Google's (pretty awful) news about 100% "not provided" with regards to keyword referral data was a pretty solid blow to the collective stomach of SEO practitioners around the world. That "not provided" element in Google Analytics has always been a small bone of contention for many; obscuring data that relates to organic search and preventing SEOs from proving 100% that what they do is of value. However, even though the news is bad, as Ruth Burr states, if we are continuing to market our products online, we will always have a need for SEO. Search engines will still be the go-to place when looking for information on the web, so we can still use this platform to drive traffic to our sites. We might not be able to measure said traffic the way we used to, but perhaps we don't need to - perhaps we need a different perspective.
We've looked at Ruth Burr's post on "What is SEO now?" and have used it as a basis for this post. Mainly because her opinions are always valid, but also because she's put a lot of time and thought into this piece and it really does shed some light on an otherwise dark situation.
Placing Less Emphasis On Keywords
Ruth's opening point for winning when it comes to these new changes is to place less importance on keywords and to rather focus on your pages. As a marketer who focuses on organic inbound marketing, it's very difficult to ignore keywords, as this is the way we've been taught. Everything builds on the initial keyword research that is taken into consideration with every step of the process. But now, we need to start thinking differently.
We need to look at each individual page and see how we can promote it as an individual piece of information, as a source of traffic and as a representation of the site as a whole. If we look at how Author Rank and the linking of content to a digital signature has changed the way we create content, we can use that manner of thinking to guide our process of research. Basing the research on keywords will still be beneficial, as we have to find out what types of content people are searching for, but keywords shouldn't be driving our campaigns and we shouldn't be basing our goals on trying to rank first page for chosen terms.
This leads us to the second point.
Authority Is Even More Important Now
Google has been moving in this direction for a while now and we are seeing a stronger focus on the need to become authorities in our chosen sectors. The above does bear repeating, it's now more important than ever to be driving traffic to your site using the valuable content you create, rather than keywords you're optimizing for.
We know Google wants to highlight the "best" content provider for a specific niche, so we need to do what we can to help this process along. This would involve using a lot of tactics we're already used to:
- Researching what types of content people are looking for within a niche using keyword research
- Spreading these pieces of content far and wide using authority in social media
- Using content marketing and relationships to leverage additional exposure and inbound links to our sites
Goals should rather be focused on getting as much traffic as possible to a particular page, rather than getting the page to rank for certain key-phrases.
Don't Forget SEO 101 - Technical Considerations
Managing and monitoring technical considerations for SEO are still important and will always add value. Making sure that crawlability is optimal and that all pages have been marked up effectively forms part of a long list of wins that should always be checked. Making sure that user journeys are complete and that the overall experience is a good one should also be primary considerations that are never left to chance. At least this way you can ensure that the platform housing your content is providing a positive experience.
We have to start looking at the bigger picture and start preventing our clients and ourselves from being so reliant on keywords. Obviously they will still play a huge part in dictating what kind of content we produce and they will still help our content rank, but we need to train our brains into thinking about how we can create great content, distribute it, get people to like it and share it and hopefully cite it too - much like I have for Ruth Burr in this post. If we can be creating content that other people want to write about, well then we're definitely on the right path.
It certainly won't be easy, but perhaps it's a great lesson in doing what we do really well, well enough for it to become authoritative in Google.