Search engine optimization is in an always-changing state, just like the search engine rankings themselves, so it's no surprise that the best practices and prevailing theories tend to shift from one year to the next. However, following the Google Hummingbird update, things have changed so much that a lot of businesses might not understand what they should be doing now... or why the things they were doing before can actively damage their SEO campaigns in the new climate.
To help you understand just what we mean, here are five ways search engine optimization has changed in the last year:
1. Straight keyword matching matters less than ever. Because Google and the other search engines are getting better at deciphering the actual question behind the search string, specific keywords and search terms aren't as important as they once were. As long as Google can tell what your website is about, it will send related traffic your way.
2. Google and the other search engines are pushing local results. Now more than ever customers are looking for local companies online rather than in the Yellow Pages or other print directories. And so, Google and the other search engines are incorporating geography into search results to give them the resources, stores, and vendors they're looking for.
3. Responsive websites are getting more traffic and attention. Current industry estimates suggest that more than a third of all web traffic is currently coming from smartphones, tablets, and other web-ready mobile devices. That percentage will only increase going forward, which is why search engines are giving a clear preference to responsive and mobile-friendly websites.
4. Rich snippets are making it easier to get views for your content. Which would you rather click on: a "normal" search result with a brief preview, or one that has an author photo, star ratings, or other enhanced content? With rich snippets and social tie-ins, it's much easier to make your content stand out.
5. Google is paying attention to the way users interact with your website. It used to be that having someone visit your website and bounce away quickly was a waste of your time and theirs; now, it could hurt your search engine rankings as well. That's because Google is paying attention to the way users interact with your site, and rewarding or punishing you accordingly based on the amount of time they spend and pages they view.
As with any shift in search engine optimization strategy, there are going to be some companies that benefit and others that suddenly find themselves missing out on the new customers and sales opportunities they were expecting. Which category is your business going to fall into?