Once upon a time in the not too distant past SEO was a tick box list of H1 headlines, ALT text and keywords, it was simple wasn’t it? The answer to that question depends on your knowledge of basic search engine operation, and an understanding of the algorithms they use. That was SEO 1.0
We seem to have a constant flow of experts and gurus telling us what the best method to optimise you web site is. To me the only real experts and gurus are the hoards of staff who work for the search engines themselves, at the coal face creating the next beta version of search, as only they know the true working of the algorithms.
It is accepted that we do, as dental businesses, have to connect with patients via websites and ultimately search engines. In order for that to happen we have to conform to certain rules that are laid out to webmasters and web site creators in order to gain the hallowed P1R1 spot on a search engine.
In Googles latest webmaster guidelines, the key to gain rank on their search engine, is hinted at quite blatantly:
The key to creating a great website is to create the best possible experience for your audience with original and high quality content. If people find your site useful and unique, they may come back again or link to your content on their own websites. This can help attract more people to your site over time.
As you begin creating content, make sure your website is:
As you can see there is no mention of H1 or ALT tags or even keywords as per SEO 1.0, for Google it’s now all about the content, and even more about fresh new high quality, relevant content that is created on a regular basis that engages your audience and doesn’t cram keywords into the copy to keep the Google search engine happy. That’s SEO 2.0.
If you take the individual points above we know that the majority of dental businesses do rank quite well on credibility, some could do better on the quality, and most could do more to engage the human viewer. Your website should also be unique, not a series of keyword crammed paragraphs, but original copy written by humans for humans in plain speak. This is where the obsession with P1R1 gets in the way, as that’s the way it’s always been done!
So what does this mean for the “SEO Industry” and your very own “SEO Experts”?
It’s a BIG DEAL! No longer can an SEO company take your hard earned cash off you by “guaranteeing” P1R1 results on Google, in their present form at least, they, and you have to do more.
Traditional SEO would therefore seem to be dead? Google themselves have and are actively killing off exact and phrase matched type search, in favour of identity based behavioural patterns (you know, those cookies that are deposited on your hard drive or mobile device’s memory that remembers what you searched for and then serves you up with endless holiday ads for the next few weeks). Yes Google are constantly analysing what you search for and when you search for it so that they can serve results to you faster and be more relevant without you even knowing it’s happening, you just type and there’s the answer, on screen, before you have finished typing.
Now here is the difficult bit of current & future SEO. Traditional SEO 2.0 isn’t dead! Shock horror, but I said it was being killed off earlier?
Even though Google still dominate the marketplace, as believe it or not, there are other search engines available. In December 2015 it was reported that Google’s share of the market dropped to 63.9 percent, Bing rose to 20.7 percent, and Yahoo jumped to 12.7 percent. While Google had only dropped a couple of percentage points, Yahoo’s jump saw a substantial 20% increase in market share. Bing and Yahoo still use a fairly traditional SEO algorithms for page rank, how long that lasts is the $64million question, this makes your traditional SEO activities still valid. Who in their right mind would want to block out nearly 40% of an audience?
As we know Google carries out minor updates to its algorithm almost constantly which usually don’t affect rankings too much. However, in the first few weeks of 2016 we have seen changes that have seriously disrupted search results, rankings and ultimately traffic to sites. You may have heard of Panda, which was the last major update to their core algorithm that changed the way we were served results, but wait, there is something even more revolutionary in the pipeline. Google held off with their Penguin update that was due at the end of 2015, as there were fears that online retailers would have suffered in the run up to the holiday period. As a webmaster for various clients we are seeing changeable results on a daily basis for the same search terms. Google has denied that they are testing the Penguin update which will mean there is going to be a huge shake up, namely real time searches that look for relevant content. Changes are on the way and it might be prudent to get ready for those changes to avoid further disruption and “P1R1 Rage”.
There is a reason why Google are rolling out these major updates, and no it’s not for the benefit of all human kind and the socialist republic of the internet, you can guess what it’s for, yes you got it, revenue! We have all by now seen Google’s Adwords on search pages. How long will it be before you have to pay Google to be in that P1R1 position, and the whole page is filled with cost-per-click (CPC) “sponsored” listings. We then get in to a situation where those with deeper pockets are more equal than those without. Hopefully that won’t happen and organic search will still be allowed on P1 even though currently that real estate is diminishing.
It would seem you have two options to rank:
Pay Google to rank via sponsored ads and hope your pockets are deeper than A N Other Dental Practice around the corner.
Play the Google organic search game, and pay your website design company to do the job properly from day one to achieve good rankings via quality content that humans can understand.
Is there a way forward?
The answer is most definitely yes! Alongside your traditional SEO activities to keep the other search engines such as Bing and Yahoo happy, you should now be making sure that the quality of content on your site is relevant, engaging and more importantly updated and added to on a regular basis. You might even want to rewrite copy on your site where it has been keyword crammed and remove any of the spam techniques used by some dental website companies in order to gain page rank as this is now being actively penalised. In other words don’t try to beat the algorithm, because you won’t win.
SEO is changing, so beware the hollow promises of P1R1 from some SEO companies and instead take the approach that search is carried out by people who are looking for engaging content, Google will help them find you if you play by their rules.
This is only the start, I am calling it SEO 2.5, it is a revolution in the SEO industry and next time I will cover the practical implementation to help your dental website site rank.
Vive la Revolution!
Andy will be keeping you all updated with SEO & SEM trends over the coming months, in his next article he will give you practical advice on the methods to use to have your dental website rank higher… watch this space.