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Adrian Onu

Technical Director at ASSIST

“The best way to predict your future is to create it.” – Abraham Lincoln

Update 2015: Although this post is fairly old (one year and a half) the informations is still vaild. I'm writing this update to keep the content fresh and valid for visitors. It's been a few days since Google rolled out one of the biggest updates to the search engine, will be expanded the use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This update will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide. Test right now if your website is Mobile-Friendly

Introduction

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) refers to the process of improving the visibility of a web page in search engine results. It is a huge industry for millions of people around the world, Linkedin recording over one million users for the search “SEO”.

Short History

Everything began in 1997, when Google was launched. The search engine invented by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, had a parameter that helps classify web pages named PageRank and the few webmasters back then wanted to profit from the Google’s early popularity.

In year 2000 Google launched PageRank Toolbar, a tool that helped webmasters to check their website “strength”.

This was a great tool, because the competition could be monitored and the links source could be checked. SEO just became much easier.

In year 2005, Google releases the "nofollow" tag, which is supported by Yahoo and MSN. Later, Google said the "nofollow" links does not improve PageRank at all.

In 2006, Google began banning websites using a tactic called “cloacking” (hidden text, stuffed keywords or small text). Three years later search engines started integrate social networks for more accurate results.

In the last three years Google launched constant search algoritm updates, designed to prevent sites with low quality content reaching top pages. The most recent update was named Hummingbird and brings new features like “Knowledge Graph” or  “Google Carousel”.

Google's Knowledge Graph example

Downfall of PageRank

Matt Cutts about Page Rank update before 2014

Matt Cutts, the head of Google spam division said a couple of days ago that he would be surprised if PageRank will be updated this year.
Because PageRank has not been updated from February 2013, we might think that Google is determined not to show the data to webmasters anymore. Why is Google doing this? I think this is one of the measures taken to combat SEO spam and the link building industry. The other measures in the last three years are:

  • "not provided" keywords - Google has hidden over 80% of the keyword data in Analytics. This is a move that affects SEO agencies, as they no longer can measure their performance.
  • Panda and Penguin - the updates that affected over 15% of search queries worldwide, killed millions of content farms or low quality EMD websites.
  • Instant Search - the instant search feature killed thousands of websites optimized to rank for long tail keywords. How? If I were to search for “insurance companies in Suceava” the Instant Search gives me the desired results after I type “insurance companies”. I am very happy that I’ve found my insurance company very fast, but the webmaster of a website like“insurancecompaniesinsuceava.com” is sad, because has no more traffic.
  • Hummingbird update - when searching, everyone would like to get a fast and accurate answer. Nobody likes to browse web pages and compare results. This is why Google tries to achieve with Hummingbird update - to improve user experience, to provide fast and accurate results.


No more PageRank, no more keywords. Google killed all the useful tools and because of that SEO just got a bit more difficult.

On-page SEO rules after Google’s Hummingbird update

Quality! This is what Google wants. We need to build websites for people not for robots. But there are some rules, which, if not followed we might lose potential visitors from search engines. The most important on page SEO rules after Hummingbird update are:

  1. Quality content - just try to add real value, something of substance to visitors, that is unique, different and useful.
  2. Title tag - it should accurately describe what the article is about.
  3. Meta description - Even though Google said in 2009 that meta description is not a ranking factor, it has been reported by several webmasters that has a quite a big influence, especially if the meta description contains the specific keywords.
  4. Internal links - allows visitors to navigate a website and help establish information hierarchy for the given website.
  5. Images with alt attribute - Like someone said “A picture is worth a thousand words”, images in content are valuable. As the search engines robots does not see the images directly, they concentrate on the information provided in the "alt" attribute.
  6. Videos - what is more effective: a step by step procedure for “Apple MacBook RAM upgrade” or a video with a technician doing this job?
  7. Site Speed - use PageSpeed and Pingdom to check your website speed. If your web page is loading in more than 3 seconds you have work to do. 
  8. Use latest technologies as much as possible - you can find a list of cool technologies here
  9. Mobile optimisation - a Bia Kelsey study says that mobile search will exceed desktop search in 2015. So in about two years a website without mobile support would be like a flash website today.​

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Off-page SEO tips after Hummingbirdle search market]

After the last Panda updates many websites were penalized because of black hat  SEO practices. The best off-page advice it to stay away from any black hat or grey hat SEO. Here is a list of good off-page practices after latest Google update:

  1. Social media - profit from the popularity of Google +, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter, Linkedin.
  2. Local business - create profiles on Google Local, Bing Local, Yelp or YellowPages.
  3. Document sharing - create quality documents, presentations, videos and distribute on Slideshare, Youtube, Scribd, etc.
  4. Guest blogging - find relevant blogs, write and publish quality content.

SEO in 2014 and beyond

Knowledge is power, the ability to predict the future changes of search algorithm is a true advantage. I think, next year, webmasters should focus more intense on social media, mobile and structured data.

Conclusions

Regardless of search engine future updates, online success will be associated with quality content. Having 70% search engine marked share, Google is improving constantly. The last update has made Google faster and smarter, this is exactly what the search engine expects from websites, to constantly improve. As a webmaster you need to understand one simple rule: MAKE PEOPLE LOVE YOUR WEBSITE!

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