SEO is short for Search Engine Optimization and covers quite a bit of online search engine marketing activities to generate free traffic to a website.
5+ years ago SEO was relatively straight forward, create a web page/web site with your keywords you wanted free Google, Bing, Yahoo SE traffic for placed in the right locations (title tags, h1 header etc… and even the now worthless meta keywords tag), go out and find as many backlinks to your site/pages using the keywords you wanted traffic for as the anchor text.
Search engine optimization wasn’t rocket science, some basic web marketing techniques and a lot of hard work generating backlinks and the free Google traffic poured in and a trickle from the other search engines that didn’t provide much traffic. Website optimization isn’t as easy as it used to be.
What Search Engine Optimization Techniques Work in 2014
Search engine optimization has changed a lot over the years, much of what worked 5+ years ago is still important, we still need to use our keywords in the right locations and generate backlinks using the keywords we want ranked for as anchor text, but you can no longer rank with brute force backlinks and spammy over optimized content (it really was easy 5+ years ago). Google’s algorithms through iterations of Panda and Penguin and now Hummingbird have come a long way.
The good news is it’s not that hard to adapt your SEO copy for the Hummingbird algo and IMO it’s more fun: mindlessly repeating a main search phrase over and over again to get a good SE ranking was boring. I appreciate I’ve worked as a full-time SEO consultant for around 10 years where I sold SEO services to small and medium sized online businesses, so I’ve spent years having to create SEO optimized content and it’s not the most exciting career path :-) It’s nice to have a challenge in your work and creating Hummingbird suitable copy is far more interesting than SEM of the past.
What’s Important for Hummingbird SEO?
Keywords are still important, but for 2014 don’t just add your keyword phrases to a web page, Google’s Hummingbird algorithm can to some degree understand natural language patterns: it’s not a full blown AI that understand human language, but for the sake of ease of understanding (and future proofing your SEO copy) imagine it is. Hummingbird is looking for web pages that answer a search engine users query, not just includes the relevant keywords.
Google is becoming an answers engine not just a search engine.
This might seem a subtle point, Google search obviously depends on keywords, but the next time you do some long keyword searches note the “Searches related to What You Searched For” at the bottom. There’s an increasing tendency for Google to suggest question like searches like “What is SEO?”.
According to the AdWords keyword research tool there are around 27,000 searches a month for What is SEO and 22,000 for What is Search Engine Optimization. These won’t all be type in searches, some of the searches are due to the “Searches related to …” suggestions.
Those numbers do not show the true picture, as you can see from the screenshot below the What is Search Engine Optimization search wasn’t popular until November 2013, as you can see for February 2013 to October 2013 there was barely any searches. whilst later in the year the search numbers shot up to 74,000 a month!
What you are seeing here is Google adding a new “Searches related to …” suggestion for SEO searches. Guess when the Google Hummingbird algorithm was rolled out? End of September 2013.
I’m targeting this article at What is SEO and derivative search phrases. I could stuff this page with the phrase “What is SEO” (and I have obviously included the term) and 5+ years ago that would have been more than enough with lots of backlinks using that exact phrase as the anchor text to rank well.
Google is looking for this type of unnatural SEO or more precisely looking for web pages that are using more natural language to show it’s users. You can not optimize a web page for a single phrase any more, endlessly repeating the one phrase to a specific keyword density. In 2014 you have to cover as many semantic alternatives/derivatives of the phrases as possible as that’s what real people are searching for and Google is guiding them to.
What is Semantic SEO?
Go do a Google search for What is Search Engine Optimization and note how only one of the results include the exact search match within the title tag, but four of the results include the exact phrase What is SEO and it’s bolded indicating Google considers What is SEO and What is Search Engine Optimization as semantically the same: either the same meaning or very closely related.
This is the new SEM 2014, cover your search phrase by using your targeted keyphrases semantic versions as well, basically use phrases that have the same meaning.
SEO = Search Engine Optimization (it’s an acronym, but the same concept applies)
Market = Marketing = Markets
Search = Searching = Searched
Google can to some degree pull the meaning of text from a webpage, not just the basic keyphrases, so we have to provide Google with easy to understand content.