The Latest In SEO: What’s New With Google?

by Mark @ ThinkTraffic

What’s your New Year’s resolution? To lose weight? Make more money? Or finally crack the SEO barrier and get your site to page 1 for that awesome key phrase that gets loads of searches? If you said the latter, this post is for you!

As a result of working as a freelance SEO, I get a pretty close look at what is really going on in the SEO world, and right now I can tell you that it is slowly but steadily changing. Here are some tips on how you should proceed with the SEO on your site in 2012. Enjoy!

User Behaviour Matters

It has been talked about for a while, and often speculated on, but since Matt Cutts actually acknowledged it we can now be sure: Google is no longer just looking at what’s on your site and who’s linked to it. Any time they send you any traffic they are also going to be watching what that traffic does and how successful your page is at satisfying it.

What That Means For You
If your page appears in a search result and doesn’t get clicked on as often as it should, then your rankings are going to slip. In short, your page title and description matter more than ever, because these are the bits that display in the SERP’s. Get the meta data right by writing titles and descriptions that get users to actually click on your page and not the result above you. Click-through rate is THAT important.

Additionally, what if a user clicks on your result, but then returns to the search engine and clicks on a different result for the same query? To me that screams to Google that your site didn’t solve the user’s problem, so they tried again. Action plan? Check your bounce rates and navigation paths — there is no good or bad, it all depends on your niche, but one thing is for sure: actively trying to improve usability and bounce rates will help your site and your SEO.

Google Bot Chrome

This has been speculated upon but not proven, though the evidence is compelling (Google it). You know those previews that appear at the side of search results when you hover over them? They show you what a website looks like, and they even show you where the ‘fold’ is on the page.

The scary but amazing conclusion from this and some other evidence and anecdotal study is that Googlebot can actually render a page and ‘appreciate’ how a page actually looks, where content is and which bits have most precedence on the page.

What That Means For You
If your site looks spammy or just poor it might actually hurt you in SEO terms. So if the first thing in your content is a big ad, then Google ‘knows’ that you are prioritizing monetization over user satisfaction. Also, if your navigation looks messy or if your code has errors that make your images overlap your text Google will probably figure that out.

Remember that Google is constantly monitoring userĀ behaviorĀ and finding patterns that might indicate good sites or bad sites. So if your site happens to have similar indicators as those found in ‘bad’ sites, you might get pegged as a baddy yourself. Maybe it’s time to review template through fresh eyes and make the necessary improvements.

Anchor Text Engineering Is A Risky Game

More and more Google is cracking down on link building that games the system. Think about it: if 100 sites linked to yours out of the goodness of their own hearts, without you asking them to, what are the chances of having more than a handful of them using exactly the right anchor text?

It’s likely that you might get 10 or 20 links using close keywords, maybe another 20 using vaguely related terms, and the other 60-70 might use ‘click here’, ‘more info’ or just your URL.

What That Means For You
So in reality those numbers will vary wildly depending on the context and maybe for certain pages your hit rate of anchor texts would be much better, but the point is, you are never going to naturally get a ‘perfect’ link profile. So when you try to build a perfect link profile you actually might be hurting yourself more.

The key takeaway here is that you need to vary it naturally, and sometimes that might even mean the occasional non-SEO’d link. There are of course many more intricacies to this which vary from niche to niche, but the focus is on making it natural and ethical; don’t try to game the system because you will lose.

In Summary

What I have discussed here is based on research, logic, SEO biz scuttlebutt, and mostly personal experience. That said, these ideas make sense to me. We can all see the direction Google is heading in, and it is clear that they have the technology available to work this way.

I hope that the ideas above will help you start thinking in a different way about how your site looks, reads, works, etc. Improving your site has always been a good goal to have, but now you have an extra incentive to do so.

And finally, link building is certainly not going anywhere. Quality link building is just as important as ever, it’s just that there are now a few newer and more important concerns to deal with as well.

Thanks for reading! Please use the comments box below to thank me for imparting my wisdom or to hurl abuse at me.

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