Guest post: Driving traffic from search just got a whole lot harder

Guest post: Driving traffic from search just got a whole lot harder

Recent changes at Google are leaving marketers anxious, writes Anthony Rawlins, chief executive at social media agency Digital Visitor

Every once and a while, Google – the undisputed king of search – updates its search algorithm, leaving online marketers around the world fearful that their hard-earned rankings may suddenly drop overnight.

digitalvisitorJust a few weeks ago, Google confirmed in a blog post that it had launched some Panda changes, leaving some travel brands with quite a dramatic drop in search traffic to their website – one company we heard from claimed their search traffic has been reduced by about two-thirds.

So what do the changes mean for your SEO strategy and, more importantly, what can you do to ensure that any future changes won’t leave you powerless at the hands of Google and at risk of fluctuating search rankings?

Firstly, let’s take a look at what the recent changes were.

According to Google’s Distinguished Engineer, Matt Cutts, Google’s recent Panda update is just another step by Google to stamp out ‘Black Hat webspam’. Black Hat webspam, as described by Cutts is “the use of techniques that don’t benefit users, where the intent is to look for shortcuts or loopholes that would rank pages higher than they deserve to be ranked … from keyword stuffing to link schemes that attempt to propel sites higher in rankings”.

Cutts continues: “the goal of many of our ranking changes is to help searchers find sites that provide a great user experience and fulfil their information needs. We’ve always targeted webspam in our rankings, and this algorithm represents another improvement in our efforts to reduce webspam and promote high quality content.”

Over the past 18 months, social media has become a critical part of any business’ online marketing strategy and, if done well, social media can be one of the biggest sources of traffic to a website. In fact, recent research by EyeforTravel found that social networks are the second most influential source of traffic for travel suppliers. But it doesn’t stop there. Social media is also playing a big part in helping search engines to determine what is actually valuable, useful content.

Last year, both Bing and Google confirmed that search results are positively affected by social signals such as tweets, Facebook Likes and +1s. Just think about it; would you follow a Twitter account, friend someone on Facebook or ‘like’ something if you think it’s inauthentic, manipulative or spammy?

Companies that invest the time and effort to implement a solid social media strategy that includes creative, unique and rich content (remember, Google is on a mission to ‘reduce webspam and promote high quality content’), will not only see their reputations and rankings rise, they will also help to reduce the risk of being penalised by Google in future algorithm changes.

Put simply, good, unique content means there’s greater awareness of your site – more people will share you content and link to you, which results in greater traffic and better rankings.

Like it or not, Google is going to continue to focus on ‘quality’ in future updates and a key indicator of good quality content is that which is shared, liked, tweeted, pinned etc.

Today, social media is more than just a branding tool – it plays a significant role in SEO, web traffic, CRM and much more…

Have you noticed a significant drop in search traffic to your website recently?

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