Is Your SEO Thinking Showing Its Age? Here’s How to Fix It

Are you still thinking that your SEO success can be measured in keyword rankings? If you are, you are a bit behind the power curve and your SEO thinking is passé.

Are you still thinking that your SEO success can be measured in keyword rankings? If you are, you are a bit behind the power curve and your SEO thinking is passé.

Today, SEO is all about audience and relevancy, not just keywords and rankings. Yes!

I do not deny that until we can telepathically transmit our queries to an all-encompassing search engine, we will be using language. Language is created from words, but words have multiple meanings. Words are freighted with emotional baggage. The same word can connote or evoke a different response from different individuals.

In the early days of search, we were forced by the technology to focus on text and words. This was because the earliest search engines used word/text matching to find the documents that fit the query. They were essentially large-scale word matchers.

What has changed? Search technology has evolved and artificial intelligence is no longer a science fiction oxymoron. Today, search engines can use both the searcher’s own search history and performance data gleaned from each site to inform the search results delivered. This has forced SEO professionals to reconsider the venerable keyword and how they approach and measure success.

Every Site Has an Audience

If you do not have a clear picture of whom you want to reach with your site, then why bother having a site at all?

The greater the clarity around who your customer is and the more knowledge you have about the information your audience might find useful, the easier it is to develop a coherent SEO strategy.

In the past, when search technology was word-matching, we could define our audience in terms of the keywords.

Today, with the advances in search technology and the more sophisticated tools and metrics, we can more precisely target an audience and offer highly relevant content. Audience definition is first a business strategy and then a marketing exercise. If the business management does not have clear vision of who its customer is and why the customer would want to visit the site, then search success is constrained.

There are plenty of tools for the search marketers to use in the process of keyword research once the audience is defined, but without a clear definition of the audience, you are back to relying on inefficient word-matching.

Beyond Content Curation

Success comes when the content offering is highly relevant to the specific target. It is like fishing. Fly fishing enthusiasts will tell you that the successful fisherman knows how to match the hatch to present exactly the fly (or, it works with lures, too) that the desired species of fish expects to see at precisely that time of year.

Today, successful search marketers are matching the hatch so that their carefully crafted content matches exactly what their specific audience is looking for at that moment in time. This requires more than content creation and curation. It is an exercise in creating fresh content to meet the audience’s current wants to pull the audience through search to the site.

Any muddiness in defining the audience and creating optimized content that matches what the target audience is looking for yields a ticket to suboptimal results.

How Do You Know?

Research and metrics are the keys to success. Tracking success is more of a business exercise than a slavish following of rankings performance. The content and the keywords become potent revenue-drivers only when there is a congruence between the business goals, the audience and search as a revenue-pulling source. This does not begin to suggest that you should neglect the elements of technical search. They are table stakes in a bigger marketing game.

SEOs, Stay the Course Through Google Algorithm Updates

Any volatility in search results sets off tremors in the search marketing community, for it usually signals a change in the Google algorithm. There have been many significant updates as Google continues to search for how to deliver the best set of results to its users.

Any volatility in search results sets off tremors in the search marketing community, for it usually signals a change in the Google algorithm. There have been many significant updates as Google continues to search for how to deliver the best set of results to its users.

The most recent shift has been dubbed “Valentine’s Day Update.” Many of its predecessors were named Panda, Penguin, Pigeon or, more prosaically, Medic and Fred. Each targets a specific search problem — bad links, duplicate/thin content, aggressive monetization, etc.

A major algorithm change does not roll out across the worldwide search landscape all at once. It may take days or even weeks. Sometimes, webmasters will detect changes before Google acknowledges that an update is occurring or has already occurred. The big question to me has always been: How much attention should I pay to these updates and how should I respond?

Why Google Updates Matter?

Search technology and artificial learning have entered a new age. With the heavy computing power available today, the entire site is used in the ranking algorithm.

Unless an SEO watches the changes and the discussions of what is the intent of each major algorithm change, it is easy to miss how the search ranking process is changing. For those who want to stay well-informed about the future and are of a technical bent, it also pays to read the expert analysis and discussions about recent patents granted to Google. The patents often portend what is in the more distant future.

In short, even if your site is not impacted by a change, it is important to pay attention to what the updates are targeting.

How to Respond to an Algorithm Update?

When an update occurs, it is like a storm has rolled through the search results. Rankings may appear to lurch, as though buffeted by winds as major algorithmic changes spread through the system.

The big storm is usually followed by a period of instability, as the engineers do additional minor tuning of the algorithm.

Once the storm has passed, there is usually a readjustment, as quality sites return to their more accustomed positions. The process winnows out those that are less worthy.

Here is where it gets tricky. If you have a solid site, built and optimized in accordance with best practices, you have little to fear from an update. By monitoring your site’s performance in the Search Console, staying abreast of recommended enhancements, you place yourself out of peril. The real danger is negligence of what is today’s best practice and looking for the easy way to the top rankings. With solid SEO in place, the storm can rage around you. Let the storm pass. Wait 10 to 15 days before making any changes to your SEO tactics. By then, it will be easier to see what the intent of the change was.

If your results don’t return to previous levels in a week or so and your site has in fact been penalized in an update, corrective action taken too soon may actually make the situation more confused.

Once the storm created by the update has passed, then, you should make adjustments, corrections and improvements. Algorithmic updates, while inconvenient, usually improve the search user’s experience and provide SEOs solid guidance.