ipad-605440 640The past year has reshuffled the cards in the search engine optimization (SEO) sector. The Penguin and Panda updates changed an entire industry and make good content more important than ever, states Christian Weckopp, managing director of TWT, in one of his articles, besides envisioning where SEO is heading and what will even play a greater role this year.

No other industry was subject to so many changes over the past few years as search engine optimization has. What was just the ne plus ultra for SEOs, no longer works by now. While it was possible to achieve a lot with some small tips and advice, only quality and relevance is what counts today.

A few years ago SEO consisted only of two main aspects: On-page and off-page. A good selection of keywords, the technical optimization of the website for Google and a healthy amount of links was enough to rank well for any keyword in Google. Moreover, domain popularity and the number of new links per month were also crucial ranking factors.

Large-scale SEO projects require today, however, much more background knowledge than before. Whoever wants to run SEO professionally, has to know the new rules that are in place since last year. Hence, link building remains a crucial factor for a good ranking, and more than ever high quality links and their natural growth is an indicator of value and relevance. "Class instead of mass" is more important, consequently, link buying is absolutely out and organic link building with brains is in!

Since the Penguin update, sites with reinforced same link text and unnatural link structures are strongly punished and relegated to the rear seats. Then, the shortly thereafter following Panda update took on poor and useless content as its new algorithms prevent such pages to be ranked well.

But what can page website operators actually do?

Good content pays off

While the quality of the content was rather secondary prior to Penguin and Panda, it is now the biggest success factor. Still, it is unclear how Google actually measures "good content" and what you can do to rank higher? Even Google cannot figure it out automatically in its entirety - which sites perfectly fit to search and which do not. The search giant gets its results through various tests, and the exact evaluation of user data, with the mission to offer the user the best search results, Google calculates each request live and changes only in individual cases a trifle. An example: If the user searches for "Skyline Singapore", Google recognizes that most users go on image search and access high-resolution pictures of the Singapore skyline. Once for testing purposes, Google lists websites high show a lot of good pictures of the skyline higher. And if the users are satisfied, these websites are ranked better in the future.

Usability is even more important

Not only the quality of content is an important aspect for Google, but the way of presenting it as well. Google analyzes whether the visitors are satisfied with the preparation of the content, or can cope with the site structure, reflected in a high retention and good usability, which is rewarded again with higher ranking. Even small improvements in the user experience of your web presence will be remunerated noticeably.

This aspect is particularly noticeable in the mobile search engine optimization. Without a mobile-optimized website, you will be ranked significantly lower in mobile search queries. Google officially announced that from 21 April 2015 onwards "mobile-friendly" is an official ranking factor, which makes sense since mobile surpassed the desktop search already. Besides, companies who overslept the mobile optimization will be punished not only by Google, but in the long run by their target audience, too.

Good content marketing provides a push forward

As said, Google rewards good content with better rankings, but you should generally ask yourself whether what you write and publish is pleases your target audience. Therefore, define your target audience first to know exactly who you want to reach. Prepare, that in the beginning there is a lot of testing to content marketing, like trying different formats and content to see what works best. Just keep in mind that what your audience likes, is liked by Google, too. Nevertheless, it is important not only to create a few good posts, but to provide the audience continuously over a long period, reliably with good content to influence the rankings through content marketing. Even the best article will need a few months to make it to the very top in Google.

On-page remains important

The advantage of on-page optimization is that you can achieve a lot with rather limited effort. Of course, even this year, it is worth to optimize the on-page area which therefore should be a part of your SEO strategy. By revising, for instance, the meta data (title and description) of your site, you can customize not only the search results more attractively for your users, but highlight the keyword focus much more. Meta data are still an important factors for Google and Co (see article).

However, in addition to usability, content and on-page themselves, mentioned here, SEO has to consider many more factors, such as conversion optimization, design, mobile, programming and social media. Don’t treat SEO lightly, as unfortunately only those who implement a sustainable and holistic search engine optimization, will remain successful in the long term.

By Daniela La Marca