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Evolution Of Seo - How Much Have You Evolved?


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#1 DonnaFontenot

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Posted 25 December 2013 - 04:58 PM

I wrote this 5 years ago, but I stumbled across it again today, and thought it was still pretty relevant. After all the algo changes these past few years, not much has really changed in terms of the big picture.

 

So, what do you think? Still relevant? What will 2014 look like? Will it make any major differences in what I wrote 5 years ago?

 

The Evolution of a Newbie SEO

 

seo-evolution.jpg

 

 



#2 earlpearl

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Posted 26 December 2013 - 11:17 AM

The topic title is timeless but the specifics and challenges have changed.

#3 alexisnicholson

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Posted 27 December 2013 - 10:09 AM

Yes some aspects has changed In SEO , There are lots of auxiliary roles generated due to algorithm  change . Link builder role changed to link researcher and social media expert become social media curator.  



#4 tommr

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Posted 27 December 2013 - 12:51 PM

I think a well designed site with useful content will always be key.
Nearly all sites I have worked on were for a particular defined purpose, instead of an advertising platform and in these cases I feel my job is to show the content in the best light possible.
So for me design and usability is what I think about first, probably because it is the one thing I have almost total control over.

As far as evolving, I like to look at previous incarnations of a site to see where I have been and guess where I could go.
Logos, colors, badges, badges? We don't need no steenking...

It's interesting to me how a site design will look fine, even good to me, then when I look back even a year later I scratch my head wondering what I could have been thinking.

 

We are part of a small group of artists who have formed a company for the sole purpose of leasing a building in a tourist town to sell our wares and provide space for others to do the same. We have 2 very successful years under our belts and last night while we were brainstorming marketing over dinner I could not help think that only a small fraction of the people who enter the store leave with goods in hand.  We need to work on converting lookers to buyers.

By the same token I think I need to convert visitors to my site into  buyers.   
And with the growth of mobile devices comes new challenges with regard to site navigation and closing the sale.
So it was no coincidence that when we got home after the meeting I was perusing articles on making mobile apps.
 

Maybe SEO is more of a flux issue rather than evolution.  

When I think of evolve I think improving or moving along a straight line.
I don't know if it's possible to improve when someone is always changing the rules and playing field and especially the players.
There is more of an x y and z than a lineal path.

This said I really have to think that anymore I am lost more often than not.  Every time I turn around there is another thing I have to do and another thing I have to not do.

Maybe the search engine companies will decide that your site is a good one when more people with mobile devices visit and navigate, opening a niche for some smart guys to find a way to artificially inflate that traffic the way they did with inbound links.



#5 earlpearl

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Posted 27 December 2013 - 03:30 PM

Local has changed pretty dramatically.   While I'm a huge complainer about google and our sites don't "win" all the time, I actually believe that the main thrust of local works very well.  It does rely in part on google's ability to connect to (or entice) people on a local basis with them signing in and attaching their locations on pcs and mobiles to google's services and its ability to identify where a searcher is located to deliver local results.   That is dramatically different than 5 years ago.

 

In this past year google has been able to refine its identification of the location of users to the zip code level in certain regards.  (It could identify a user to its house or office if need be).   We have seen increased location identification by zip codes via both analytics and adwords.   (In analytics we see location  breakdowns by sub cities (associated with specific zips).  This data started to appear in 2013 where it hadn't in 2012.  In adwords roughly half of the impressions are identified by zip codes.    That is very granular location data.

 

Google is delivering local results on an increasingly personalized basis.  With the level of local identification its astonishing how detailed that can be on a personalized basis.  I carry two mobiles, one set to google localization and one not.   Even after clearing cookies they deliver different local results on certain types of search phrases.   

 

If you are on the North, East, West, or South side of a metro region I am seeing different results when the localization factor is tied to a device for certain phrases.  For search phrases for brick and mortars with a  lot of choices I'll see somewhat different results when google has a more granular attachment to the location of the device.   So for search phrases such as veteranarians, coffee shops, Italian restaurants, pizza on a localized basis I'll see more granular results skewed to the portion of the metro region I live in rather than metro wide results.

 

That makes it more difficult to seo on a local basis against competition.   In many cases location trumps basic site strength.  It makes location prominence of paramount importance.

 

Google's local algo's work differently than its algo's for basic web strength.   That means that a local site wanting to get local web prominence must work on two levels pretty significantly;  basic web strength and local web strength.   This is dramatically different in scope than five years ago.   The importance of localness has increased.

 

The ever greater insertion of google content, new google presentations, changing algo's are formidable challenges.   I'm in touch with a site owner that had a type of local directory/content site for a certain industry in my region.  He hasn't done much to purposefully maintain high rankings, though content and a certain level of natural but weak link growth has helped his site.

 

The site used to range about 30-50k  primarily local visits/month.  Most of the traffic was search.  The changes in google have devastated his traffic.   He reports a loss of up to 90% of google search traffic.   

 

90% traffic loss  BOOM!!!   therein describes some of the challenges.



#6 mrgoodfox

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Posted 28 December 2013 - 10:23 AM

I think SEO (as Google ranking) is still largely dependent on links; maybe just different types of links compared to before. 

 

I've always been a sideline Webmaster / SEO working on my sites on the side of my day job. I do however think that I've been focusing a lot more on marketing my sites and conversion than just a simple search ranking. 



#7 EGOL

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Posted 28 December 2013 - 11:48 AM

About ten years ago I used  to watch the forums to see what people were saying and rush to adjust my sites with every update.   Man that was a lot of work.

 

Then about seven years ago I started publishing quality content and making no changes to my site for the purposes of SEO.  I also stopped all efforts at acquiring links.

 

When I publish a new article it ranks deep in the SERPs.  Maybe on the tenth page or lower.  Then over time it begins to climb the SERPs.  S-L-O-W-L-Y.

 

Then, six months later, a year later and sometimes two years later the article is in contention on the first page of google and bringing in nice traffic.   After that length of time many of these articles have accumulated very few editorially-given links, some NO editorially given links,  but, yet they rank at the top of Google for really difficult queries.   I am often shocked and amazed by their rankings.

 

So, I have placed the bet that links are not the only thing that drives rankings and my interpretation of what I have described above is that I am indeed correct. It happens with almost every article that I publish.  

 

Almost none of them rank for difficult queries right away and almost all of them rank on the first page of google for almost any keyword that I optimize them for if I am willing to wait six months to two years - and their climb to the first page is slow and steady.  

 

My belief is that somehow google is observing what the visitors to your pages are doing and using that to determine rankings in the absence of links.   I don't give a ratsbeehind if you don't believe me because I've seen it work hundreds and hundreds of times with almost no variation.



#8 glyn

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Posted 28 December 2013 - 02:22 PM

About ten years ago I used  to watch the forums to see what people were saying and rush to adjust my sites with every update.   Man that was a lot of work.

 

Then about seven years ago I started publishing quality content and making no changes to my site for the purposes of SEO.  I also stopped all efforts at acquiring links.

 

When I publish a new article it ranks deep in the SERPs.  Maybe on the tenth page or lower.  Then over time it begins to climb the SERPs.  S-L-O-W-L-Y.

 

Then, six months later, a year later and sometimes two years later the article is in contention on the first page of google and bringing in nice traffic.   After that length of time many of these articles have accumulated very few editorially-given links, some NO editorially given links,  but, yet they rank at the top of Google for really difficult queries.   I am often shocked and amazed by their rankings.

 

So, I have placed the bet that links are not the only thing that drives rankings and my interpretation of what I have described above is that I am indeed correct. It happens with almost every article that I publish.  

 

Almost none of them rank for difficult queries right away and almost all of them rank on the first page of google for almost any keyword that I optimize them for if I am willing to wait six months to two years - and their climb to the first page is slow and steady.  

 

My belief is that somehow google is observing what the visitors to your pages are doing and using that to determine rankings in the absence of links.   I don't give a ratsbeehind if you don't believe me because I've seen it work hundreds and hundreds of times with almost no variation.

 

This makes complete sense to me. Right from day two Google has always been hungry for big pages. I remember a long time ago when we were making microsites off tempaltes that typically our pages were creating content of upwards of 600 to 1000 words. It always worked, until various advances made and guidelines made the practice uneconomical. I can think of a case recently where we compete in a very active niche and the main money keyword was transformed into a huge article. After about 2 months it was ranking 6 in Google with nothing at all done to it. The trouble is that pages such as these are largely imcomptable with anyone providing a service against revenue and sales because the informational searcher is not transacting like the one that is looking for a product...and on that note, the product which is the cheapest. So that massive article is about bringing people closer to your company and maybe because you are the authority the people get more trust from you and therefore decide to go and purchase from your ecommerce store because you know what you are talking about. But that doesn't happen enough or it happens over such a long period of time that most tracking solutions won't capture it. Perhaps setting up something like kissmetrics you can isolate these types of conversions to bring back value to your client, but it's bloody hard work.

 

So where does that least the seo. No longer search engine optimization, but strategic effeciency online. I spend most of my day focusing on what people do when they arrive. For many of the larget brands I work with they are simply not doing enough to increase conversions on the existing traffic they have. Slow burn on linking, which still brings some great results, and a move to much more measurable ROI through Adwords.

 

I'm still interested to see how the whole ecommerce results pages get rehashed after seing some of the informational search query results pages recently, but that's to look forward to in 2014.



#9 earlpearl

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Posted 28 December 2013 - 04:08 PM

About ten years ago I used  to watch the forums to see what people were saying and rush to adjust my sites with every update.   Man that was a lot of work.

 

Then about seven years ago I started publishing quality content and making no changes to my site for the purposes of SEO.  I also stopped all efforts at acquiring links.

 

When I publish a new article it ranks deep in the SERPs.  Maybe on the tenth page or lower.  Then over time it begins to climb the SERPs.  S-L-O-W-L-Y.

 

Then, six months later, a year later and sometimes two years later the article is in contention on the first page of google and bringing in nice traffic.   After that length of time many of these articles have accumulated very few editorially-given links, some NO editorially given links,  but, yet they rank at the top of Google for really difficult queries.   I am often shocked and amazed by their rankings.

 

So, I have placed the bet that links are not the only thing that drives rankings and my interpretation of what I have described above is that I am indeed correct. It happens with almost every article that I publish.  

 

Almost none of them rank for difficult queries right away and almost all of them rank on the first page of google for almost any keyword that I optimize them for if I am willing to wait six months to two years - and their climb to the first page is slow and steady.  

 

My belief is that somehow google is observing what the visitors to your pages are doing and using that to determine rankings in the absence of links.   I don't give a ratsbeehind if you don't believe me because I've seen it work hundreds and hundreds of times with almost no variation.

It is said that google has some 100,200, 300 or whatever the PR is about number of different ranking factors.  I'm sure it has many.   I also think they treat different sites differently.

 

Not long ago I showed you some adsense pages off of IYP pages.   They wouldn't be accepted in general...but google accepts them in local.   Similarly my local sites have an enormous number of local directory and local site links;  so many that it rivals the numbers and percentages that generated warnings to webmasters for having too many links from single sources.

 

Except again, WMT never sent those warnings to our local sites.  I checked with other local/web seos.  None of their local clients received those warnings either.  

 

It is apparent that they look at different kinds of things for different kinds of sites.   I have no doubt you have seen that many times EGOL as you have been saying the same things again and again and again over many years.   

 

Its just that different kinds of things work for different kinds of sites that generate searchers for different kinds of reasons.



#10 earlpearl

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Posted 30 December 2013 - 04:23 PM

More on local:

 

I was looking at one of our sites for a narrow niche vertical/industry.  One of those smb's is currently ranked #1 in G for a search for the main industry keyword phrase if one disconnects from a local view and then sets the location via the "search tools" link to united states.  The phrase is a simple two word phrase.  Its a tiny niche topic.

 

When I search on that phrase within our geo region in a major metro area, the site ranks #1 except where there are some strong local signals for competitors.  For other competitors without a strong geo/local presence our site out ranks them--now.  If one were to create a circle of many miles radius around the central city location out through the entire metro region our site would rank first for that phrase other than a wedge in one area where the competing geo signals are strong enough that location trumps any other signals.  (or at least the relative strength of the signals to google off our website).

 

We've operated businesses of this type in other geo areas.  That #1 industry phrase is always a top search phrase.  We always supplement organic results with adwords.  That industry phrase has always shown up as either #1 or #2 in a region (if #2 it follows a search phrase that combines the #1 industry term with a local geo city or regional term)

 

The importance of location from a local perspective can't be discounted.  Its significantly different than in the past.  Over the 6 or 7 years that google has imported its index and information from maps.google dot com into the main results they have changed the local algo's, made some measures more important, and decreased the importance of other measures, but its a very powerful signal into the google results.   

 

I've tracked this phenomena for years on a variety of search terms and in different markets.  For certain services very powerful sites can trump local smbs for generic terms.  An example would be for the phrase "flowers"  ftd or 1800 flowers is a great example where those urls will trump local florists.  Add the local city in the search term though and locals will appear at the top of the serps, depending on the strength of the sites in an organic result above the pac or within the local pac.

 

It simply takes enormous web strength to outdo local signals when it comes to local search.



#11 TheAlex

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Posted 30 December 2013 - 04:49 PM

I find it easy to agree with EGOL. I launched my own personal website a few months ago. It's mainly photography-based with bits of writing. But for one page I decided to create the best most in-depth (it's about 3000 words) page on the Internet about a particular town. Initially it ranked on page 4 of Google, then page 2, then the lower reaches of page 1. It's gradually moved up to it's current rank of 3, with barely any promotion. This is despite the fact that Google can't tell the difference between an "ă" and an "a" (I originally used the 'ă' in the title of the page, but I've since changed it to an "a", while keeping the rest of the content as "ă's". Initially I thought this would blow my chances of ranking anywhere but it seems not.

It's not a hugely competitive keyword but at this stage it sends the majority of the organic traffic to my website, and had a 7% CTR at last check. That will probably reduce now my Authorship photo has disappeared. :|

#12 EGOL

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Posted 30 December 2013 - 06:00 PM

Nice work Alex!

Thanks for sharing that.

#13 iamlost

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Posted 30 December 2013 - 10:17 PM

I think the reason that we rarely hear about the slow rise of deep content is that there is little in the way of 'SEO' involved. Yes, there is more to the equation than just great content and it isn't so prevalent in certain highly competitive niches BUT it does happen as I and EGOL have mentioned before and TheAlex has seen more recently.

 

But that sort of content is not typically 'sold' by the SEO business as it does not readily scale. Just perfect for the small business with one or two enthusiastic content creators. It is difficult to get small businesses past the time/cost and memories of blog posts, short and superficial though.



#14 EGOL

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Posted 30 December 2013 - 10:48 PM

It's really a shame that so few business owners are willing to write about their industry, products and services.  They are often the most qualified authors to produce this type of content.  I can't imagine why they allow SEOs to hire clueless idiots to post prattle across the web with links to their websites. 

 

When the business owner does produce that content it is often done in a hurry and then an SEO syndicates it across the web.  Instead of building a library of quality content on their own sites they spread it across the web like cheap swag because that's the only way that the SEO knows how to attract links.



#15 earlpearl

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Posted 31 December 2013 - 03:02 PM

Two points:

 

@EGOL:   I'm sure your methodology works.  I certainly haven't made that effort in terms of size of article as described by theAlex.  With regard to one of our smb's we spent a lot of time tracking specific customer responses with some simple questions having to do with how they found us.   

 

A couple of things came out.  Search is by far the dominant source of leads.  Word of Mouth (WOM) is the 2nd most important source of leads.  The site has high visibility and rankings.  Over many years we've heard from folks that they were searching "with intent" for our service and our site popped up first.  Many of the people that referenced "search" went on to say that they also heard about friends of theirs who had used our service.  A sort of search/WOM source for sales.

 

More discerning for us is that we heard from a fair number of people that our site looked "real" in some context.  Starting around 2005 we kept adding content that conveyed the "realness" factor.  It wasn't elegant in appearance.   From customers though we found that it tended to work.   While many might visit the site there were folks who probably were thinking more seriously about the service.  Keywords, locations, ...all sorts of indicators don't tell us who they are.  

 

On the other hand, when looking at our web site data we broke it down by all traffic, conversion traffic and non conversion traffic.  The traffic that converted by form  spent over 3 times as much time on the site and went through about 4 times as many pages.  As with many websites and businesses...engagement positively correlates with conversions.

 

Since we have other sites of this type in different markets and I've connected on this topic with operators/web site owners on this issue....the folks that converted on the site spent a "heap load of time" on the site compared to other sites of this type.   This is the site that is ranked #1 for its industry phrase in Google when one disconnects from a "local" setting and uses "United States" as the location setting.

 

Goo-ogle has that data via analytics.  Even if a site doesn't have G Analytics it has data on how much time is spent on sites and it has data on whether or not searchers land on a site (and do a conversion on the site) or alternatively land on a site then go to another vendor.

 

When I break that data down even further by keyword...there is a lot of time and page engagement connected to the number one keyword.   There is also a lot of time and page engagement connected to some other phrases where we have strong rankings.

 

The engagement factor/ realness factor etc. could certainly weigh in with regard to rankings.   I'm not going to dispute it...and I have data that suggests it correlates with higher rankings.

 

Who knows.  We have customer response as to "realness".  Maybe google's algo's have picked it up in this case and its contributed to rankings.

 

2nd Point

 

Location prominence and personalization is very powerful and impactful on serps.   I was testing on the ubiquitous service of florists/flowers etc in some cities.  There are a lot of florists in most cities.  Not many of them have strong web sites.  In certain markets a few florists have unusually strong sites relative to the competition.

 

Set your location in a city via the "search tools" link in a city.  Then instead of using the specific city, input zip codes around the city.   As you input different zip codes google will deliver different serps for florists in that city.  

 

Currently, if a site has a relatively strong site it can get an organic result above the pac and a top pac ranking depending on its location relative to the zip from where you are searching.   Move around different zip codes within that city and the results/ serps will vary for different florists.    I florist with an organic result above the map pacs and a first in the pac in its zip code will lose the organic result and get a lower pac ranking in a different zip wherein there are closer florists.

 

That is incredibly granular and I believe a more recent development this year by google than in the past.   In the past calendar year I saw a significant increase in adwords data breaking down locations by zip code than in the past.  In analytics data I saw more "sub towns" or breakdowns of dafa by location than in the past in some of our more urban locations than in previous years.   It hasn't been widely reported.  I referenced it in a popular forum for local seo's and local search and I think that might have been the first time it was referenced in that field.  

 

The level of delivering data by location is very significant and powerful and its currently in effect.  

 

The significant evolution of delivering personalized results by location is an increasingly important factor for local seo. 



#16 earlpearl

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Posted 01 January 2014 - 07:07 PM

This patent described by Bill Slawski might have something to do with the phenomena that EGOL, Iamlost and theAlex all described.  Its often the case that a google algo patent is put into use long long before its published and made public



#17 EGOL

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Posted 01 January 2014 - 07:38 PM

Thanks Earl.  That was interesting.  And I followed a link on that page to this article about "named entities" in queries.

 

If your website is about widgets and people are searching for things like "red widgets on Egol.com" then google will get the idea that Egol.com is the place to go for red widgets and maybe any kind of widgets if other types of widgets commonly accompany my domain inqueries.



#18 TheAlex

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Posted 06 February 2014 - 04:43 PM

Nice work Alex!

Thanks for sharing that.

 

I had a thought about long content and remembered this thread. In my case it's probably not just the length of the content and time spent on the page that is helping the article I mentioned to rank. As it's quite long and I've included quotes and facts from other sources, I also link out to those other sources (e.g. BBC, National Geographic, UN - lots of high authority websites) - so I'd imagine the linking out is another significant factor in my ranking. Have you noticed any difference in rankings for in-depth content without external linking, and in-depth content with external linking?





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