Today’s guest post is written by Adam Justice.
SEO has a few basic principles that will never change, but search engines routinely refine their algorithms in ways that usually make any fringe efforts worthless.
Every few months there is a new set of best practices, and another group of web properties are adversely affected by changes.
This year, in particular, has been especially harsh on websites that focused a lot of their attention on SEO.
It’s also the year Google search began to lose some of its power as gatekeeper of unique hits, but gained some of it back with Google+.
Latent semantic indexing
Google has begun to use more advanced algorithms that consider your subject matter in its particular context. The latest addition to the SEO’s toolbox is LSI, or latent semantic indexing, which means your articles will get additional context points when using related terms other than your targeted keyword.
For instance, if you are targeting the term “babysitting,” words such as infant, child, and toddler are now related to your keyword, and in fact are expected.
This is the reason websites that were designed from the ground up to exploit Google’s algorithm have fallen. They would use the term “baby” over and over to increase their keyword density and that no longer works. In fact, it counts against you.
In a nutshell, this means content that is well written, in the same manner normal humans speak, is ranking higher. Google’s major advance, one that made them a household name, was allowing other netizens to choose which content was relevant by counting links back to those articles from other sites.
Technology is finally at the point where it is possible to somewhat discern quality. As more data becomes available, search results will continue to favor well written articles opposed to articles written to take advantage of SEO.
Integration of social media
Another major trend in search is the integration of social media. When Google introduced the +1 button, many people speculated that having a bunch of +1’s would improve your search ranking.
It turns out it does, but not quite in the way you would imagine. I recently misspelled Yahoo! when entering the address in my browser, and was surprised that Bing ranked Yahoo! OMG, their celebrity gossip website, ahead of the Yahoo! domain in the search results.
It turns out I have five Facebook friends who have liked Yahoo! OMG, and it was enough to propel it in front of the Yahoo! domain on Bing.
Google+ works in much the same way. Your website will rank higher for individual users if their friends have given a +1 to your site and not your competitors. It associates your website with your Google brand page, with the relevant tags from which you can gain traction.
You know the algorithm is improving when the best SEOs are using techniques similar to people who know very little about the way Google’s search works.
By producing high quality content and encouraging your readers to share it, you are making progress that has staying power. Search wants your quality content, and as algorithms improve it will be the high quality content that rises to the top.
Adam Justice is a veteran web developer, entrepreneur, and online journalist. He is a Yahoo! Featured Contributor in the areas on technology, politics and autos, and is co-founder and president of Elkhorn Media. You can find more about Adam here.