This is Part One of a two-part series on Human-Centric SEO. Subscribe so you don’t miss Part Two.
What is SEO, besides a cryptic acronym that intimidates small business owners everywhere? Many of us know that it’s “a thing,” but what type of thing is it? Sure, it’s how Google determines what websites show up for search queries. But the field of search engine optimization changes often to keep up with the athletic growth rate of the Internet. Over the years, Google has developed algorithm after algorithm with one goal in mind: to use their technology to better serve actual humans (their customers).
SEO is such a vast topic that we’re dedicating two whole articles to it. But where does one begin when discussing something that even Google is reticent to share much about?
SEO’s Past Exploitations
When Google started listing websites by ranking them, they developed an algorithm which, based on a few factors, could theoretically tell which websites had the most value. However, people are the worst, and SEO marketers soon figured out how to trick the algorithm into thinking their website was more valuable than their competitors’. This involved SEO techniques like keyword stuffing, where sites would increase keyword density on their pages to make themselves appear more relevant. Marketers would also create bad backlinks to make Google bots believe a large number of other websites were talking about them, a practice that got J.C. Penny in a lot of trouble.
Going “Black Hat:” J.C. Penny’s Backlinks
J.C. Penny’s big foible is a key example as to why human-centric SEO is so valuable in 2016. J.C. Penny wanted to dominate search queries during the 2010 holiday season, but instead of letting people find their site organically, they turned to the dark side (or “Black Hat” tactics).
J.C. Penny wanted to dominate the market on evening dresses, so they launched a campaign to pay thousands of irrelevant websites to backlink to their store (Where? To the dress section of course!). This included sites like casino-focus.com and nuclear.engineeringaddict.com; it even included sites that appeared to be dead! Google punished them after The New York Times exposed them in 2011. Whether Google saw this as a portent, or it was part of a plan already in place, a year later they sent a penguin to close the loophole for good.
Solving The Problem With… Cute Animals?
Google corrected this flaw in their SEO algorithms by updating a few things web publishers should know about. Over the last several years they’ve released what is referred to as “the Google Zoo.” Individually they are Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird — cute right? And they were created to give high-quality websites preferential treatment in Google’s search ranking. Web publishers who want to cater to these algorithms (and thus to their human customers) are therefore forced to make better websites.
Panda focuses on the quality of pages. This includes everything from typos to plagiarism and user experience (UX). Penguin combs the Internet for unfair backlinks, preventing repeats of the J.C. Penny blunder. Hummingbird, however, is the most unique — an overhaul of Google’s previous algorithm. It was designed to account for the different ways that users may find your site, including voice recognition apps like Apple’s Siri. This allows Google to accommodate colloquial inquiries and rely less on specific SEO keywords.
How To Become More Human Centric
When it comes to SEO, the sites that play fair will typically be unharmed when Google’s algorithm changes. Any cheat codes marketers may come up with will be bested when they release a new zoo animal (maybe they’ll call it Zebra?). In short, White Hat SEO is your friend. Create a great website puts your human visitors first and Google will love you forever.
Part Two of this article will go into the specific techniques involved in strong, human-centric SEO. Developing an effective SEO strategy involves tools and best practices for creating articles and pages that do more than boost your SEO rank. SEO is not simply “one-and-done;” it requires maintenance, updates, and analysis, often on a quarterly basis.
When it comes to creating a powerful website, quality is king. Stay tuned for part two to find out how!