One way SEO strategy has affected how people write for the web is by created the term ‘keywords’ with the launch of one of the first worldwide online indexing tools, Google in 1998. Keywords were first perceived as words you could use to attract visitors to your website, which during the first years of Google consisted too often in maximizing high search volume terms that may not be related to the page content. The first personal blogs used to attract visitors by adding popular terms at the bottom of the page or directly into the metadata. Needless to say, the volume of visitors increased significantly. Since then, Google has punished this black hat SEO strategy with the introduction of Google Panda in 2011.
However, low-quality sites continue to find loopholes to drive visitor traffic. When it became obvious that link building could improve the ranking ability of a site, unscrupulous digital entrepreneurs offered to sell backlinks, causing several websites to suffer a drop in ranking when Google introduced the quality link penalty. However, the new approach to create quality and natural-looking links is to build a link wheel. While it is not a Black Hat style, it’s fair to say that it can be difficult for businesses to maintain informative content generation across each site of the wheel.
For now, Google hasn’t yet picked on it. However, as the general quality of content is sinking across the web, it’s fair to say that the AI within the ranking algorithm might start to penalize link wheels in future.
So what is the best approach to improve your online performance durably and without risking future penalties and algorithm updates? The answer is surprisingly simple. Don’t do SEO.
There’s only so much SEO you can do
The dangers of homepage SEO
Although no marketer in their right mind would intentionally ditch their SEO strategy, there’s an important lesson to learn. Namely, SEO doesn’t always work for you. In fact, when it comes to your main web page, your homepage SEO, the answer to the question ‘should you even worry about it?’ is more likely to be NO. It’s not a matter of ignoring your homepage completely. But it’s important to understand that your homepage should not be the main linking page for your SEO strategy.
Make sure you limit your keyword choice
One of the most common mistakes made by small companies is to reproduce the same SEO strategy that works for big brands. Big brands naturally receive more links because they are more customers, more advocates, and more press. Consequently, a variety of anchor texts link to the homepage, and such a link constellation is sustainable because there is sufficient content out there to justify the diverse keywords. For small brands, the external content spreads too thin to make it work.
Manage your reputation
Additionally, it’s the constant generation of content from commentators, social media users, bloggers, and journalists that create a rich brand reputation for big brands. Because big brands are likely to have a lot of advocates, they can enjoy a positive reputation even if they sometimes get things wrong. What happens to small businesses who have a handful of dissatisfied customers? They immediately suffer from a negative reputation, which affects your ranking scores too. Ultimately, if Google notices that your brand is unpopular, it’ll push you deeper in the search results. As it is difficult for small brands to find advocates, fixing a damaged reputation is a slow and painful strategy.
You can’t win the keywords war
GDPR will affect data accuracy
If you hone your SEO skills developing keyword-ranking strategies, it is time to change your ways before the GDPR comes into force at the end of May. Indeed, the General Data Protection Regulation is an EU data privacy regulation that affects the way data collecting, monitoring and analyzing tools handle EU data. With penalties of €20 million, it’s not something you want to ignore. Unfortunately, the GDPR will reduce the information you can get from your data processors, whether it’s Google Analytics or specialist keywords tools. Geographic reporting accuracy will be reduced in Analytics. It is currently unclear how further tools will deploy data privacy recommendations, but you can expect fewer data to improve your rankings.
The keyword search has changed
Additionally, since the apparition of voice-controlled assistants, such as Amazon Echo, the way people search online has changed. Amazon Echo, being shared by the family, can affect the way the search engine provides the most relevant results for a user. Additionally voice search transforms the way people think about keywords, as it tends to be performed in a conversational tone.
Alt text is overstated
There’s another essential voicing tool that is too often ignored, and it’s the screen reader. For the sake of accessibility, marketers insist that all alt text content should be completed, both for visually impaired users and for crawlers. The main issue with using screen readers as a cover for search engine writing is that it can generate confusing and unclear web pages. Imagine, for instance, a ‘send’ button at the end of a form. The alt text normally labels the button ‘send’ + [keywords]. The screen reader naturally reads the text ‘send’ that’s written on the button, causing duplicate and unnatural content for the user. A similar argument can be made for images used as placeholders. They disturb the screen reader experience and might ultimately be picked up by the AI learning function in Google’s algorithm.
How long do people spend on a page?
55% of visitors spend less than 15 seconds on any page and read only about 20% of the content. Users skip most of the content to find the answer they need, so that 70% of your SEO content is not seen. It’s a fast-paced environment, and people want immediate answers. In other words, the SEO rule of a minimum of 250 words per page is useless.
The key learning is that everything you know about SEO is changing. How long until the algorithm is updated, we don’t know. But one thing is for sure: Write for real people, not for search engines if you want to make the most of your online presence.