From keyword overloading to fake inbound links, the road to good SEO has become increasingly paved with shortcuts in the race for top Google rankings.
But all that is changing, with the focus switching in recent years from the so-called SEO shortcuts to quality, targeted content and well-built websites.
Last year Google stopped providing data on keyword popularity, a move many digital commentators felt was a signal of their intentions to prioritise good content over SEO “tips and tricks”.
Recent algorithm updates – notably the Schema Markup – support this shift, enlarging the focus from formula-based data to the more human perspective of search.
Their concern is for quality and search credibility – if Google algorithms are manipulated so that websites appearing at the top of rankings are low on good content but high in keywords and duplicate copy, the search engine risks contaminating their offering.
This contamination is becoming an increasingly real danger. Thousands of service providers now market so-called SEO packages to companies, many eager to increase their online visibility with minimal time and investment.
There was a time when ranking a website was like making consommé…Today it’s more like trying to make the world’s best seafood chowder.
— Duane Forrester, Senior Product Manager for Bing
But there’s no magic wand: SEO shortcuts might move websites up the rankings in the short-term, but signs show that neglecting the usability of a website and the quality of its content in the long-term could see it slide right back down again.
A recent blog post by Duane Forrester, Senior Product Manager for Bing, echoed this argument, pointing out that relying too heavily on quick SEO tactics simply doesn’t cut it anymore.
“There was a time when ranking a website was like making consommé. You wanted one thing – clear broth. At that time, you could focus on a single tactic and it would boost rankings. Today it’s more like trying to make the world’s best seafood chowder.
“Success depends on a complex mix of ingredients, freshness and timing. One ingredient alone won’t bring success, and yet without that one ingredient, you don’t have a chowder.”
Google algorithms may stay one step ahead of crafty service providers that try to outfox them, but Andrew Edwards, Managing Partner at Technology Leaders, cites these principles as continually relevant:
- Quality, relevant content
- No keyword stuffing
- Organised site-maps
- Longevity of domains
- No duplicate content
Relevant, fresh content (the kind that will be increasingly rewarded by new algorithms) takes effort and constant maintenance, while a user-friendly site infrastructure needs to be built from the ground up. Only when these touchstones are achieved can good SEO really make an impact.