Almost to reconfirm how I described how the first morning at ad:tech had been full of
practical tips and advice, Hugh Jackson from MediaCo, an SEO company, gave a good, practical presentation on two of the latest Google algorithm changes and how to take advantage of them, despite all the bad press they’ve received.
The two algorithm changes are Panda and Venice.
Results are now based upon the local results of where the user is located. (My Note: Actually, they’ve always been local, so if you searched for ‘Spurs’ in the UK you’d end up with Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, and if you searched for Spurs in the US you’d see the San Antonio Spurs basketball team. Now, results are localise for everything, down to a far more granular level).
So if you type in say, tyre dealer, you’ll get very different results if you’re based in New York, London or Manchester.
This is the only way results are ranked organically (i.e. not paying for an ad in the results) for generic terms.
To take advantage of Venice, you need to create truly unique content for your user’s locations. National companies without local offices are at a disadvantage.
The SEO strategy to take advantage of Venice is to create landing pages and change the site structure to reflect localised pages. The example Hugh gave is Autotrader, which now has regions, and then local cities where car results are displayed for that local city or region.
The tried and tested SEO technique for Titles and Descriptions has been slightly updated, so you should now use:
Title + location + brand
for AutoTrader, the example given was:
‘Find used cars in Manchester – used cars | Autotrader‘
Also, inbound links should ideally include the location in the anchor text, although Hugh pointed out that Google sometimes perform U-turns on best practice for inbound links.
Other techniques to improve natural results include having local reviews, directions to the location, a local address for the business, and a local phone number. These are recommendations though, not necessities.
Finally, put your local addresses in the site schema.
Panda uses real world, human user data to verify the quality of sites. So a site that simply provides links to other sites, and users spend a very short period of time browsing, will be hit hard by Panda. This real user data comes from Google +, Chrome usage stats and toolbars.
You can now have a page with little text, perhaps just a couple of sentences, followed by a video, and this may perform well. The reason is that users will stay on the page (watching the video), and this gets fed back to Google, who then interpret this as a sign of a real user finding the page interesting. This is very different to previous SEO techniques where keywords were the most important SEO consideration.
To create inbound links, Hugh recommended that you create Infographics and distribute these to other websites, making sure you have credit for the work, through good quality anchor text.
It’s important to ‘announce’ new content by promoting it on social networks – Twitter, Google+ and Facebook for example. This builds authority and will help develop you as a thought leader and people will link to your page.
Another good technique, which Google has been vocal about, is to attribute content to a particular person by linking to their Google + page.
And finally, it’s a sobering thought that on some search results such as ‘Manchester United’, the 3rd result is already below the fold!
The real value
Of course, Panda and Venice are details. The main reason why natural searches are still so important is because when a user performs a search on Google (or Bing, or any other search engine) and arrives at your website, the chances are that you have a genuinely and fully qualified lead!