In this guest post, John Vlasakakis (pictured below), co-founder and senior strategist at digital marketing firm GMG Digital, says things are dramatically changing with SEO and brands and marketers need to get up to date and fast…
This year will see Google continue to shift Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) away from being a ‘cat and mouse’ game where SEO specialists try to ‘game’ Google’s search algorithms to a practice focused on delivering more relevant, useful and in-depth content to users.
Google recently released its previously secret Search Quality Rating Guidelines, which is used by a panel (human not algorithmic) of evaluators to determine the quality and relevance of its search results
These guidelines provide key indicators on a number of key areas which will shape how prominently websites will appear in Google’s search results this year. If you have not yet considered the impact of these changes on your business’ SEO and digital marketing strategies, it’s not too late to take action, or optimise your approach if you have already incorporated them into your plans.
Your Money or Your Life
Google has begun applying differing search quality standards to websites from different industries, with the highest standards being applied to websites which could in Google’s words “potentially negatively impact users’ happiness, health, or wealth.”
Websites which fall into this “Your Money or Your Life” category include:
- Shopping websites and other websites where financial transactions (such as bill payments) occur.
- Medical information websites.
- Legal information websites.
- A broad range of others including those which can substantially affect quality of life and livelihood such as child adoption; as well those which provide information when making important purchase decisions, such as car safety ratings.
If your business operates in any of these areas, it is essential to note the following considerations which will be applied at the highest standards to your business.
All you can E-A-T
E-A-T is Google’s acronym for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. It is essentially a summary of the key elements Google considers when ranking websites. Does the content of the website display expertise? Does it demonstrate authoritativeness? Does it engender trustworthiness?
Content which supports E-A-T, such as a business’ background and history, the biographies and credentials of individual authors; content which is linked to or shared from other websites and social media; or content which receives positive reviews and ratings on other websites all contribute to improving its search prominence.
Apart from the main content of any given website and its pages, the usefulness and relevance of supplementary content also affects a business’s search ranking. This includes images, infographics or text which support the primary content, or links to similar or related content on other pages.
Make your website mobile friendly
One of the biggest changes in how Google ranks websites is based on whether they are mobile-friendly and deliver responsive web design (RWP), which delivers users websites optimised for desktop computers or mobile devices, depending on which they are using at that time.
Google has made it clear that websites that are not mobile-friendly will receive low ratings.
What to avoid
In addition to not working the above considerations into your SEO and digital marketing plans, other important practices to avoid include:
- Outdated SEO practices like stuffing pages with keywords, and links which redirect users to websites with tenuous relevance to the content they were looking for.
- An unclear separation between content and advertising which could potentially confuse or mislead users.
- Content which is abandoned, not updated or removed if no longer relevant, especially on blogs and forums.
The cost of not getting it right
Getting SEO right this year in the midst of these changes is a major – and exciting – challenge for any digitally-focused business.
The cost of not getting it right, however, is a potentially precipitous drop in a business’ search prominence which could have dramatic commercial consequences.
It is wise to be on the front-foot and proactive in meeting the challenges these changes present.