Happy customers drive good SEO
There are a couple of things about SEO that have been bugging me for a while, and from what I see these are also on other peoples radars as well. They’re somewhat connected, both being around content in the results pages and Social Media signals for the SERPs.
First up we have the production of ‘thin’ or made-for-SEO content, often scraped from other sites. We know that Google doesn’t like this (they have been trying – and succeeding for a larger part – to remove thin content for years) but lately this poorer-quality content seems to be populating and dominating many search terms, so it may be tempting to think that Google has lost the battle and you should join in…?
But is this likely to help you long-term, and do you want your sites to be associated with poor quality content? A recent post by Matt Cutts here from the Google spam team shows they are waging a war on such weak content and original content is now much more likely to be ranked than those scraping it. So good news for those of you who are taking the time to write new content for your sites.
As this post highlights, not only are many of the sites that are ranking poor quality, they are often fraudulent as well. And while they indulge in SEO spammy tactics from 2003, it does seem to be working. One way they drive “niche” rankings is using signals Google (currently) rewards – specifically: very specific anchor text. Bear in mind that these are throwaway sites so owners don’t care if they are penalised – where they have one site they will have many, many more. By hijacking forums and blogs and inserting links they can generate lots of the signals that will be rewarded in ranking results.
Which brings us on to what signals should Google be looking for in 2011? There is no doubt that increased usage of Social Media, in all its forms by an increasingly active population, represents a great opportunity to mine the data, if you can get at it, and incorporate that into signals that will deliver a greater degree of relevancy.
Very easy to say but harder to implement, but for me the search engines will benefit from understanding peer to peer conversations and sentiment attached to those. Using semantically richer mark-up such as Microdata (HTML5) or the recently supported RDFa based Good Relations, it is possible to feed some of that information to the search engines – think ratings and reviews or rich snippets. But thinking ahead what your customers are saying about you will almost certainly be factored a lot more into the search results, so first step to good rankings is keeping your customers happy. What a great thing to do!