Organic SEO Ain’t What It Used To Be, Part II

In Part I, we talked a bit about how organic SEO has changed as Google has updated its algorithm, and we talked about how it looked back in early 2010 and before. Now, it’s time to look at what Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, and the other updates have done to SEO — in other words, what it looks like today.

Your Site Matters

In 2009, any site could rank #1 if it had the right backlinks and on-page SEO — but no longer. Between Panda and Penguin, the importance of a website’s usability and interest to the reader is paramount; if your users don’t click and stick, Google notices, and your site gets penalized. If you have too many ads above the fold, you get penalized. If you have thin content — not necessarily defined by any given number of words or images, but defined by how much of your content the average user interacts with before they click away — you get penalized. In many ways, your site is the single most important part of modern organic SEO.

Keywords in Context

Keywords aren’t irrelevant to modern SEO, but they’re close. Yes, having a keyword in your metatags and copy and all that does still point Google to the fact that your site — if it is worth ranking in the first place — should rank higher for those search terms than others. But what’s just as if not more important is the semantic context around those keywords. If you want to convince Google that your site should rank for the term ‘Orange County lawyer,’ you had better have words related to places in and around Orange County, words related to attorneys in general and your specific areas of practice in particular, and other highly relevant context.

Backlinks Aren’t Dead…but Building Backlinks Is

Your backlinks are still important, but how their important has changed; it doesn’t matter how powerful the linking domain is unless it’s also relevant and up-to-date. Which means the entire practice of organic SEO has shifted gears from ‘building’ backlinks to ‘earning‘ backlinks. In other words, your SEO company’s ability to create and maintain relationships with top sites in your industry, and their ability to create content so amazing that other top sites link to it because they want to is the new gold standard. Going around and creating links from Reddit, Squidoo, and blog comments is a waste of everyone’s time and money.

But that’s just how the old practices have updated. We haven’t even started to talk about the elements of organic SEO that are new since 2009. Guess there’s going to be a Part III!