The new age of SEO – how and why your strategy must change

feature-google-black-hat-200aDo you think you have your search engine optimisation in order? Think again. A huge amount of change coming this year means you need to rethink your strategy.

Keeping your website at the top of a Google search page is an ongoing battle. With Google’s constant and frequent changes, you can never be too fired up about keeping your SEO on track.

But just like every year, 2013 will bring some significant changes to the way SMEs go about getting on top of Google’s algorithm. Over the past two years, Google has been slowly shifting towards a new way of ranking sites – a system based on popularity more than clever tactics.

That also means your old ways of getting around Google’s traps, like back-linking and other shady practices, simply don’t work anymore.

“Google has pretty much shut down all the black-hat stuff that did work, like link farms and the doorway stuff,” says AussieWeb chief executive Monte Huebsch.

“All of the tactics that people have used to drive shonky sources of traffic; they’ve done a pretty good job of cutting that all down.”

“I think it’s great. As a result, we’re heading back to very functional things now.”

It’s still possible to get great rankings, but you’ll need to shift your focus.

Keep it social

Google placing a larger emphasis on social sharing isn’t new – the fact it opened Google+ should tell you everything you need to know.

But as Chris Thomas of Reseo explains, over the next few months businesses may start to see their rankings increase as a result of increased social sharing.

“I think this year will see social signals play a bigger part in organic ranking positions,” he says.

“With Google AdWords, for instance, Google is reporting to us that when you add sharing buttons to your Google ads, such as the G+ button, it shows many followers you have within your G+ account next to your Google ad.”

Thomas explains the Google network is attempting to reward advertisers who put the time and effort into their Google+ account and use those sharing extensions.

“They’re getting more click through rates and conversions,” he says.

So what does this mean for business? Setting up your Google+ page should be a top priority. Of course, this strikes fear into the heart of many time-stretched business owners, but it won’t take that long. Just organise someone to have your Google+ page filled up with all your relevant information, including pictures, and then let the site work on its own.

Twitter is the other platform which will play a big part in your ranking. If you’re constantly updating your Twitter feed with relevant information, your Google ranking will thank you.

Of course, the other major pillar in the social media world is Facebook – which has introduced its own search engine. For now, Thomas says the main focus should be on Google and Twitter until Facebook reveals more of how its search function will work.

“I think the more businesses build their Google pages, and contribute, the more you’re potentially going to see rankings improve.”

Monte Huebsch of AussieWeb says the importance of social sharing can’t be overestimated, despite how much work it may bring.

“The world is made more complex by saying you need all these social media pages, which makes it a challenge for time-poor SMEs. But this is all about reputation management – if I put your business name into a Google search, you should show up.”

More content – and that means commenting

Google just doesn’t want to see how many clever ways you have to get on top of the search page. It also wants to see you giving something back to the online ecosystem.

That means this year you really need to focus on creating new and original content. Run an accounting agency? Then start a blog on the common mistakes you keep seeing among your clients. An online retailer? Start writing articles on your website about creative ways to make the most of your products, or maybe answers to common problems.

Running a service business? Start a YouTube channel giving tips and advice for your industry. Yes, YouTube will absolutely help your rankings if you get popular enough.

These experts say Google wants to see you not only creating original content, but posting it under the name of someone in authority. If your CEO is posting the articles, then make sure he or she has a Google+ page and links it to the company. That way, whenever those articles show up in a Google search, they’ll have the CEO’s picture next to them.

The more your articles are shared across social networks, the higher they’ll show up in rankings.

But Monte Huebsch of AussieWeb says this year will see Google place more emphasis on your overall contribution. So that means you need to start commenting on other blogs as well.

“The challenge in the new year is more original content – and that means everything. Commenting on articles is a big part of that.”

Commenting doesn’t mean spamming and then linking back to your own page – it means having a real conversation. The more Google sees you doing this, the better off you’ll be.

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