Google has unveiled yet another animal in their zoo of updates, the Hummingbird. This miniscule bird which we associate with bright, sunny days has had SEOs scrambling to meet the learning curve that it delivered to the masses.
Much like the mobile phones that have soared into our lives, Hummingbird has made searching Google on the go more intuitive. Let’s face it; up until recently the only people who could find anything of use on Google were the guys in the basement who knew the clipped alien language of asterisks, colons, and dashes that Google understood. And even then sifting through the results was time consuming. The new algorithm has allowed us to change our search queries from
jaguar speed -car or pandas -site:wikipedia.org
What’s a jaguar’s speed?
Which makes life so much easier, right?
But, Google giveth and Google taketh away
Shortly after the Hummingbird landed Google announced that all searches initiated on google.com had been switched to secure connections, which translates 90% of our keywords to that utterly despised term, (not provided). Our benevolent ruler of the internet has turned into a Lord of War.
Just like what happened with link building, the traditional approach to tracking SEO results has now officially evolved bringing with it a new quality standard for websites. This shift could be foreseen with the Penguin and Panda updates that Google had released to try and fix the Caffeine update originally released in 2010; the internet giant went to war with low quality websites that strove to exploit popular search terms. Now with Google’s new ability to understand the keywords in a query, SEOs and site owners need to become more customer centric than ever because, honestly, it hasn’t been about keywords for years (check out Does Keyword Density Still Apply for more info).
Consumers and Keywords
Site owners track keywords because they seem like a sound metric to build a strategy off of—the numbers are easy to read and the concept of a smaller number being better is easier to understand than other statistics. The problem is that websites are often built from the keywords up with little regard to whether the site’s structure and copy are understandable to a human; the aim is to make the site easy for Googlebot to digest. What site owners may not realize is that Google has given us the means to perform optimization in unobtrusive ways that will, in fact, improve user experience. Over the past two years Google has provided us with Webmaster Tools, Schema Markup (otherwise known as Rich Snippets), and multiple improved Analytics interfaces, each offering a new avenue to identify or provide the message consumers were getting from your site. In each application rollout Google made it clear that these tools were to be used to improve the quality of websites.
Google’s latest updates have restated their message clearer than ever: it is imperative that websites provide a good user experience
Information overload is prevalent in today’s society. A good user experience translates to the ability to easily access desired information in one to three clicks, maximum. This means that site structure, positioning of items, and phrasing of content titles all have to make sense to the average user. But how do you tell if the existing elements are working or not working without keyword data?
Track Site Performance with Landing Pages
Focusing on keyword traffic has never been very telling about whether a site’s performance; all it will tell you is that keyword X brought in Y visits. What will show a site’s success are the landing page stats. These are the first glimpse a user has of the site and their use will show whether visitors are finding the content useful, delving deeper into the site, or finding the page unhelpful. The pages can then be altered to deliver the message that a site owner must convey to reach their target audience.
Ask any UX Designer—Landing Pages have many components
Any page on a website is made of a number of components. From the designer’s perspective we see headers, navs, and hi-impacts; from the site owner’s perspective we see Calls to Action (CTAs), revenue to gain, and brand messaging; and from the SEO’s we see form positioning, sentence structure, and ease of page access. An SEO’s job is to merge both the site owner’s and the designer’s view to get the biggest bang for the buck; keywords are now just another ingredient in the mix rather than the only.
Remember, the entire purpose of a website is to get information, products, and services out into the world and generate a return on the site owner’s initial investment. Keywords have never been a good measure of a website’s success because even though a site may be ranking high for keywords, they be the wrong keywords. If your site has been affected by Google’s recent updates, contact Active Web Group and one of our Internet Marketing Specialists will answer your questions and assess your site.