Something I’m quite passionate about is the need for a lot of SEO’s to stop with the algorithm chasing and build their websites (or their client’s websites) with a longer term strategy in mind. Google (and other search engines) have always said the same thing – “create a website that is of a high quality for users”. The issue in the past has been that the algorithm hasn’t reflected what the search engines are telling us we should do. This has led to an SEO mentality of doing what can “trick” the algorithm at any point in time. The problem with this notion, is that you’re setting yourself up for disaster, each time you manipulate the results through tactics such as “black hat” link spam. Check out some of the people that got hit by the Penguin Update and you’ll see what I mean! If you’re building a legitimate business, don’t focus on any nifty SEO tricks, focus on quality and you’ll continue to see results.

Now while I say the above, I’m going to slightly contradict myself in saying that even though you should focus on quality and not chasing algorithms, it’s still highly important that you understand SEO and make educated decisions on what will (or is likely to) help you improve your rankings in the long term. You should be reading, educating and understanding where Google and the other search engines might be heading. More than likely, it’s in a direction that provides value to users, so you should be following in their footsteps or trying to stay ahead.

The following points are where I believe SEO will be headed in the near future, which is where you should also be taking your online strategy.

author rank seo

Author Rank

The above image from Itechcode is just to be used as an example of the types of factors that may influence author rank, as opposed to what I believe will contribute specifically to author rank, but you get the idea.

We already see social factors coming in to play when it comes to rankings within the search results and we also see author representation, as per the below example:

author in search results

So in the essence of delivering to people what is the most valuable, and highly relevant search result, it would make sense that search engines take into account the value of the author posting the content. If they are being shared socially, writing for high quality websites and also have a high quality site of their own that is being linked to by reputable sources, it is likely that they are going to be producing content of high value.

Dan Petrovic interviewed a Google team member recently about the influence of “author rank” on search results (read here), to which the response was that there was no such thing… yet!

co-occurring things

Co-Occurrence and Link Building without Links

Dave wrote a post recently about co-occurrence and link building in which he discussed in detail the need to use high quality content and the phenomenon that is co-occurrence as a ranking factor. As with everything I’m mentioning here, I certainly don’t believe any single thing will be the only factor that influences rankings, so the importance of high quality links back to your website will no doubt remain a somewhat influential factor, its impact may just be less than it currently is.

The idea of co-occurrence as a more significant change is looking at the context in which your brand name is mentioned. So for example, Google may crawl a web page and see the business name “Search Factory” associated with an article about SEO. The business name is associated with our domain searchfactory.com.au and there you have it, Google ranks us for SEO terms. It’s certainly a shift in what SEO is today, but I potentially think that it’s one for the best. If your business is valuable enough for others to mention it, then you should be rewarded. It does pose potential issues for people with more generic brand names, such as “Cheap Flights” versus a very specific brand name like “Expedia”, but this can be refined along with all the other ranking factors.

So the shift that this will cause is that there will likely become a day where you will still need to distribute content and promote your brand online like you might do now for SEO, but the importance of incoming links will reduce and the importance of your brand association will increase.

responsive design

Responsive Design will be a Must

The growth in search through mobile and tablet devices is on a steady, if not rapid, incline. Forget sub-domains or mobile sites that search engines struggle to understand, you need to ensure that your website is utilising responsive design in order to be accessible from any screen size. You’ll notice when you search from a mobile device now that almost all results are from desktop sites, as opposed to mobile sites.

There are certainly options that can be used in order to identify the mobile version of your site to search engines, however it is certainly far less successful than optimising your existing site for the best user experience.

They are three of the major factors that digital marketers and website owners must be taking into consideration now. I also believe there are quite a few more that are on the horizon but will touch on these later. The most important thing however, as mentioned at the start, is that website owners must have a longer term, quality focus for their site. Optimise a site based on quality and you will reap the benefits long term as Google and other search engines start to bring even more quality into their results.