Search experts and those that keep up with such things will be aware that Google have [once again], moved the goal-posts for page listings, by removing profile pictures and Google+ information from search engine listed posts by bloggers validated under the Google’s authorship scheme. In their place, these listings now have a byline attached.
Google’s John Mueller announced that Google was to make a major change in the search results originating from authorship by dropping the profile photo and circle count from the search listings where authorship is assigned to a web page. Mueller reports that click through behaviours are similar on both designs.
No one really knows the rules Google applies to its algorithms and so they have us exactly where they want us, second guessing the best practices to employ to get our businesses to return results at least on page one of applicable search terms. Their approach is a “Once bitten, twice shy” case in point.
Even within the last decade, there’s been a massive shift in what counts towards page position in search. Back in the day, (and not so long ago either), PageRank was king of search engine optimisation – where the number and quality of links to a page determined a rough estimate of how important the website was. The more important a website was, the more likely they were to receive links from other websites. This gave rise to a huge number of organisations ploughing thousands of pounds into employing SEO ‘experts’ to build links and insert backlinks in order to dupe Google into seeing their website as more important and therefore ranking it higher.
Businesses that adopted the back link strategy were certainly bitten by Google’s updates on their algorithms, which in turn led to seeing web pages drop like a stone, especially if the back links were completely irrelevant to the subject matter. Relevancy now being king!
Gradually this practice gave rise to Google employing a search busting champion who was charged with seeking and publicly outing “blackhat” practitioners and over the years the ranking system has become more and more refined at identifying those trying to apply dodgy tactics to gain ranking.
Over the years PageRank’s predominance as the be-all-and-end-all of search engine ranking started to wane, and more recently was replaced by new upstart Author Rank – or was it…?
It was widely believed that being part of Google’s Authorship scheme gave priority to content written and published online by those authorised under the scheme. What is more likely is that the expertise and influence of an author probably has as much influence on ranking as the scheme itself.
So PageRank is no longer king and Author Rank is a close friend with benefits: what do you need to do to achieve page 1?
Answer: Stop worrying about what Google wants and start worrying about what your customers want. By delivering relevant content to the latter, the former will follow suit.
We are in a new world where the customer has the power to choose which content / brands to engage with and we need to stop talking at them and start talking to them.
Where does the majority of buying begin? With search – and whether you’re in sales and/or marketing or not, you will know that as individuals we seek brands that are interested in us and putting customer experience first, that answer our questions, give us credible information and understand what it is that does and doesn’t turn their customers (and our) buying switch on.
Whilst the same can’t be said of our children, we generally seek to filter out as much advertising as possible along the way.
Since customer search is geared to relevance why shouldn’t search results be too?
Let’s tackle SEO…
In our previous article, The Aggregation of Marginal Gains, we established that SEO is no longer the beast it used to be. In essence, pick keywords that indicate to your reader what the subject matter will be and you’ll accomplish the same with the search engines. To go further, or higher, you can use Google AdWords to identify keyword strings with low competition. However, this is only a small part of achieving relevance with Google, it is what you do beyond basic keyword integration that counts most.
Now let’s talk content…
Create relevant content with smart keywords, title and tag it properly and remember; what you write in the meta-description performs a massive role on the search engine’s result page.
Every brand’s aim is to build trust, respect and loyalty with their customers. Just because you have a high rank doesn’t necessarily mean you will get this. However, providing meaningful, reliable, informative content will result in sharing, engagement and eventually word of mouth.
To use an analogy around your future marketing activity, the time you spent on a highly active back links and basic SEO strategy should be replaced by a highly active, relevant and engaging content marketing activity.
Content marketing is a self-fulfilling prophecy.