'Don’t ignore Google+' and other SEO tips from HubSpot's Dharmesh Shah
Google’s Panda and Penguin tend to stress out audience development managers, who worry that they can’t keep up with the tweaks Google makes to its search engine algorithms to thwart spam and other low-value content. There’s a simple fix to this challenge: Create better content.
That’s just one of several tips on improving SEO practices from Dharmesh Shah, co-founder and chief technology officer of HubSpot, a developer of inbound marketing software. Shah shared his advice with attendees of last week’s Inbound Marketing Summit in Boston.
Shah emphasized that Penguin and Panda should not matter to content publishers. “If you’re losing sleep over these algorithms, you’re doing the wrong thing,” he said. “Google is doing this to take all the crappy content out of the search results. So all you need to do is create great content.”
SEO, he added, “is not about optimizing for search engines, it’s about optimizing for humans.”
So what does that mean for SEO practices? In addition to raising the quality bar, editors and marketers should focus less on keyword ranking and more on ways to improve the search results themselves.
“We’ve become obsessed with ranking various keywords,” said Shah. “It’s important, but the reality is you’re not really looking for ranking – you’re looking for clicks. If you rank No. 1 for a keyword and no one clicks on your link, that doesn’t help your business.”
This means the actual appearance of your search results is becoming nearly as important as where they rank. Google is giving more weight in its rankings to a few key elements that publishers can leverage to improve the “clickability” of search results. They include:
Google and Twitter parted ways last year, which severely hampered Google’s real-time search capability. Google has attempted to compensate by integrating Google+ activity into its search rankings. That's a big carrot for publishers to join Google's social platform.
“A Google+ profile page will help you build authority with Google search, because Google is looking at the usage and adoption and sharing of content on Google+ and using that to inform the search algorithm,” said Shah. Although some critics have panned Google+, the platform has seen some decent growth recently, and the reality for publishers is that an active Google+ presence will improve Google search rankings.
Google’s tight integration between Google+ and its search engine offers other benefits as well. Search results pull in Google+ profile photos, helping to build what Shah calls “social proof.” And adding links in a Google+ profile will influence ranking.
The bottom line: The more people you get to follow you and share your content on Google+, the more authority and trust that creates in Google’s view, said Shah.
Google has traditionally focused its search algorithms on websites and web pages. Now, Shah explained, Google is giving weight in its rankings to individual authors. This has several implications on search optimization. For example, the more authority an individual author builds, the more lift he or she will bring to a website’s rankings. Importantly, this authority spans across websites.
“If I write a guest blog for another site, that site gets the uplift from my authority,” said Shah. “This is a major shift.” The lift works in reverse as well, which is why Shah encourages publishers to publish guest posts from bloggers and other subject matter experts that have built up their own authority. [See 'Tips for building a B2B blogger network']
Finally, it’s also important for publishers to improve the user experience for visitors who come to your website. Site design and page load performance are increasingly important in Google’s page rankings, according to Shah. “Design has never been more important than it is now if you want to win the SEO game,” he said. “If people come to your website and bounce right off because the experience is crappy, Google will rank you [lower].”
So what are you doing to optimize your web content for humans? Add your suggestions in the comments section below.