trends

SEO Trends: The Game Has Changed

Stewart Tongue

There used to be a time when webmasters could simply look up the page rank of any website, see what Google thought of it and buy backlinks on the footer of pages with a guaranteed bang for their buck. Then came the era of duplicative content, think content sites and limitless doorways back to the same sales funnel which turned search ranks into a labyrinth that was easy to game for anyone who understood the faults in Google’s ability to detect content duplication. Now the game has changed quite a bit as Google’s sophistication has grown exponentially, and patches from Panda and Penguin, to Hummingbird and Mobilegeddon have made almost every black hat SEO trick more expensive and less profitable than white hat ranking techniques.

XBIZ World sat down with some of the top SEOs in the industry to see what they are looking at when ranking sites for themselves and their clients.

I would like site owners to stop thinking about SEO as something magical, SEO doesn’t make wonders by itself out of nowhere. Many site owners still think of SEO as a list of little dirty tricks to fool Google. -Mike of PoiSEO.com

As usual with SEO news, people who like to hear themselves talk, instead of testing to gather real data results, have blown a lot of what has happened completely out of proportion.

“The Mobilegeddon update was scheduled to roll out through April 28th, so it’s safe to assume it has run its course,” Adrian DeGus of AdultSEOPartners.com told XBIZ. “The impact was felt most in mainstream, as many large fortune 500 companies were not prepared and lost out on a lot of mobile exposure because of it. Reddit in particular took a big hit. However, in adult, the negative effects I monitored were minimal.”

Even though the changes have been completed, some SEOs also believe that the recrawl and reranking process are not finished yet.

“It has been confirmed that Google’s mobile friendly algorithm patch has fully rolled out, but it is taking time for all pages to be re-crawled and re-indexed, that’s why some sites do not see the full impact,” Mike Blazer, CEO and founder of PoiSEO.com, told XBIZ. “On the other hand, there are sites that became mobile friendly after the algorithm roll out and they’re being re-crawled, re-indexed and getting back to their previous ranking positions, so the SERPs change all the time. Mostly I see good positive results on sites of our clients. Search metrics published a report of Mobilegeddon winners and losers at the end of April 2015, showing that sites such as Reddit and Upworthy lost significant traffic — 27 percent and 38 percent accordingly. 38 percent accordingly. So, not just the schmucks got hit with that. Some of the winners have gained miraculous percentages of traffic: 2,000-plus percent or even 4,000-plus percent — it’s always better to be on the winning side.”

“Whether it has cooled off or not, the potential for mainstream advertisers extending the reach of their products and offers across previously uncharted territory is huge. At ExoClick we are seeing a trend here and more and more companies are starting to take advantage of this opportunity,” according to their global sales director, Richard Cottrell. “In order to keep the relation to adult a bit more separated, mainstream advertisers mainly pick pop-unders on both web and mobile channels.”

If your sites aren’t ready for mobile, stop reading this article now and go get them to be fully compliant before doing anything else. Now, assuming your sites are already fully mobile compliant, what else can you do to make a dent in the organic traffic results?

For starters, too many site owners seem to view SEO as a stand-alone goal, rather than as part of a more cohesive strategy that includes the other aspects of your digital enterprise.

“Social media is becoming even more important to a well-rounded and effective SEO strategy,” Lauren MacEwen from 7Veils.com told XBIZ. “Traffic driven from social networks counts as qualified traffic because the people being sent to your site are already interested in your content, and they are more likely to keep returning to you. Even more directly, social media traffic helps increase the average time on site and page views in your site metrics while decreasing bounce rate because you are bringing the people to your site who actually want to be there.”

Google also continues to release new tools for tracking traffic patterns and enhancing your ranks. Recently, a new version of the Google Tools keyword rank report became available for all account holders to use.

“The new tool is useful as another data point for tracking keyword and landing page performance. I personally will continue to rely more on my current toolbox, at least until the new Webmaster Tools feature has matured. Google Webmaster Tools is of course the closest we can get to official data, but it’s also known for its inconsistencies,” lamented Adrian of AdultSEOPartners. com.

“This new feature is called Search Analytics and the old one is named Search Queries. The new one is still in beta and it might get tweaked,” Mike Blazer, CEO and founder of PoiSEO.com, told XBIZ. “I must admit that I’m still using Search Queries daily because I’m used to it, but I’m also using Search Analytics more and more and I can state that it is better. Why? First of all, it is more precise, second, its comparison feature is pure gold: how about comparing mobile and desktop data, U.K. and U.S. data, or image and video data? This wasn’t possible before, so if there’s a little analytic inside you, he’ll like the new Search Analytics feature.”

Now that you have a good sense of where SEO is, we should also take a look at the most likely path it will take through the remainder of 2015.

Later this year Google will release a mobile-specific index which is expected to complete the detachment of desktop search results from mobile,” predicted Adrian. “This, along with the recent mobile update, is expected to trigger a change in how users think about search queries on mobile devices. This has me thinking that within the next year or two we could see a steep decline in queries that include the prefix ‘mobile’, such as ‘mobile porn’.

Users will get used to all mobile search results delivering mobile-friendly content and will subsequently leave off ‘mobile’ from their searches. There are a lot of website owners who regularly invest toward ranking for high traffic ‘mobile’ keywords, who may want to consider the ROI from their efforts as these mobile keywords are searched for less and less.

“Look, Google didn’t spend $25 million on the .apps extension and millions of dollars on other new TLDs just to keep the status quo. I’d expect a very significant move in the algorithm toward domain specificity. Exact match keyword domains with niche specific extensions are likely to become valuable properties while less specific .com versions of those terms will likely lose some of their luster. I’m not saying you should go out and spend $100,000 on Porn.guru, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Porn.porn quickly outranks porn+word.com alternatives on many valuable keyword targets.”

“Overall, SEO is just a matter of trial and error, the only difference between me and most of the people reading this is that I have already made a big portion of my mistakes and I now know how to avoid them in my future decisions,” admitted Mike of PoiSEO.com. “I recommend you discover, try and test all the tools you find, but don’t think that tools will do all the work for you. Tools fail too. Bruce Clay once said, ‘The true cost of information is the wisdom you’d miss without it.’ Find a tool to deliver actionable data and it pays for itself.”

As a solid example of that kind of reasoning, DeGus pointed out that “Tube site owners who update with shared and user-submitted content and don’t yet have a system in place to re-encode videos as a means to modify internal metadata should start thinking about setting up such a system.

Since real SEO relies on experience, innovation and careful practice of trial strategies and tracking, many companies have decided to hire professional SEOs in-house or found quality SEO consultants they can rely on. One of the most common, and most important questions for any executive considering hiring an SEO is, how do determine which candidates are phonies and which ones have the real skills to generate worthwhile results?

“I’d say run from the ones who promise you No. 1 ranks on SERPs in a week or a month. Nobody could ever guarantee you anything” Mike explained. “It’s better to do your own research on anyone who you think of hiring, and the ones that just push themselves on forums aren’t probably the best ones, because the best SEOs usually are busy working and they don’t need to advertise themselves all the time, the word about them spreads by the mouths of happy clients.”

Nothing beats solid results and references,” according to DeGus. “Hiring service providers who already work with other big names in the industry and who can show measurable results directly attributable to their work is the only reliable way to avoid scammers.”

“I would like site owners to stop thinking about SEO as something magical,” said Mike of PoiSEO.com “SEO doesn’t make wonders by itself out of nowhere. Many site owners still think of SEO as a list of little dirty tricks to fool Google. If your site has too little traffic on its own, if the content is not compelling, if user engagement is low, if site design/layout/navigation/UX is horrible — you can’t really expect SEO to become your medicine. It’s all about realistic expectations.”

The days of looking up page rank may be far away in the rear view mirror of any competent SEO, but the lessons of that earlier era remain just as true today as they were back in the day. Theorize, test, track, recalibrate and test again, because only by finding out what actually works can anyone hope to scale it up in ways that hold true no matter what Google and Bing decide to do next.

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