Now is the dawn of a new age of SEO, ushered in by, of all things, a Hummingbird. It was in 2013 that Google launched its largest update, seeking to fundamentally redesign how users receive their search results. Rather than trying to match keywords, the goal became how best to understand the query as a whole. So how does that affect SEO in 2015? The good news is that it’s all positive: search engines are looking to satisfy organic search queries with content of the highest possible quality. Even better news is that this focus on the user hasn’t affected the basic tenets of search engine optimization. For example, SEO is still split up into two different categories: on-page and off-page. In this post we’ll focus on best practices for quality off-page SEO.
Business Pages and Reviews
The first step to solid off-page SEO is to set up business pages with the three main search engines: Google, Bing and Yahoo! Then the focus should be on accumulating as many positive reviews as possible. (Without resorting to posting fake reviews.) That means the business in question should have reviews on all the major sites, such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, and UrbanSpoon. (For those in the restaurant business.)
Where once the link between SEO and social media was muddled (Google’s Matt Cutts still says the search engine will never rank sites based on social activity), these days the connection is more concrete. No modern SEO plan is complete without a social media strategy. That means businesses need to create social media profiles on all the major platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube etc.) or risk going under. And they need to optimize these pages the same way they would a website or blog post. That means solid, descriptive titles and tags. For example, the title of a social media profile shouldn’t be merely a name, but a short description of the brand and what it offers.
This is still one of the most effective ways to rank highly in SERPs. Businesses and marketers that produce frequent blog posts (multiple times per week), increase their visibility to search engine crawlers. That’s because search engines need to scrutinize websites more frequently each time they update the latest blog entry. However, as mentioned above, the name of the game now is usefulness. All posts need to be useful to the audience and provide helpful, meaty content. As for specifics, marketers need to forgo standard keyword optimization in favor of long-tail phrasing. It’s a more subtle SEO art, to be sure, but one that, when applied properly, pays dividends in terms of exposure.
Link building is still crucial to increasing site authority, even in 2015. The key is not to revert back to the dubious backlinking practices many SEOs employed pre-Hummingbird update. Rather than buying bulk links on low-quality sites, the focus should be on obtaining organic links on major, respected websites including and especially social media platforms.
These are just a few things to consider when putting together a solid off-page SEO strategy. Those who want some handy tools to aid in this endeavor can find a list of options here.