's foremost SEO expert say......that directive as above is straight from the horse's mouth.
We may not agree with it! From my point of view it could be argued that whoever's got the best wordsmith (not the best web developer) on their team has the upper hand in this. But the good news is that great wordsmiths are few and far between in this business - because they're all earning much better money as journalists.
So if you are able to come up with content that demonstrates your industry knowledge while giving users valuable information, it will stand you in good stead when Google does it's indexing. And it also gives you something to promote on Social Media to a much wider audience.
I'm not keen on using the phrase "SEO" as it's been so abused over the years that it's meaning and interpretation has become lost. Personally I'd say that the majority of the points in this article relate to building a website properly in the first place, and then actually populating it with content that users want to read.
But here's a list of essential components that make up what would be interpreted as a professional website by Google and other search engines.
1. Website Security (HTTPS): This is a ranking factor now, and Google recommends switching to HTTPS to also help with demonstrating professionalism, increasing conversion rates, and building trust with users. It's no accident that 65% of sites that hold the top three positions have implemented HTTPS.
2. Content Length: Content length for sites in the top three positions are on average 45 percent longer than content on sites in 20th position. But beware of writing masses of "padded" content to increase page density......the key is to write content of a necessary length to be relevant and match user intent.
3. Keywords: These are obviously still relevant today......but the era of jamming them everywhere on the site is long gone. If you do this you'll end up in the Sin Bin! So you need to use long tail search strings incorporating keywords contextually (within sentences) when required. Use them sparingly.....do not go overboard on this.
4. Website Traffic: Interestingly, traffic from search engines does not appear have any major impact on rankings. It's direct traffic that matters......so share your content across Social Media. If Google tracks a lot of traffic coming from other sources it will potentially revise your positioning because your site appears to be popular.
5. Bounce Rate: This relates to the time users spend on your site. If you get a visit from a user and they leave immediately....that's a negative. But if they stay on the site and visit numerous pages....that's a positive. How do you retain users? Just write good content as I've always said.
6. Pages per Session: This is closely linked with Bounce Rate! Because the higher number of pages a user visits per session demonstrates to Google that you have content on your site that is of value and relevant to the search query they entered.
6. Backlinks: But unlike years ago it's not quantity.....it's quality! Do not have links on bad sites or Google will assess you at the level of the bad site that you've "buddied up" to. Essentially you've shown them that you're keeping bad company. And whatever you do, do not make reciprocal links with other sites because you'll both get canned.
7. Page Speed: Users like fast pages so don't bog your page down with auto-running videos, multiple large images, or resources that load from other sources like Social Media streams. Yes.....you need to make it look attractive and professional.....but there is such a thing as overkill.
8. On-site Optimisation: Factors such as meta descriptions, meta titles, H1 and H2 tags etc are still relevant and should be used accordingly. But be aware these are not a "Band Aid" for low quality content. If your content is assessed as poor then no amount of on-site optimisation will help you.
9. Mobile Compatibility: If you don't have this in place by now then you're probably not even in business any more. Around 55 - 60% of searches come from mobile devices.....so without it, most of your target market has gone.
Now review those points, and look for the pattern! As always, that pattern is quality content! It's never been any different......in fact Bill Gates predicted this back in 1996:
"Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet" and "If people are to be expected to put up with turning on a computer to read a screen, they must be rewarded with deep and extremely up-to-date information that they can explore at will".
Admittedly there were ways that unscrupulous individuals could cheat their way to high rankings years ago, but since 2012 those practices will end up making you invisible on search engines! My advice is to beware of web agencies promising you instant high rankings - because you'll end up disappearing without a trace on all searches for a very long time. It will be the Kiss of Death!
So just play by the rules (I always have) and generate quality content that addresses your visitors' questions and specific areas of interest......and then distribute it across Social Media to expand your target audience.
Are you popular on Google? Irrespective of your current status on the search engines, do you actually know what needs to be put in place to get a good ranking? The problem is there's so much conjecture, speculation, misinformation, and in some cases outright lies, that it's difficult to know who or what to believe!
Let me clarify our position! Unlike many others we do not offer additional SEO services. We just build websites properly, rather than put something together than sell a range of payable add-on services to maximise profit and generate perpetual income. We have no vested financial interest in advising you in this area.....so we just give you the truth!
That being established, you'll see by the wealth of information on this site that I've advised people on best web practices for many years. But the problem is that the game keeps changing all the time. Additionally, Google are never really specific on what trigger factors are the most important at any given point......because the more people know, the more likely it is that unscrupulous self-appointed "SEO Experts" will try to cheat the system as they were doing 10 years ago.
So it's been a much debated topic for many years....but now the researchers at SEM Rush have published what I would consider to be the most conclusive data that I've seen in recent years. What they did was analyse data from 600,000 global keywords via a machine-learning algorithm called Random Forest. This process checked the pages’ positions in search results against a list of ranking factors. The objective was to conclusively determine the factors that influence positions in SERPs.
12 factors that influence page position were analysed in order of importance: from the most influential to the least. Then they limited the scope of the analysed data to the first 100 positions for each keyword.
The end result is a 40+ page PDF document which requires a lot of analysis to get to the real determining factors involved in search engine placement. But don't worry, I've been right through it in some depth to summarise the results. It covers all the bases, and the results are irrefutable.
Out of the 12 factors Google analysed, direct traffic seems to be the most important one! In other words, the more visits your website gets, the higher it is likely to rank. But it appears that search engine traffic is not the predominant factor in improving your ranking, it is organic traffic from other sources that seems to have the biggest effect.
What is organic traffic? This would refer to social traffic, referrals, and direct traffic. So what they're saying is if you create great content that people want to read, then you have to get it in front of your audience via social media, mailshots, and placement on other sites that are considered to be of high value. That will then drive organic traffic to your site that Google will track.
The next element is the users' time spent on your site. If they visit your site and navigate through multiple pages reading numerous articles then that's a positive. If they get there and immediately leave (because your content is poor quality or the user experience is lacking) your bounce rate goes up and that is considered to be a negative. Simply because this sends a clear signal to Google that your site is not meeting users' expectations. Google want to deliver the best quality results, so if your content is sparse and lacking in any value they're just not going to recommend you. Simple as that!
Referring domains! The pages that rank higher have more backlinks from quality domains. Just a warning here! Do not under any circumstances share links or buy links.....you need to earn them from influential sites! How do you do that? Produce quality content that people will link to.....as I'm doing with SEM Rush.
Content length! Short articles which just gloss over and generalise on subjects are not going to cut it. Research suggests that content should be at least 1000 words in length (this article is 1150 words) and go into subjects in depth. But be aware that content length is only important for your page’s success as long as it is valuable, well-written, and optimised. Also, in your articles you must link to recognised sources to validate your points as I'm doing in this article. If you don't do this then the content could be evaluated as your opinion rather than documented fact.
The next factor is HTTPS/SSL! I've been saying this for 3 years now......get an SSL in place! If you look at the chart you'll see that the more popular the keywords are, the more probable it is that the top positions will be occupied by HTTPS domains. So if you have high quality content, then having an HTTPS version of your site is extremely important.
Keywords! As you can see from the chart, having keywords in meta descriptions, titles, and content is still relevant. But it appears to be that on-page SEO now has less importance than it has in the past! It seems that all the catchy meta descriptions, H1 and H2 tags in the world are going to be of little help if the quality of the content that it references is of very little value.
As I've always said, even back in the days when people could cheat their way to the top, content should be the core of your online business.
Don't waste your time with self indugent trivialities and stupid gimmicks on your website because nobody's interested....least of all Google.
Of course, website optimisation is still important in order to deliver the content in the right way. But if the actual content you're presenting is garbage or plagarised from other sources, then the search engines (and users) will evaluate you accordingly.
I exploded the myth years ago that there is no SEO Magic Bullet and this research (which is probably one of the most extensive ever released) proves that to be in the game from now on you have to generate quality content and market it. Capture big audiences across all the Social Media platforms and build your brand. That's the world we live in now!
To summarise, you need to generate great content, market it wherever you can, and drive traffic to the site. That all starts with Content Creation and then moves on to Content Marketing! And it's an ongoing job......not a one off!
So as paradoxical as it sounds....in order to gain popularity, you have to be popular!
Imagine this scenario! You've got a new website on a new domain. It looks great, it works well, and you've generated some quality content. So you sit back and wait for it to show up in the search listings......and it doesn't appear.
Weeks go by, you check every day, and still no sign of it appearing so you start getting worried. You ask yourself what's wrong with the site?.....why is Google ignoring it? At this point people usually start panicking and think that all their dreams of success are over before they even started!
Well the good news is there's no need to panic! The bad news is that you're going to have to wait a lot longer! Maybe up to 6 months! Because you're in the Google Sandbox!
What is Google Sandbox?
Quite simply it's a filter imposed on new sites. It’s purpose is to restrict ranking, especially for high-competition keywords, until the site is more established and can display a proven quality and trust factor. Look at it this way.....would you recommend a tradesman to a friend unless you're absolutely convinced of their professionalism, reliability, and integrity? And this is exactly the same thing!
It's interesting to note that Google actually deny there's a Sandbox. But they have a history of being deliberately vague in divulging information about their algorithms and evaluation processes.....so their statement has to be taken with a pinch of salt. Therefore, you just have to accept that with a new site and new domain you will have to wait to reap the full benefit of the work you've done.
What can you do to speed up the process?
Basically it comes down to demonstrating quality and trust. Make sure your site has regular quality content added, have SSL Security in place, and generate more activity across Social Media Channels.
With Social Media you can still be getting in front of people without Google's help.....so put your efforts there. A little and often is the best method. But don't start a Spamfest or you'll find yourself restricted on there as well!
Whatever you do, do not employ one of these self-professed "SEO Experts" who relentlessly bombard you with unwanted mail. That will cost you money and it won't end well. You could find yourself on Google's blacklist very easily and it could take you years to get off it. There is no quick fix in this situation....other than pay for Google Adwords. But that can end up being quite expensive so only go there as a last resort.
My message to those people with new sites and new domains is you have to be patient. Follow best practices in the way the site is built, keep generating quality content, and take advantage of the outreach that Social Media can give you. It will pay off in the end!
2017 is approaching, so what does the future hold for your business online? Nobody can accurately predict everything, but a clear pattern is forming!
1. Mobile Websites: It's no secret that mobile computing has now taken over! If you haven't got a mobile compatible site by now you may as well pack up and go home. Simply because there's a world of business opportunities out there......and you won't be seeing any of it! You are outside looking in!
Walk down the street, go into any bar.....and what do you see? People on smartphones! And they won't be looking at sites that are not mobile compatible. In fact, they may not even be given a choice if they want to see a desktop based site, as Google will be basing rankings on the mobile version as per their recent Mobile First announcement. No mobile version? No ranking!
2. Desktop Websites: These will now have less importance, so do not design a site based purely on what you see on a traditional computer. In fact, some analysts are speculating that we could be entering an era where the clock is now ticking on this technology. Personally, I don't ever forsee a time where traditional sites will become redundant.....but there's no doubt that their importance and relevance are going to keep diminishing as each year passes.
3. Voice Search: Semantic search and user intent based on natural language patterns rather than basic keywords is going to become the norm. Voice-based queries are generally much longer, and phrased in a more natural way, so ensure that your site delivers information in a conversational (but professional) manner. Communicate by giving answers, not sales pitches!
4. Site Loading Times: As more and more usage switches to mobile, don't overload your pages with a large number of resource-heavy material like videos, high resolution images etc. Obviously don't dumb the pages down and make them appear bland to your users, but maintain a balance between form and function.
5. Fast delivery of relevant information: People want info.......and they want it immediately! So ensure that what people initially read on mobile is going to grab their attention. Don't waffle on about things that are irrelevant to their needs or interests.....just get the message across!
So that's the way things seem to be heading! Good practices like quality content, user experience, intuitive navigation, Social Media marketing, and SSL security are still the foundation on which your site is built. But Mobile Rules!
What do I think? Personally, I think the whole world has gone mad! We have now reached a scenario where the majority of people are living their lives vicariously through mobile phones!
I'll take real life any day! The storyline at my age may be a bit monotonous but the visual experiences more than make up for it!
See you in 2017!
Remember the old record players from the past when a record would get stuck.....and one part would keep on repeating endlessly? Well that's me that is! Simply because I've been endlessly repeating for many years that quality content on a website is the key factor in getting good search engine positioning.
In fact I even demonstrated it with the tests in the article Is Content Still King? Plus, the continued dominance of this site on Google Searches is a fairly clear indication that my ideas, if implemented correctly, will produce results.
However.....that's still not enough for some people! They insist on clinging onto a belief that what the man in the pub told them, or what info some spammy SEO company has sent them, is actually true. Well it's not! And after years of battling with people who insist on recounting third party BS, my good friends at Google have at last come to my aid.
Good friends? Well I've never made any secret about it....I love Google! They've introduced superb applications to us at no cost (GMail being one), transformed mobile computing into what we see today, and are always innovating and advancing the technology. Compare that to the dubious practices of other major companies over the years who have made billions by delivering substandard and inherently flawed applications at totally unrealistic price points.
From my point of view, the best aspect is that Google have run the cheaters out of town. Because years ago some "businesses" made a lot of money by cheating their clients' sites into good positioning. They knew full well that it was a blinkered short term strategy that would eventually result in these sites disappearing from Google permanently. But money talks! In later years these people have rebranded themselves as link cleanup and reputation management companies where they're now making even money by cleaning up the mess they created in the first place. You couldn't make this up could you?
Anyway, Google has now come to my rescue by releasing their Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines for everybody to analyse. But be aware it's 160 pages long......so I've highlighted the critical points for you.
1. Page Quality: The keyphrase is E-A-T......which stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness!
Your site should have a “satisfying amount” of high-quality main content, and be authoritative, trustworthy, and informed about the relevant subject matter. The site should have a good reputation, along with about us, contact, and customer service information clearly displayed. Google also states that pages will be considered low-quality if they are created “without adequate time, effort, expertise, or talent/skill".
2. YMYL (Your Money Or Your Life) Pages and Expert Content. This means that if you're writing on a subject then you need to demonstrate that you're an expert on it. Do you know your business? You're the only one who can answer that......and if you do, then you need to demonstrate it.
3. Supplementary Content: Google emphasise the importance of supplementary content, such as sidebar info and links to other related articles. I've always told people this, so I'm glad to see them come out and confirm it after all this time.
4. Page Design: Let's make this clear.....Google doesn't care if your site is blue or red, and it doesn't care if your images have little twirly effects if you put your mouse on them. You may care......but Google and your users don't. What Google (and users) want is a functional, streamlined, intuitive page that is easy to navigate with main content front and centre. Google values functionality over beauty.
5. Mobile optimisation: It goes without saying that if your site is not mobile responsive today you may as well not even bother doing anything else, because you're not even in the game.
6. Trust: Websites should be trustworthy! What constitutes trustworthy? SSL certificate, linking to credible, relevant sources to substantiate what you're saying, and building a good interaction for your content with social media particularly Google Plus. That way you're establishing yourself as an expert in your field. So it's not just the site that needs to be established....it's YOU!
7. User Experience: Are you meeting the needs of your visitors? They want clear information.......so are you providing it? Users want to be able to find content that is relevant to them.....so are you making it easy for them? If people visit your site and give up trying to get information within a few seconds because you've insisted on some ludicrous system of navigation, it sends Google a clear message that it's not meeting users' expectations. Which means Google will class you as a low quality site.
However, if they stay on the site and navigate to different pages because they find the content of value, that sends a positive signal to Google and will help your rankings. What a user wants from the site may not match your vision of what it should be.....but if you prioritise your choices over theirs then don't expect to get good positioning on search engines.
8. Satisfying Content: For content to satisfy a user’s needs, the Guidelines state that the content must be “fully satisfying for mobile user,” require minimal effort to locate, and provide value to the reader. Does yours?
9. Fails To Meet Content: This is where your information is sparse, copied from other sources, unrelated to the query, filled with incorrect facts, or needs supporting information to validate it's claims. If this occurs then you lose trust and credibility with Google and users.
10. Keywords: Use them sparingly and only when necessary in content! If you start keyword jamming you're going to be penalised. This isn't 2005.
To summarise.....you need high quality, expert content! Simple as that! And if you create pages which demonstrate high levels of expertise, authority, and trustworthiness within your area of business then you will reap the rewards!
Now that Google have openly published their Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines (they've never done it before) you should look back over the articles that I've published over the years and compare them. If you do that, you'll see that what I have been saying on every aspect of SEO for many years has now been officially confirmed by Google.
So now, officially, I am no longer a stuck record! Strange but True!
Do you remember Jackanory? Most of us will I'm sure......but did you know that you can still enjoy stories of total fantasy like we heard when we were children?
Because Once Upon a Time the internet was invented, and story tellers finally had a platform to make themselves heard.
And even better, it was a safe place where they could hide behind a keyboard or change identity when they got found out. So let's recap some of the best "wondrous stories" from recent years.....predictably most relate to SEO!
We will get you the number one position on Google.
Nobody can guarantee anything......all you can do is influence.
We will get you ranked on the first page of Google.
As above.....though this could be possible by getting you found for some ludicrous search string that nobody would ever use. In which case it's of no use to you whatsoever. For example, if you're an Estate Agent on the Costa del Sol, do you think getting a high ranking for a term such as "Pink villa in Calle Centro Marbella with a rock garden of gnomes holding fishing rods" is really going to be a game changer?
(Within an hour of posting that ludicrous search string I had the Google number one position for it. So do you see how easy it is to get high rankings for ridiculous terms? Getting them for key search phrases is a different matter of course).
Your website can't be found on search engines!
So how did they find you? Crystal Ball? Ouija Board? The Voices in their Head?
We know Google’s Algorithims.
Nobody does.....not even the senior executives at Google.
We know people at Google, so we can get you to the top of the list.
I know somebody in the RAF.....but that doesn't get me a free plane.
The more pages of content you have, the better.
Content is critical, but it's the quality that counts not the quantity.
We'll build 10,000 backlinks to your site!
Backlinks are still relevant today......but not quantity of links, only quality of links! So 10,000 backlinks on things like Bolivian jock strap repairers or seedy Korean link farms are actually going to harm you.....because you'll be seen to be keeping bad company. Be very careful when it comes to sites that link to you.
We've tested your site, it has thousands of errors, so you're doomed unless we fix it!
If your site had thousands of errors it wouldn't even load. What these people do is run an automated program that analyses all the processes within the site.....then send you a report that everything is wrong. Run one of these tests on Wikipedia and you'll get a similar result.....so why is it they end up on virtually every internet search that you make? One reason only......and that's content.
We'll optimise your MetaTags to get good positioning!
Meta keyword tags are hidden key words contained at the top of web pages. Years ago they were part of the evaluation because search engine algorithms were very basic. This is no longer the case, and Google doesn't even look at Meta keyword tags in it's indexing process. We still include them out of habit, but their relevance is now zero.
We have 250 in-house experts ready to work on your project.
Basically this can be translated to "We'll take any old job.....irrespective of whether we can do it. Then we'll sub-contract it out to somebody else....who hopefully knows a bit more than we do". This happens a lot....particularly with agencies who claim to do everything. We don't sub-contract anything out to third parties because we only work within our specialist area.
A bloke in the pub said........
I lose the will to live hearing this one! If you're going to recount what somebody has said then I need to see what prior accreditation they bring to the table. Are they world renowned industry influencers? Larry Page or Sergey Brin at Google perhaps? Mark Zuckerberg at FaceBook maybe? No.....he's more likely to be the bloke who cleans your swimming pool. Now I'm sure he does a good job of that, but he's no more qualified to offer advice in my field than I am in his.
Show me a verifiable track record of success in web technologies and I'm all ears. Heresay and verbal claims of prior greatness carry as much weight with me as they would with a court of law.
Your website will never need upgrading or updating!
This one is the most ludicrous of the lot. Really, words fail me on this.....it's totally surreal that people could be so gullible and naive! OK.....try and get your head around the concept of buying something that never ages. Because what they're claiming is that you could buy some software today that will somehow morph itself into different entities to take advantage of new technology that gets introduced as the years go on. Presumably it will automatically patch itself to close security loopholes as well.....before those vulnerabilities even exist.
If you feel there may be some merit in the statements that they're making then you need to go to your nearest car dealer and ask to buy a model that will never age or deteriorate. One that will run on any fuel source that's ever going to be introduced in the future! But just make sure that if hover cars are ever introduced then it already has the capacity to float through the air. After all.....you wouldn't want to be caught out would you?
So the message here is just be aware that not everything is what it seems to be on the internet! Talk is cheap! Some "businesses" tend to make everything as technical and complicated as possible in order to put up a smokescreen around the actual reality of the situation. Blinding you with science in effect.
We've always taken the reverse approach where we advise and then give a real world analogy to illustrate what we mean. We're totally transparent, and more often than not, what we say differs greatly from what others say. But we deal in reality, nothing else. Reality may not be what you want to face, because many people still believe in this mythical "Magic Bullet" of SEO, but reality is what it is.
So when you come across spurious claims regarding anything that is web related, just stop and think whether you would invest in any other product or service in the real world based on some of the assertions that these people are making? Evaluate internet based activity as a related aspect of your everyday life where the same rules apply.....not as some parallel universe where logic and common sense have been completely thrown overboard.
As 2016 goes on, keep your eye out for more "Wondrous Stories" appearing. And if you want to Live Happily Ever After......don't waste your time with fantasy!
As you probably know, search has changed a lot in recent years! But are you taking advantage of the new possibilities that now exist due to the advancements in technology and actually delivering the answers?
Because recent developments are now taking these processes onto another level.....and that level is Artificial Intelligence!
It's called RankBrain...... which is the name that Google have given to it's machine-learning artificial intelligence system. Previously any changes in search algorithms had to be programmed into the system by humans, but now it has the capacity to learn, and to expand it's knowledge and efficiency based on the original parameters that were applied. It's goal is to take search queries, interpret what the user's intent is, and then deliver the best possible results for them.
Now did you see the important word there? Intent! What Google is looking to achieve is to match the user's intention to the optimum results. Ten years ago people were using shorter search terms.....but now both the end users' knowledge and the technology have advanced beyond all recognition! Users are now putting in questions, and they want answers. Google's role is to evaluate the available options and provide the best answers based on the analysis of user intent.
Of course there's now the mobile factor as well.....with queries on these devices exceeding those of desktop computers! Which brings us onto Voice Search! Let me give you an example how this can work! If you go to your voice search on mobile and say "OK Google.....What do People say about WebSpain"......you should get a search delivered with the answer at the top!
Points to bear in mind are that the search request was delivered in plain conversational language......not a sequence of robotic disconnected keywords. Keywords used within the content in a natural manner are still very important, but if you're using these keywords then you must expand upon them and deliver the answers within the actual page content. If you don't, people will hit the back button (which Google monitors), and eventually your listing will no longer show in the search results as users are telling Google that the result wasn't acceptable. And RankBrain learns from that.
In the quoted example I could probably have got the same result by just putting in those keywords and nothing else!
But how long before the search engine algorithms figure that the end result was I didn't deliver any answers?
Do you see the critical factor? Keywords and empty cliches that deliver nothing in the way of valid information are now no longer acceptable!
Example.....it's no good just telling people how easy it is to buy a house in Spain......you've got to demonstrate how!
Unfortunately, many site owners still seem to think they can get away with the practices that were prevalent back in 2005, things like keyword jamming and overloading metatags.....but those days are gone. Do that now while simultaneously delivering no content value and you'll be dropping like a stone.
Going forward, think of these Google initiatives as a quality filter. Deliver quality, and in principle you should see the benefits. The key is knowing your clients' needs, requirements, possible questions or doubts etc......and then delivering the answers as a tangible benefit to them within your content. So basically you're pre-empting the question and making it easier for search engines to recommend you.
If you know your business, then you know the answers! So just make sure that you're delivering them.....and not just on your site but right across Social Media as well. Because if you don't......your competitors will!
Over the years I've encountered a regular misunderstanding by potential clients regarding web design. It's the scenario where someone focuses solely on aesthetics at the expense of everything else.
In fact with some people, critical elements like content quality and user friendliness don't matter one bit. All that matters is their personal vision of what it should look like, with no regard whatsoever to the needs and expectations of their target audience. It's what I describe as "Flowery Syndrome".
Points to consider:
1. Websites are business assets whose sole focus must be to achieve specific business objectives. They are not your own personal scrapbook.
2. Google doesn't rank your site on how artistic and pretty it is.....it doesn't care. And quite frankly neither do your target audience.
3. In a similar way that the user and Google doesn't care if your artwork is on a par with the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, they're also not interested in whether you have the literary expertise of an Oscar Wilde. Communicate in plain language with no ludicrous catch phrases or ambiguous cliches.
4. Content must engage the readers and involve them.....it's not a platform for you to give a speech about "me, me, me".
5. Understand that your website is no more than a marketing tool to enable you to generate business. Don't trivialise it with self indulgent ideas that are not related in any way to making money. Logically, why would you want to put anything on your site whatsoever that is not a business initiative?
6. You want stunning visuals? Then introduce great pictures relating to your business which will generate a need and desire within the user to purchase your products or services! Random pieces of meaningless artwork, (or even worse, cartoon elements) littered around your site are not going to do that. You're just diminishing your credibility to prospective clients.
7. You are building the website for others.....not yourself. Just because you'd like the site to have every colour of the rainbow in it doesn't mean that everybody else would!
8. If you're looking for a web designer, make sure you get one that understands how business actually works in the real world. Because you will need their input to advise you on best practices so you don't fall into the situation I've described.
Now don't take all these points as meaning the appearance of your site doesn't matter....because it does! A lot! Your site needs to have a professional appearance, it needs to be user-friendly, and the content must relate to the user while delivering value to them.
When somebody gets to your site you definitely need the "WOW" factor to hit them. But let's back it up with some quality content that actually imparts information, along with a great user experience. That scenario is infinitely preferable to introducing the useless, distracting trivia and irrelevance associated with "Flowery Syndrome".
So are you taking FaceBook seriously? If not, maybe it's time to reappraise the situation? Simply because FaceBook is now referring more traffic to websites than Google.
A new industry study shows that in July 2015 FaceBook pulled ahead by three percentage points in referral traffic to 38.2% compared with Google's 35.2%. Contrast that with 2012, when Google had 50% and FaceBook 10%......and you'll see that the balance of power has completely changed.
This is something that I've noticed for some time with this site, as we generally get a lot more hits from FaceBook than from Google's organic search. And that's despite the fact that we sit on the top of the search engine rankings. At first I thought this could be just an isolated occurrence, but it's now been confirmed by recent industry studies from www.parsely.com.
Want to improve your Social Media performance? Well in my experience, the best method to employ with all social media marketing is a little and often. Bear in mind that the average post on these networks has a "shelf life" of about 6 hours, so you need to be feeding information through on a regular basis. Just a few minutes a couple of times a day is all you need.
Be aware that you need to get a wide network of friends, followers etc in order to maximise your outreach. Because there's no mileage whatsoever in just talking to yourself. Try to engage with people by posting content that they'll want to share and interact with......but pick your times carefully. Early on in the morning and then again early evening is when you will reach the maximum audience. It goes without saying that a link to your site must be included, and the biggest attention grabber is a great image! The lead image is critical!
It's a numbers game! So the bigger the numbers the more you increase your odds of success. As an example, I have over 10K friends, likes, followers etc across all the networks. So in principle, this content could be seen by many thousands of those today. Nothing like this has ever been possible before, so use it to your best advantage. And best of all it costs you nothing.....other than a few minutes of your time!
The fact of the matter is that Google is now not the only show in town. So don't ignore the power of Social Media referrals or you could end up "outside looking in". It was possible to get away with that back in 2012, but those days are gone. And they're not coming back!