Things are gradually changing in the world of Search Engine Optimisation. SEO is all about getting your website pushed up Google rankings so that it features as high as possible for a given search term, and subsequently driving more traffic and customers to your site. As Google’s technology has developed, so has SEO, and techniques which were guaranteed to rocket you to the top of the results in the past no longer have the same effect.
Good SEO practice still starts with identifying keywords and working out what people are entering into that little search box on Google when they are looking for your products or services. In the past, many webmasters trying to build a high ranking website on the cheap would simply copy or mirror content from other sites, or hire people to produce content in which the keywords were used as often as possible, a practice known as ‘keyword stuffing.’ In February 2011, and as a response to an increasing number of these sorts of sites, Google introduced an update known as Google Panda, which penalised websites using non-unique or keyword stuffed content.
This update was the first big step in an ongoing move towards prioritising quality over quantity, but for years before Google had been redefining the ways they ranked pages based on search history and time relevant searching.
Another technique which used to work in pushing pages up the rankings was paying other people to put links to your website on theirs, whether the link was relevant or not. If you had money to spend, you could take a shortcut by buying up lots of links and back links and another Google update in April 2012, known as Google Penguin, addressed this issue. The update changed the way the Google looked at links, and the emphasis was shifted to quality rather than quantity. Sites which used lots of the shortcut techniques were given ranking penalties (Interflora being a high profile example). All of these changes are designed to improve the search engine experience for us as users, and to cut down on the number of spam we are exposed to.
So what works now?
If keyword stuffing, buying up back links and churning out thousands of pages of near-identical copy doesn’t work, then what does? It is clear that Google’s intention is to favour sites which have interesting, well-written and relevant copy, and to prioritise quality over quantity (which has actually always been the case!). As a webmaster, it is your responsibility to critically evaluate everything which goes on your website in terms of its quality, how relevant and interesting it is to your customers and readers, and make sure that you are not still using old content which is stuffed with keywords or links.
Although it’s still important to have an overall understanding of the Google algorithm and how keywords can be used, it is more important to be focused on creating and sharing the best content possible. If done well, this alone will push you up the Google rankings