8 Ways that SEO Changed in 2013
Moore-Wilson looks into the ways the SEO landscape changed in 2013.
There have been a number of changes to SEO in 2013. Much of the focus in the SEO community has been around various Panda and Penguin updates and, in particular, the news of the Hummingbird algorithm. “(Not provided)” has also been at the forefront of conversation amongst SEOs, with Google now encrypting close to 100% of searches. This means that marketers cannot view the keyword phrases being used to find their websites through Google searches.
SEO has always been an ever-changing world and key to on-going success is adapting as required. What worked a year or two ago no longer does and 2013 has seen the biggest changes in SEO in the five years I’ve been working in this industry. This post is a brief summary of eight things we have learnt or taken away from 2013.
Content is increasingly important
Content has always been important in providing the best user experience. However, it used to be possible to rank, even for competitive keyword terms, with very little content on a page through off-page SEO. The days of relying on link building are over; links are still important but having enough content and the right type of content is now a requirement.
Themes are more important than keywords
Theming a website around subject areas is something all websites need to consider; the more information a website has on a particular subject, the more likely it is to rank for related terms. On-page SEO isn’t about keywords in the traditional sense any more. While you want to get the right terms and related phrases into page copy (and in particular in a title tag), the theme of a page and a section of a website is more important. It’s about overall relevance to a subject rather than matching keywords to the phrases you think people search for.
(not provided) is a pain but all is not lost
One of the biggest complaints amongst search marketers and marketers in general in the last year has been the increase in “(not provided)” traffic. Previously analytics software could be used to find out which search terms people were using to find your website. Those days are virtually over – our data suggest this information is unavailable for around 90% of searches with this expected to rise, possibly to 100%. Some have suggested this makes it harder to justify SEO to clients as they cannot see which phrases are being used to find their site. We don’t believe this is the case, though. Ultimately SEO should always be about increasing traffic and increasing conversions. If traffic to a target page and conversions from it are increasing, especially when coupled with improved rankings, then there is evidence of SEO proving successful.
The quality of links is more important than quantity
That the importance in the quality of links over the number of links is increasing is nothing new and not a great surprise, but 2013 may really be a turning point. Benefiting from poor quality links is a thing of the past. Long gone are the days when social bookmarking, article marketing and blog commenting could form the basis of an SEO campaign. The various Google Panda updates have contributed towards two things; a “dodgy” link profile can lead to penalisation and, even when this is not the case, low-quality links are not having a positive impact. A few high-quality links are always preferable to a large number of poor quality ones. Links from high authority domains and those from relevant websites are those that need to be targeted. This requires much more thought and time than in the past, but in the long run, it pays dividends.
You cannot overuse keyword anchor text
Anchor text used to play a large role in SEO. To rank for a particular phrase you could “build” a large number of links using exact match anchor text to the target phrase. This is more likely to lead to penalisation rather than reward today and is certainly a spam signal. A natural link profile has links with a variety of anchor texts with the majority containing the brand name or URL and this is what Google is looking for.
Conversational search and Google Hummingbird
The Hummingbird algorithm that was released by Google in August has had a major impact on how Google views different searches. It is attempting to better understand search intent by understanding what people are really trying to find. Rather than simply matching keywords they are thinking much more intelligently, including about whether someone is searching for information or a product or service. This has resulted in them understanding questions better.
One of the biggest changes over the last couple of years is how Google is using personalised search. It is now very rare that two people in different locations will get the same results. Someone’s location and their search history are two things that Google is using to determine which results it returns to them. If you are in London, for example, for the search ‘Solicitor’ you will get very different results than if someone makes the same search in Birmingham. These two searches don’t return any of the same solicitors' firms to each other.
You must work with clients
An SEO agency has to work with their clients more than ever. So much of good quality SEO is now down to content. We have seen a large increase in the amount of time we are spending making suggestions to clients related to content, which then requires their input. Gaining links is more complex now and often involves client input. Without client involvement, SEO is almost impossible, something that was not the case in the past.