In the past year, Google has made some fairly big changes to their algorithm, which bids us to consider that these are part of a much larger strategy – a strategy that possesses many differing components.
Basically, what’s happening is that Google are doing a solid job of forcing people to move away from tactical SEO exploits towards a much more strategic approach overall.
Although many individuals would argue that using a tactical approach to SEO is as good as dead, this isn’t actually quite true.
So, that said, let’s step back a bit to try to figure the larger picture with some level of clarity. In this respect, it will give us a far clearer outlook as to the future of ranking in Google search.
Organic Searches ‘Secure’
Google made the rather unfortunate move from September the 23rd 2013 to make all organic searches ‘secure’. What does that mean? It means that we no longer have the ability to assess what keywords people are using to arrive on our websites when they utilize Google search. Well, that’s not entirely the case, but in the large part, this data is now patently missing.
This is pretty sad news for a lot of publishers. They no longer have the same amount of concept about what the intent of their potential customer base (or whatever) is in terms of conversion optimizing and more besides.
It’s still possible to get around this problem, but it’s more difficult than it was previously.
Google Page Rank – No Update From February to December 2013
In the past, Google updated their PageRank which was shown within the Google Toolbar and elsewhere every 3 months or thereabouts, but that’s no longer the case. There was no updates from February through December of last year.
Historically, Google has updated the PageRank numbers shown in the Google Toolbar every 3 months or so, but those numbers were not updated for some 9 months. Is this a thing to come? Will the PageRanking factor disappear altogether? I say ‘YES’ it will disappear, and I’ve been saying that for well over a year now.
There’s a lot of speculation about this, as would be expected. Although not everyone worries about PageRank, there are plenty of both keen amateur and professional SEO’s that do. It makes for a particularly large part of their business model.
Some eminent SEO’s argue that it doesn’t mean much, but I know for a fact that it does – again, not for everyone but for many.
Algorithm Updates – Hummingbird
There are a number of elements involved with the algorithm update by Google named ‘Hummingbird’, but just as was the case with Caffeine previously, it’s really a major platform transformation. Google now has the capacity to comprehend conversational search queries rather better than previously.
As an example of this, perform a Google search query such as “show me a picture of Frank Sinatra” and you’ll get images of Frank Sinatra.
This in fact demonstrates conversational search functionality, although there is work to be done to optimize the functionality.
The keyword ‘game’ has changed quite a bit with the ‘onslaught’ of Hummingbird. Given some time and exact keyword matches will inevitably be far less of a deal than they are at present.
Further impact of this algorithm will likely be fairly substantial over the coming year or more. Access to raw data is much reduced, and simultaneously, new technology is being rolled out that changes the way how many things function together.
Not new, no. Google+ has been on the go since June 2011.
It was a bit slow to gain momentum, but now that momentum has reached an all-new plateau, and continues to expand rapidly. Data on Google+ is not easy to ascertain, but even so, there’s obvious impacts being had on search, like the display of results that are personalized.
Posts created by folks who are on Google+ (providing they post them under their account name) also show up in search results.
The Google+ foundation was created as a content sharing network which is intended to help establish ‘identities’ along with ‘semantic relevance’. And that’s being achieved rather well, even within the fairly early days. And irrespective of what you read elsewhere, there’s a whole gamut of activity in a huge amount of verticals on Google+.
Again, not a new phenomenon, and again, it’s part of a larger picture. Google utilizes authorship to associate content with the people who craft it.
This, given more time, can be used – potentially – to measure response value on content, including social shares, links, +1s, and comments. Then, accordingly, the Author Rank can reflect this level of response.
Really, what it boils down to is that your personal G+ authority does matter now, and probably will matter far more in the future in terms of Google search rankings.
There is of course Publisher Rank, which may become more important. Publisher Rank is the concept of adding to a site’s authority, and establishing this comes down to a holistic approach to enhancing your Google authority overall.
More In-Depth Articles
This is a new feature announced fairly recently by Google.
The announcement about in-depth articles included a statement (if you wade through all the rhetoric, you will find it…) that read along the lines of “as much as 10% of daily information requirements (stats taken from those who use Google search) are related to learning about broader topics.”
That number is large, so this is a fairly big deal. And, in effect, it could well pose a new way to achieve Google search rankings, if it’s not already.
Then, add to this, the payoff that can be achieved through Author Rank and Publisher rank, and you will obviously see that there’s a fair amount on offer to be gained by developing these assets. That is, providing of course that Google does utilize this as a factor when it comes to the determination of rankings.
Is there some form of pattern emerging from all of this?
In one word – YES! The data they have recently destroyed – well okay, a more pertinent way to put that is ‘taken away’, has been used by online publishers as a way to further optimize their SEO work in a tactical manner. Previously, you’d ask these sort of questions to achieve high organic Google rankings:
– How do I go about gaining higher PageRank (or gain links from high authority websites)?
– Which are the best keywords to optimize for?
Now, taking these issues out of the equation will in turn lead to the reduction of focus on achieving these end-goals.
On the other hand, the major changes listed above will have the impact of encouraging a more strategic behavior. All of the new pieces of the big jigsaw puzzle will have a large role to play in people focusing more on their authority, semantic experience, and last but certainly not least – the user experience. All of these are what Google truly wants.
This is not to say that Google is deeply intent on destroying all previous/ current formats of SEO. Who really knows that other than the Google folks themselves? However, it seems reasonably apparent that Google are intent on rewarding ‘outstanding’ sites, webpages, and authors – those that provide the answers that people are looking for when they perform a Google search.
Really, for us folks who are involved in SEO, it’s all about engaging with this – the bigger picture. That’s what will work in future, and that’s what is actually working right now, to a reasonable extent, anyhow.
So, with all that said, the main focus now is about understanding your target market, producing better than merely good content, establishing both your own authority as well as visibility, and of course, offering a premium experience to the users of your website/s. The last point also means good site architecture so that the search engines can understand it (as well as the user) in such ways as related markup and schema use etc.
However, to finalize, the previous (and to some extent current) obsession with PageRank factors and keyword choice is going to fade away. I think that’s fairly obvious. As Google make their algorithm tweaks and what have you, you will be forced to follow along, irrespective of how much of a hard-headed SEO sort of person you are.
And the fact of the matter is that this is not going to stop. Oh no, far from it. Do be expecting a lot more of the same to come any time soon!