Google SEO

The Cessation of SEO: A Series for Nonprofits

If you were unaware, SEO as we know it is dead.  Take a look at the first post in this series to learn how SEO has evolved, and how you can enhance User Experience to improve your organic ranking.  This week we will look at SEO practices that are no longer relevant due to Google’s new audience oriented algorithm.

As a result of the Google’s new Hummingbird algorithm update, you should discontinue the following practices for SEO:

Counting Keywords

Many websites contain content specifically designed to use keywords so frequently that it borders on absurdity, in an attempt to improve organic ranking.  The 2013 Hummingbird update took this into account and copywriters rejoiced, no longer would they be forced to sully their carefully written content into keyword rich drab.  With the most recent Google algorithm changes keywords are still important in creating a good user experience, but not at the cost of making a site page relevant and useful.  Try to create your pages with topics in mind, rather than keyword-centric paragraphs.  Do not worry about keyword saturation or keyword density — this is now a red flag for Google if it seems deliberate.  Map out the content of each page in a hyper focused way, and think about what your audience will find best suited to their immediate and long term needs (using the same keyword in 9% – 12% of the text does not help your audience).

External Link Building

External link building can be an important tool in SEO, and will continue to be used in Audience Optimization.  However, the practice of peppering the web with as many links to your site as possible is no longer viable or cool (seriously bro, not cool).  Again, this does not mean that external link building is no longer important.  Rather, allow the link building to happen more naturally.  Do not go out of your way to leave numerous comments in blogs and forums merely to leave a link, furthermore link exchanges are outdated and should have been discontinued as a practice long ago.  Additionally, the strategy of building numerous sites linking back to your primary domain is frowned upon (the caveat to this is when it’s a necessary strategy for non-SEO purposes), and will be noticed by spiders.  If your site is useful to your audience and contains quality content, people will link back to it.

Thinking by Query

With the advent of SIRI (and the Android counterparts), the manner in which people search the web is changing.  Google seeks to not only stay ahead of evolving web patterns, but also to influence those patterns (hence the organic Hummingbird algorithm update).  Individuals with smartphones are beginning to appreciate the convenience of simply asking for the information desired via voice recognition systems.  For example, consider the following search: “SIRI, where is the nearest trampoline park?”  (Seriously, I love trampolines).  This search would use a voice recognition system to run a local query into trampoline parks near the user’s location.  On the individual might have used the query “trampoline park (city name).”  As an owner of this trampoline business (I can dream can’t I?), one might try to optimize the home page to show Google (and the audience) that the site is relevant to that topic.  However, one now needs to think in terms of answering the query by the way in which it was asked.  Therein lies the change — queries are evolving out of keyword searches and morphing into questions and inquiries for voice recognition systems.  It could be years before this practice becomes mainstream in the industry, but if you fail to prepare your site to accommodate for this search method you will be behind your competitors.*

* As an aside, the following clearly demonstrates the need to be forward thinking with regard to online presence.  After misjudging the future success of Facebook and social media in general, Google came to realize that they were no longer innovators in the ever-changing tech industry.  While they were buying companies left and right and expanding their portfolio, they lost focus on their core products – a lesson that Steve Jobs himself pointed out to Larry Page on his death bed.  Organic and Paid Search, while still the best practices in the industry, weren’t being updated quickly to adapt to changing web behavior.  Google attempted to rectify their bad judgment with Google Plus — a tool that’s important now, but was too little too late in the game of Social Media.  Thus began the new policy amongst Google developers: always think ahead.

In 2012, Google surprised paid search marketers with the news that mobile placement could no longer be managed as a separate platform, but would instead be combined with desktop and tablet platforms.  Along with the Hummingbird algorithm update, Google is striving to maintain their status as innovators in the online marketplace.  In this industry, it is important to predict the upcoming changes to avoid stagnation.

Relying on Google Analytics

Pick up your jaw from the floor, and compose yourself.  The following information is not as salacious as the headline suggests, and Google Analytics will remain an important weapon in your arsenal.  In fact with the constant addition of tracking features and the service being FREE, it is foolish to elect not to use Google Analytics.  However, a recent change in the service has been met with some skepticism.  The organic keyword feature is now “100% secure,” which means that searches performed on are no longer available for collection and analyzing.  Google has justified this change with the shift in how queries are being made (see above).  Experts have suggested that Google is encouraging small businesses to rely less on organic search and more on paid placement, which still offers an abundance of keyword data.  If this is the case, Google AdGrants makes for a wonderful alternative to non-profits.

The Hummingbird algorithm update has changed the relative importance of the strategies mentioned above, with regard to improving organic rank.  In the upcoming posts we will examine Audience Optimization techniques to continue to utilize or to begin utilizing for your site.