3 Google SEO Changes Rattle SEO Experts & Bloggers Alike!

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The Back Link Emperor Is Dead,
Long Live The Back Link Emperor?

Is the biggest factor in good SEO, beyond strong content, about to radically shift?

[cue Jaws theme here]

 Up until now SEO has been all about back link building. Lay the foundation of on-page and on-site SEO and then build backlinks like mad.

But it seems that Google may have finally realized than much of the best content is produced by writers, not link builders, and that these writers aren’t going to chase backlinks and have been taking a beating.

Three big factors have shifted recently and it is causing a lot of people to sit up and take notice… including many that have never paid attention to SEO before!

Looking at the bigger picture helps you to realize that this could finally be a WIN for the real, personal, engaged, authentic, content creator.

Google’s 3 Key SEO Changes

bullet #11. Shifts towards a “machine based learning” model which uses better computer calculations, including a wide range of social signals, that can be adjusted often, to determine what makes a good visitor experience (note I said experience, not just content) similar to what is used by Yandex. You may have heard about some of this with the “Panda” aka “Farmer” updates. (More info here).

bullet #22. Shifts towards emphasis on real verifiable people as the author of the content and showcasing that author through “authorship” with changes to both the organic search results ( author image near blog post) but also through preferentially returning search results from authors that you have already circled on Google+ or connected with on the old Google Buzz. This makes the +1 button,  a verifiable and active Google+ profile, and “authorship” set up on your blog very important. (Blog Post On This Soon)

bullet #33. Semantic markup using the new search engine standard “Schema” markup to help the search engine know what each element of your content is and enable a user to search more explicitly. For example, searching for only a particular person’s job title. This is brand new and not super easy to do by hand, it will be some time before WordPress makes this easy. (More Info Here) This and other Rich Snippet changes are involved in the new Google Site Links.

 Okay… so what’s it mean?

Fountain Pen, representing an author or writerIt means that for the first time ever a site with no crappy posts, with a delightful theme design, that is super easy to navigate, that loads fast and has no broken links and dead ends, with a high time on site and a low bounce rate, that is created & maintained by a real person who really takes the time to engage with their audience and bring in social engagement …. has a chance to really win.

(Compared to a site with good content, keywording and a thousand links and nothing else)

 Do you see how these are the things that visitors actually want but are much harder to  mass produce? Oh yes, quality over quantity, Dear Watson!

Today we find Google actively striving to answer the question… “Does this post create a user experience and brand that people are going to love and share and trust” … all while providing strong content and a great visitor experience (theme design & link navigation/structure)?  (More Info Here)

Graph representing metrics to measureSome Areas to Watch:

  • Need great content
  • Needs to look good
  • Needs to have plenty of inbound links
  • Needs to handle the native language well
  • Authorship, G+ and schema utilized
  • High Time on Site, Low Bounce Rate

Here’s how to set up Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools easily.

This does also mean though that SEO work is now far less predictable and that, every couple months, as Google adjusts the machine learning code, we are likely to see impacts on our traffic numbers from it. However, if you’re focusing on doing all the right things right, this will not generally matter. (Yes, there will be updates that will sting from time to time, expect it, roll with it, and keep on creating awesome art!)

Have you been impacted by the changes in Google’s algorithms in either direction? Have you taken the time to work through setting up verified authorship through Google+? How do you feel these three things impact the average Google search visitor?

Look forward to sharing your thoughts below and thanks in advance for the tweet, like and plus love!

Kimberly Castleberry
Taking The Headaches Out of Internet Marketing

PS: Website and Social Media graphics and branding not up to snuff? Check out some of these nice branding art packages available or for a higher end approach contact my friend Nile Flores for a professional quote.

I am also offering basic authorship installation on standard, single author WordPress.org blogs as a service if you do not feel like messing with it yourself.

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Comments

  1. says

    In other words…. If google see a site has low bounce rate. It’ll consider it as engaging site plus if that site has quality or unique content than there are very good chances to rank high in SERP…… It means relation building has now same importance as link building in SEO too. ;)

    • says

      Riya, that’s a nice extrapolation. I can’t say that the numbers are “equal” as it’s FAR too early to say and many of these changes are just being implemented. However, everything hints at that!
      Kim

    • says

      Actually it is not easy as that. I really enjoyed how Kimberly explained changes in this post.

      But well, I did my own research when my blog 1stwebdesigner (with 2 million monthly uniques) was affected just now on March. And it appears a lot of high quality content blogs were affected, and traffic was reduced by 15-20%! I compared my own traffic data on Alexa and compared it to other similar blogs. Very strange how only new blogs and few another with good video presence got a little raise in traffic, which makes me say that even sites with strong social presence are loosing traffic and nobody is telling how highly video articles are being ranked.

      If you want, you can check my research here – http://www.1stwebdesigner.com/design/revised-google-seo-guide-2012-edition/

      Would love to hear your thoughts on this!

  2. says

    Kim, thanks for the very helpful update, as always. I personally find this to be a very encouraging move on the part of Google. And it makes sense, doesn’t it, that those of us who work so hard to produce quality content for our readers should be rewarded!? I appreciate you helping me improve my sites overall, so that I was ready for this newest development!

  3. says

    Kim, I am glad to read this and I hope it’s true. I am so tired of all these emails from people wanting to exchange links that I don’t know, wanting to leech off my content. It will be nice to be recognized for one’s work than one’s links.

  4. Teri Lawlor says

    Thanks for the great info Kim as usual.

    I think I will need to do some more reading on this to make sure it sinks in.

    I haven’t even gone into Google + but it looks like I will have to now.

  5. says

    Hi Kim,

    I have very mixed feelings about Google these days. While this seems like a great connection I wonder what it might do to authors who publish under pen names? It seems to me that their anonymity may be jeopardized by all of the connections that Google is able to make between people, their profiles and their content. Maybe it just means having multiple profiles for now yet it would seem that someday, Google may be able to connect them all. What a world we live in!

  6. CJ Priestley says

    The easy answer makes total sense Kim and for good reason. But its too bad there is no happy medium because I know there are some “gurus” and even some non gurus that tell you keywords are important and all though they play a part its not everything. I once read you optimize for the SE but write for the reader, its harder to get a post ranked writing for the reader but is still possible when for starters you throw enough traffic at it.

    There just seems to be too much SEO stuff to remember and especially when Google’s decides on a whim to change how things gets done, but they can and will continue to do so.

  7. says

    Its all true Kim, and more…
    The writing has been on the wall for some time now.
    Funnily enough I wrote a post on this today too, (although haven’t published it yet because my site is sick).
    What I find slightly alarming is that no-one, and I mean literally, no-one is stating the obvious. When I search “Google+ seo change” only one person, Bill Parlaman, is talking about this stuff.

    As I said in my blog post under wraps, the seo world is in denial. Total denial.

    Conventional backlinking based seo is dead in the water, literally – the green waters of the emerald sea project.

  8. says

    Aloha Kim, I enjoyed your post and I am always looking to stay on top of changes from Google and it seem as if you are pretty much attentive to these changes. We can always use good SEO information and learn tactics and strategies from valuable online post, as yours. Glad I came by and thanks for sharing. Mahalo, Lani :)

  9. says

    I really appreciate this article you have shared Kim, almost all of us know that being an SEO is not an easy task, they should manage different kinds of work, for example , link building and commonly article writing , my thanks to you.

  10. says

    Hi Kim,

    Great post. it will be interesting to see how the authorship development will affect ranking of sites and how quickly.

    I agree good content is vital for people to stay on a site and return.

    I will be back to this blog.

    All the best Rosemary

  11. says

    Another great post, Kim!
    It’s thrilling, isn’t it, that internet marketers and bloggers with integrity now have a chance of winning the SEO war?
    While first I was a little intimidating and fearful regarding the Panda update, I now realize that really, I have nothing to fear as long as I keep to my principles and keep rolling out quality posts and articles that actually engage visitors in conversation and aren’t just key-word stuffed sites designed for search engines!
    Internet marketers of integrity, unit!

  12. says

    Thanks for sharing. I do find the rich snippet more useful for some types of websites. For example, directory or business listing site. With the extra tags and attributes, search engine knows what accurate information the page is about.

    Since the code is created by human or script, there is still chanced to be used by black hat SEO.

    I am not so sure how effective G+ and +1 will do for the ranking. It’s like stumbleUpOn. The bounce rate for may be much higher.

  13. says

    I think that this has been a long time coming. SEO’s have controlled the Internet for a long time with vast and complex link building systems. Now Google is fighting back with more intelligent AI combined with its fair share of manual reviews. It will make a better Internet in the end, but no doubt there will be many victims who see their previous hard work suddenly vanish as new algorithms find sneaky link games and poorly written articles at play.

  14. says

    Wow Kim thanks for such a great post. I am working my fanny off after my keywords and I am trying to accomplish that by putting out great content and I have to admit it can get a tad frustrating and does feel like I am chasing my tail sometimes. Especially when people that do not do what I do are ranking for MY keyword above me. Argghhh!!
    It certainly is very hard work. So appreciative of people like you that seek and share very valuable info. Thanks so much! I read your blog everyday!!

  15. says

    Hi Kim:

    As always, awesome content! These changes in google gives guys like me a chance to get noticed on the web. :) I am going to have to some more on my google + profile though.

    Thanks!
    Kevin

  16. says

    Hi Kim, This post is very interesting. I have always found it frustrating to compete with sites that have 5,000 or more backlinks and keyword stuffed content that Google still seems to like. Hopefully the SEO changes you talk about will make a difference.

  17. says

    Thanks for the clear explanation. That makes sense for Google to do and it sounds like it will help people who are searching to actually find the content that they’re searching for. I think it’s kind of cool also because I’ve always been about putting good content out there… I’ve never really fully understood the whole back link building and hopefully I won’t have to go too much into this now. As always, thanks for the awesome advice Kim!

    -Kyle Quinlan

  18. says

    Kim,

    I think changes like this are great because it raises the bar. Now everyone looking to use SEO to rank better will have to set up their game to stay in it. Of course people will still try to cut corners but short term gains are never a good thing.

  19. says

    I got my Google authorship set up and I am interested in seeing how it will work. I have been writing articles and promoting my main web site for over 12 years. It has been frustrating competing against the ones with sneaky linking tricks.

  20. says

    Hey Kim, more changes… ugh! I haven’t started using the google plus stuff yet; it seems as though as long as you are a loyal google user and jump every time they announce a new product or solution, you’ll do alright. That kind of takes the focus away from the creating great content that people want to see because you have to always think about it from Google’s perspective. I know supposedly that it’s supposed to be in the user’s best interest, but unless a blogger is fully up to speed on the latest google products or updates, they could be delivering exactly what a user would be looking for but still be overlooked because it wasn’t authored or google-marked the way google wants it. They’re the big dog so there’s nothing one can do but play along if you want their traffic I guess… Hopefully facebook or someone will improve their search capability so google is not the monopoly in this arena. Google’s constant tinkering is becoming like that of our government and the economy, always messing with it! Grrrr… (Thanks for the headsup though! :)

  21. says

    Thanks for the clear explanation. That makes sense for Google to do and it sounds like it will help people who are searching to actually find the content that they’re searching for. I think it’s kind of cool also because I’ve always been about putting good content out there… I’ve never really fully understood the whole back link building and hopefully I won’t have to go too much into this now. As always, thanks for the awesome advice Kim!

    -Kyle Quinlan

  22. says

    Hey Kim, more changes… ugh! I haven’t started using the google plus stuff yet; it seems as though as long as you are a loyal google user and jump every time they announce a new product or solution, you’ll do alright. That kind of takes the focus away from the creating great content that people want to see because you have to always think about it from Google’s perspective. I know supposedly that it’s supposed to be in the user’s best interest, but unless a blogger is fully up to speed on the latest google products or updates, they could be delivering exactly what a user would be looking for but still be overlooked because it wasn’t authored or google-marked the way google wants it. They’re the big dog so there’s nothing one can do but play along if you want their traffic I guess… Hopefully facebook or someone will improve their search capability so google is not the monopoly in this arena. Google’s constant tinkering is becoming like that of our government and the economy, always messing with it! Grrrr… (Thanks for the headsup though! :)

  23. says

    Hi Kim,

    Ah, I love it when you say “Okay… so what’s it mean?” because I know I’m going to ‘get it’ then! LOL!

    All in all it seems like these changes are great for real people and hopefully we’ll see some much better stuff ranking highly in the future!

    Thank you as always! :-)

    Em

  24. says

    These changes will only also make it more essential for sites to have engagement, it is no doubt that sites with CMS like WordPress and are posting regularly with updates and engaging readers and customers will get more value from SERP than the old static never update pages of yesteryear which still exist online.

  25. says

    Hey Kim!

    WOW! I’m sooooo glad this is something you understand because it confuses me to no end! lol

    I’ll just follow your lead, continue to crank out high value content and build relationships ( that comes naturally), ha!

    Do you think being a part of Google + will be a neccessity with all these changes? Thanks a bunch Kim!! You Rock!!

  26. Debbie says

    Yay for all the great bloggers that aren’t ranking. It’s about time. I actually have been affected indirectly. I set up a blog years ago to figure out how to rank for keywords. It’s all but abandoned now. However, I continually ranked for a couple keywords and made some money through Amazon and Adsense.

    Once I had learned enough, I took the skills I learned and applied them to my personal blog.

    That abandoned blog has all but imploded. It’s still ranking for one or two keywords but I’m sure that will pass.

    Debbie

  27. says

    Let’s see if I’ve got this right. Not only am I supposed to be running a business, serving my clients, finding new clients, creating valuable content and products, keep my thoughts clean and remain optimistic, but I have to worry about what Google thinks too?

    Way too much to handle. I think I’ll go meet some people at a local networking event and press some flesh.

    RICK

  28. says

    Hi kim,

    Nice. all of the above mention and stated a true and correct. Being SEO is not easy it is a very huge task for them just by checking the entire world.

  29. says

    Thanks for the great post, Kim!

    Contrary to some popular misconceptions I’ve read in the comments above, word of these changes has been making the rounds and I more than welcome Google’s attempts to make their search engine as useful a tool as possible.

    That having been said, I’m always skeptical of Google’s motivations and the realities of any changes they make… Especially those they hint at beforehand! Google has displayed a habit of telling people one thing and doing another and any company who states they don’t want people trying to manipulate their search results while telling them how to do so has to be taken with a grain (or lump) of salt!

    However, in the final analysis, if one is optimizing one’s on-site code and content correctly, creating valuable content that visitors want, and using a variety of methods to get that content picked up and noticed around the Web (including the backlinks that come with doing so successfully), one shouldn’t have any difficulties ranking highly in the SERPs for all but the most competitive keywords… At least, doing so has been working for me for years now and it’s kept me from having to worry about any changes Google promotes or actually makes to their algorithm! :)

    On another note, I also think some of the changes Google has planned will adversely affect the “little guy/girl” in the SERPs in favor of the big names in any given market/industry segment making it a less even playing field, not more, and am curious to know your thoughts on the matter?

    Thanks again for the great content!

    Sean

  30. says

    If I understand this correctly, this means that good content and relationship-building both on Google+ as well as interaction on the blog itself, will help to create a good SEO more than all the links put into the blog or all the links mentioning my site??? If so, this is really good news!

  31. says

    Hi Kim…thank you for that post. Finally quality is going to be the winner! What strikes me is that SEO is becoming far more subjective and will be more difficult to manipulate. It will be interesting to see how much influence Google+ ends up having over SEO.
    Louise

  32. says

    Great post Kim. Couldn’t agree more. I actually wrote a post a while back about how traditional SEO is dead and removed all link back building strategies for my sites late last year. Focussed on Social only and getting posts to the top of Google, in some cases in under 5 minutes for a chosen keyword isn’t proof enough that link backs are dying, I don’t know what will convince the old school SEO’s.

    Today I don’t really focus on SEO at all. If you choose your keywords right, do your few on site optimizations, then actually focus everything else on giving value to your readers and being social, the rest just comes.

  33. says

    these changes will surely effect bloggers to a long extent in positive sense. your most of the post brings something new for me like this post;

  34. says

    Well! As someone who has a lot more fun writing than frantically building backlinks, this is wonderful news! Not only will this result in a more positive reader experience, but it will give those of us who do it right a needed shot in the arm to continue our craft.

    Thanks for the heads-up, Kim. You are always at the cutting edge. That’s why I always come back, looking for more!

  35. says

    Well! As someone who has a lot more fun writing than frantically building backlinks, this is wonderful news! Not only will this result in a more positive reader experience, but it will give those of us who do it right a needed shot in the arm to continue our craft.

    Thanks for the heads-up, Kim. You are always at the cutting edge. That’s why I always come back, looking for more!

  36. says

    Okay once again you thrown me for a loop! LOL
    Just when I thought I was beginning to understand it all. Question though, could this be why our site has had a sudden increase spike in our Alexa rating? Not much as changed on the site by way of content or engagement but there has been an over 20,000 increase on Alexa? Haven’t checked the google analytics but have just added that to the short list of things to do!

    As always thanks for keeping up on all this info for all of us and look forward to learning more about it!

    “Dream, Believe, Become…”
    Tracey Keefer

    • says

      Tracey yes, it is very likely that your team blog BENEFITED from the “Panda” algorithm change that a lot of people cried over. I know what you have going on over there and I think that’s very likely if it was a jump out of the blue.
      Kim

  37. says

    SEO today is about CONTENT which is renowned as the king in Search engine. I guess the major change in SEO is the emphasis of search engine on the importance of content and reputation in terms of link building.

  38. says

    I too am a little unnerved by the move toward a “real” author. Google does seem to be pushing a lack of anonymity/privacy for publishers. Pen names have been used since forever, and there’s no real reason so much personal info needs to be public via the G profile, etc.

  39. Ken says

    I think that this is a great step towards making google more efficient and giving people more accurate search results. Like others have said this will set apart the good bloggers.

  40. unwrittenbook says

    Helpful. I undersatnd this generally, but, in the bullets I don’t undersatnd the term for the last four. Ie scema and bounce rate. Malika Bourne

    • says

      RSE You made me laugh sharing the link to one of the XKCD comments I had a giggle at the first time I saw it! So very true that as spammers approach “useful” it becomes more and more interesting aka challenging! Great point!

  41. says

    Yes, these are great watch list before posting the content. So I would like ask one question, what is number of back links should one get for a single keyword. Because now Google started penalizing for over hitting the keyword. Thanks for the information.

    • says

      Kathrine, the number of backlinks varies by how much competition you have and is “unknown” intentionally. You’re not punished for number of backlinks – you’re punished for bunches of low quality ones, for purchased ones, for too many with the same anchor text (implying manipulation) and other factors. Numbers alone of high quality ones will not hurt you.
      Kim

      • says

        Thank you very much Kim for the reply. I hope we will be in touch for further conversation since Google changing the SERP algorithms frequently. Thanks. Have a great day.

  42. says

    Bounce rate does have an impact on ranking so crafting a well written description to entice CTR and deliver quality targeted content will help with rankings

  43. says

    Also…Google will punish you for triggering link velocity penalty limit…in other words if it sees suddenly you have hundreds of links when yesterday you had none…. or something like that.

    • says

      High bounce is proven/known to be in the algorithm Bing uses and highly suspected to be in the algorithm that Google uses. Do we know 100% for sure that Google uses it, no, but many SEOs are reasonably certain they do.
      Kim

  44. says

    So basically in a few words it means:
    1. Individuals, Self employed and spare time bloggers: keep up the good work and you will be rewarded.
    2. Big companies SEO departments: Hire new people with new ideas, spend 2 to 3 months hard work and we’ll see …

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