The future of SEO: It’s Google’s world, we’re just living in it

Google’s done it again – changed their effing SEO rules. If you were a digital marketer just three years ago, you’ll likely remember the Google Pirate released the first of many algorithm changes that impacted how web bots crawl, index, and rank every site on the web. Just as marketers were getting comfortable with Pirate, the Hummingbird update hit. And then there was the Panda and Penguin updates. Don’t forget about the Pigeon update. And that’s only to name a few. This February, Google launched a unique (but happily less disruptive) update targeting how they treat AdWords paid displays within search results. Despite its seemingly innocuous impact, this small update may have a huge influence on the future of search engine optimization. Here’s the low down:

What changed:

Google changed their paid advertising display on desktop search results to remove right-rail advertisements completely and only allow for four paid search results to populate before organic rankings take over. This may seem like a relatively small change (and a good one for the customer and small business owner who doesn’t have a massive media budget), but the impact is critical. This update dramatically decreases the clutter people see when searching and allows customers to focus on the top earned – rather than paid – results. It goes without saying that this limits the amount of skew that occurs from paid advertisers. We know it’s great when you have excess marketing budget, but the internet – and search engine optimization – has never been about the pay-to-play model. That’s why this update helps keep search results pure. But, that also means your SEO game needs to be on point.

If you’re in the PPC (pay-per-click) business, your life just got a lot more difficult. If you’re in the SEO game, now’s the time to make your mark.

What does that mean for SEO?

Reducing the amount of ads and streamlining the results means that securing a top organic search ranking is even more important than ever. All eyes will now be laser focused on a consolidated list of results, with more opportunity for organically ranked companies to appear above the fold. As a search marketer, front and center has always been important, but now there is more clean real estate in this space, which means competition is about to get fierce.

So, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Digital marketers who haven’t invested as much time or energy into SEO efforts (favoring the easier, direct PPC route) will have to start getting serious about their search engine optimization strategy. In a few months, many of these companies will have started diverting resources into their organic search campaigns. This means that companies who already have a strong search foundation should get ready to take their efforts to the next level. While other companies scramble to catch up, savvy SEO marketers will have begun optimizing their sites even further in an effort to get ahead of the curve.

How to get ahead:

At this point, you’re probably asking yourself: WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?!

Content marketing: Take time to understand the keywords you want to focus on. Get specific and remember that being the number one spot with a critical few is better than falling just below the fold on 20 general terms. Once you’ve narrowed down your terms, start generating content. Get the blog posts fired up, get your internal links ready to go, and refresh your site content. Just know that any changes you make today will take a few months to be indexed, so don’t wait too long before moving.

Non-branded keyword landing pages: Another great way to bolster SEO ranking is to create landing pages that target non-branded keywords. Apply the same principle you did when narrowing down your content marketing keywords. Then, hone in on how to build mini-pages that can link back to your main site while promoting these niche words. The specificity will help boost your ranking on key phrases, while the tailored content will help drive user engagement as an added bonus. A win-win situation.

Spread the word: Now more than ever before, it’s important that other websites are linking to your content. Blog or write about topics relevant to your brand to help drive this inactive forward and then reach out to other industry influencers and tastemakers in hopes of getting an endorsement. Of course, it helps when you have something to exchange, so don’t be afraid to spotlight partners on your site or via social media.

The only things certain in life are death, taxes, and change … so you should expect plenty more changes to how search engine optimization continues to evolve. Staying on top of the trends makes each subsequent update a little easier to digest than scrambling to catch up after three or four have passed. It’s an investment that ensures your content is seen by the right audience and that the work you put into your website and brand is put to good use. After all, if no one can find your content, they won’t be able to convert, and they’ll never become your customers.

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