A recent article I wrote about Google’s Hummingbird update sparked a very spirited debate over whether SEO was dead or alive. And while I agree that some SEO strategies may not survive the dreaded Hummingbird, the basics of SEO are still in place.
What may need to change is how we accomplish search engine optimization.
One of the first changes may be to move the SEO function back into the Website Development column, where it began.
While everyone seems focused on Hummingbird, the other recent algorithm changes, including Panda and Penguin are still in play.
The Panda update considers the entire site, not just pages. It downgrades sites with duplicate content and includes a content reader, spell checker and grammar checker. It also evaluates the design, trustworthiness and speed of the website.
The Penguin update followed and expanded on the theme. It emphasized fresh, well-written copy with no duplicate content or broken links. It was also able to ferret out cloaked content, link “farms” and other linking schemes; it looked with disfavor on keyword stuffing. Google also admitted that “earned” Social Media likes, shares, tweets and +1’s were considered good backlinks.
Technical optimization has also been addressed in the Google Guidelines, and includes focus on Intuitive navigation (with text links and no broken links); fast loading pages; clean code (HTML5, CSS3); an XML site map; and 404, 301 and 302 pages. It also considers whether the website is viewable on all browsers (including IE, Firefox, Chrome and Safari) and all devices (computers, smart phones and tablets).
Google reminded us that keywords should not only be found in the text of a website, but should also be found in page titles, URL’s, meta tags, Heading (H) tags, image “alt” tags and image descriptions.
Finally, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! have collaborated to improve user experience by creating a structured data markup schema (schema.org). This includes adding code for authors and other signals to help search engines deliver the results viewers are looking for.
The bottom line is that many of the signals that Google and other search engines look for when indexing a website are things that can be most efficiently and economically addressed at the time the site is being developed, which might make some SEO companies, not SEO, obsolete.