November 14, 2013 E3

How To Google-Proof Your Website for 2014

The world of SEO changes on a dime. Like the old saying goes, sometimes you’re the windshield and sometimes you’re the bug. If you’ve been the bug these last six weeks, or even over the last year or so, you might be ready to throw in the towel and drop your entire SEO strategy. But even if you’ve gotten dinged, there are things you can do to help Google-proof your site and avoid any future penalties or drops in rankings in 2014.

It’s Time To Stop Relying Solely On Google

If your entire traffic strategy hinges on your Google rankings, you’re in trouble. Contrary to popular opinion, Google doesn’t owe you or your website a gosh darn thing. There has always been a tacit agreement between Google and webmasters. Websites grant search engines the ability to crawl and index every word, image, and video on their site. And in exchange, they provide information on how users find them. It’s been a rocky arrangement from the start, but we’ve been operating this way for years. Now Google has changed the game. Why?

To put it bluntly: Because they can.

First and foremost, it’s important to remember that Google is a business. They have a profit to make and shareholders to answer to, just like the rest of us. You can’t give away free stuff forever and keep the bean counters happy. As a business owner, you know that. And yet as webmasters, many of us seem to think that Google owes us something. Newsflash: It doesn’t.

You’ve Got To Diversify

SEO gurus started sounding the warning bells after Penguin and Panda. “Diversify your link building strategies!” “Create better content!” “Focus on the user!” But, many webmasters trucked along doing the same old thing because those same old strategies were working. It’s a completely different landscape in 2014. Remember, Hummingbird affected 90% of global searches. The odds that you escaped entirely unscathed are slim.

If the only entryway for new visitors into your website is through Google, it’s time to start knocking down walls and creating new doors. You need to increase your presence across the internet. Through a diverse set of techniques like guest posting on authority blogs, writing insightful comments on authority blogs, creating killer video content on YouTube, and upping your social presence, you are putting yourself in front of new audience members and potential new visitors. Relying solely on SERPs won’t be enough as we move forward.

Do An Inventory Of Your Current Content And Rework Weak Areas

Take some time and inventory all of your old content and blog posts. Check your stats in Analytics and see which pages might have been popular at one time, but have since declined. Once you have a list of old content that seems to have lost its luster, it’s time for a refresh.

One of the best ways to tackle this is from a Q&A perspective. Google’s Hummingbird algorithm is semantic – which means it tries to infer the true meaning behind search. Most people enter their queries in the form of a question. Rework your titles and add some semantic cutes into your text to help give life to your old content.

You can also identify pages that answer questions (or those that don’t) and edit those pages to make them even stronger. You don’t have to form page titles as questions every single time, but you can add text that will help send semantic cues to Google.

An easy way to determine whether or not your site answers questions is to head directly to Google . Use the “intitle” and “insite” operators to see which titles answer questions. Like this:

intitle marker search for google

If you don’t find any results at all, you have some work ahead of you.

…But Don’t Take The Q&A Too Far

While it’s important to answer specific questions with your content, you don’t want to go too far with this. Just as keyword stuffing was a bad idea, using all questions in your headings and all questions in your link anchor text is probably an over-correction. Even if Hummingbird doesn’t catch on to this overuse of questions and answers today, odds are they’ll catch on real soon. By keeping your anchor text diverse, you’ll be Google-proofing your links.

Play In Google’s Sandbox

If you have not set up Google Authorship, started using Google Plus, or created any YouTube content or Google Hangouts, you’re going to have an uphill battle in 2014. You may hate Google Plus’s interface or you may think Google Hangouts are silly, but it’s time to get on board. We’ve known for years that Google ranks YouTube content very high. Well they are now ranking relevant and useful Hangouts as well. And despite the number of times they say Google Plus-One’s don’t improve your search profile, we know that’s not entirely true .

A lot of the fuss around Google’s switch to 100% encrypted organic keyword search data has centered around the fact that they were pushing websites into AdWords. But there are still plenty of free Google options that you can use to diversify your content and increase your online presence.

Quality Matters

The quality of everything you do online matters. And we aren’t just talking about creating killer blog posts and videos (but that is the key to the entire process). If you are still buying link building services from third world countries, you’re just throwing away money. You need to acquire links form high-quality websites, period. Your web design has to be visually pleasing and easy to navigate. Your coding needs to be clean. Markups present. You can’t cut corners or take shortcuts any longer. No matter what cut-rate SEO companies tell you, there is simply no easy way to shoot to the top. Provide content that helps and teaches your visitors and promote the heck out of it and you’ll have a solid foundation.

Don’t Forget the Basic Google-Proofing Rules

Hummingbird changed things, but some things remain the same. In addition to keeping the above tips in mind, don’t forget that the following old standards of Google-proofing remain constant:

  • Do not buy links
  • Do not plagiarize or create duplicate content
  • Do not keyword stuff
  • Do not use coding that Google can’t read like Flash or iFrames
  • Include an XML sitemap
  • Keep ads to a minimum
  • Improve your page-load time

Can You Really Google-Proof Your Website?

Yes. You can. Some people will tell you otherwise, but it is possible to release yourself from the shackles of Google. In order to Google-proof your website in 2014, you’re going to have to start taking the long and winding road. Instead of paying for shortcuts, you’re going to have to really dig in to what it takes to make the necessary improvements. Disavow links if necessary. Pursue only high quality links going forward. Invest in solid content creation and distribution strategies. Spend some time learning the ins and outs of Google’s free products. Don’t latch on to the newest and shiniest SEO tactic out there. Practice slow SEO and focus on your audience, and you’ll be able to Google-Proof your website.

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