With black hat trickery more difficult to get away with than ever, the development of quality content now serves as the driver of successful SEO initiatives. Here are three steps to optimizing the materials that will ultimately determine the visibility of your content with your target market as well as the success of your SEO efforts.


           Create content that resonates with your audience – Creating content that matters to your target market may require some research to see exactly what people are asking about your products and how they search for answers. As inquiries have become more conversational through voice commands, the content that answers the most common questions posed by people who are searching is getting rewarded by search engines with increasingly high rankings. This changes the game from focusing SEO efforts on high traffic keywords to really learning and providing what people are looking for in their searches.


           Create Timeless Content – One of the biggest differences between the life of content on the web versus traditional media is that digital materials remain easily available indefinitely. To take full advantage of the longevity of online assets, create content for your SEO campaign that will be relevant today as well as in the future. Referred to as "evergreen" content, these materials typically don't reference specific dates or events in a context that can make them look increasingly out of date over time. For example, terms like "last week", when referring to an event dates the content as being written at a specific time. If the content calls for a date, give only the month if you're writing an article in the same year. After the end of that year change the content to show the month and the year in which the event occurred. To stay on top of this, keep a file of content that you'll want to edit at a future date.


           Put your content where your audience is – Great content has to be seen by its audience for optimal results. Rather than just distribute your SEO-related content through the standard channels like your blog and Facebook page, do some research to determine the sites that your target market frequents, such as industry-focused social media sites. You can also look to publish content on websites that provide general information about your industry, products or services. For example, a restaurant could create articles with tips on cooking soufflés on a site dedicated to baking and desserts. Putting your content on sites where people are passionate or at least interested in your products/services will increase the amount of views as well as actions, which can drive traffic to your site and boost rankings on search engine results pages.


Content is the key to your SEO campaigns. By creating relevant and timeless materials and then putting them where your audience can find it, your content will yield optimal results.

When Google announced on September 26th that it had released an update titled Hummingbird in late August 2013, the biggest surprise was that, despite the broad scope of the algorithm changes, the effects had not been noticed during the approximately five weeks between the rollout and the announcement. Considering that the previous two updates, code named Panda and Penguin had caused dramatic and sudden negative changes in page rankings for a wide variety of websites, the new update had slipped in under the radar which provided a second surprise in that the modifications that were introduced were considered to be the most sweeping changes in the search engine’s ranking formula since the release of the Caffeine update in 2009.
The reason for the lack of impact on rankings, as explained by Google representatives in the days following the announcement, is that the modifications in the new update focus on improving search results for two types of queries that are growing rapidly as a whole but do not represent large search numbers for individual components; complex queries that are conducted by voice command on mobile devices. Prior to the update, Google’s process for assessing spoken or keyed searches focused on keywords while ignoring other words in the query. Hummingbird changes that process by assessing each word in the context of the question. One of the primary outcomes of this change is that searches using long tail keywords will generate results that are far more likely to present relevant content.      
For ecommerce businesses, the Hummingbird update provides a huge opportunity to capitalize on two consumer behaviors simultaneously:
* The tendency of consumers to purchase items that they have researched on their mobile devices – According to a Google/Nielsen survey, more than 4 out of 5 consumers submit product queries with the intention of making a purchase within 24 hours.
* The typical online search process of consumers – Consumers generally start product searches with shorter search terms and then lengthen them as they get closer to making a purchase. By generating content that delivers solutions/answers to long tail queries, a business can become very visible on results pages at precisely the point at which consumers are preparing to make a purchase.     
The companies that will be in the best position to capitalize on these converging trends will be generating content that is recognized as a solution to consumers’ search queries. It’s a huge opportunity, and Google wants to help.

Much like personal relationships, when one person is signaling what they want while the other ignores it, the connection gradually...

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  • User Experience and SEO



    Prior to Google’s implementation of the Hummingbird algorithm in the second half of 2013, search engine optimization and delivering a positive user experience with published content were distinctly different practices. Despite Google’s mission to surface high value content, its algorithms were easily manipulated with SEO tricks that didn’t necessarily deliver the information that the search engine users were looking for. At the same time, content that delivered relevant information often earned lower rankings than poorly written articles that prioritized packing in keywords over adding value.


    Hand it to Google, the search engine has stayed true to its commitment to deliver improved user experiences and is now far less vulnerable to manipulative practices. Its ranking algorithm now factors a variety of signals that result from positive user experiences, including:        


            Links from authority sites – Content that contains valuable source material, topic-relevant information or delivers a positive user experience in general can earn links from authority sites to provide additional information or to be cited as a reference. These links carry an increasing amount of weight in the ranking algorithms due to the quasi-vetting process from originating authority sites. This is a completely different ranking methodology than the one which rewarded web pages that had thousands of spammy backlinks purchased for a few pennies each.       

            Social actions – When content is posted to social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, user can elect to share that material with their friends and/or followers. Sharing or liking posted content is referred to as a social action, which is an indication that the content delivers a positive user experience, whether it’s entertaining, informative or a combination of the two. Steady and/or increasing social actions with specific web pages can then boost rankings due to the implied legitimacy of independent referrals.    

             Active and positive comment threads – Quality content draws engagement in the form of active commentary threads. Content that is generating shares and likes will also elicit commentary, with the actions reinforcing each other when being weighed by search algorithms. While these reinforcing actions are great for SEO campaigns, they are equally capable of driving higher rankings for negative content, such as news stories.    


    In today’s SEO campaigns, manipulating the algorithms has become increasingly difficult. This is due in part to the growing sophistication in algorithm methodology that can detect spammy links and content. It is also due to the evolution in the way people communicate and share information on the web. The paradigm change now forces SEO and content distribution campaigns to focus on the same primary goal; delivering a positive user experience. 

  • One SEO Change to Implement Now


    As the sophistication of search algorithms continues to increase, search engines are improving their understanding of what their users are looking for with their inquiries. Prior to replacing its search methodology with the Hummingbird algorithm in 2013, search results typically showed results that had a high percentage of the same keywords included in users’ inquiries. While the pages that were returned based on keyword matches generally reflected some relevance to the search, there were also results that had nothing to do with the nature of the inquiry.


    Two of the primary reasons for these unrelated results were black hat techniques that were used to trick the early algorithms into granting high ratings, as well as words that were spelled the same but had different meanings, known as homonyms. An example of a homonym is the word “lead”, which can either be a noun as in the metal or a verb as in “to guide”. An inquiry such as “lead dog” could list sculptures of dogs made of the metal as well as dog teams in the Iditarod race. Refining the search to “what is a lead dog Iditarod” could still return mixed results. With the implementation of the Hummingbird algorithm, searches provided results based on the context of the inquiry, rather than trying to find pages with identical keywords.


    The change to contextual search, in addition to providing a higher percentage of relevant results for all users, was also influenced by the more conversational nature of inquiries from mobile device users. When voice commands are used, it’s more natural to ask a question than limiting inquiries to a few key words. As the search phrases became longer, keyword-based algorithms struggled to return listings that answered the questions that were being posed, which required follow-on searches and lead to a less than optimal user experience.


    For businesses that have not changed the foundation of their SEO initiatives to the new search methodology, previously high rankings are likely to start falling, if they haven’t already. The key to success in context-based search is to modify content so that it answers the questions posed verbally by mobile users. As a simple example, a searcher may pose the question “Where is a pizza place in Anytown?” Content that answers that question, which would earn a higher search listing, would include something like “Jack’s Pizza is located at 123 Main Street in Anytown.”


    As Google and the rest of the search engines try to deliver the best user experience possible, the focus is on eliminating listings that don’t deliver the answers sought by searchers. To that end, the listings that are presented will increasingly address the full context of inquiries with the delivery of specific answers. In this environment the SEO campaigns that are modified to answer questions, rather than match keywords to searches, will deliver website and storefront visits which will drive revenues.  

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