Last week, fellow Forbes contributor Jayson DeMers announced that SEO was dead, implying that Google couldnâ€™t be manipulated anymore.
So I asked around. It turns out that the world of SEO is even easier and more lucrative than it has ever been â€“ but what has changed is that those who know how to do it arenâ€™t as quick to talk, and those who are quick to talk arenâ€™t as good at it.
Even a year ago so much of where you were in search results was a function of your inbound links, but Google has become more wise to gaming link authority, so that part of the equation is not less important. Instead, Google is focusing on nearly 200 page signals. These signals are much more difficult to detect, and therefore not as obvious to most SEOs.
Blackhats (those who manipulate search results to favor their sites even when they shouldnâ€™t rank) are finding ways to manipulate these signals and game the system even more than they used to. These tricks work better than the old methods of buying of links, or link farming, because there are fewer players.
When Google released their â€œHummingbirdâ€ update it changed the game as Google started to favor page construction much more heavily than links. This means sites with better built pages now receives a higher quality score.
The most important part of a page construction score comes from the validity of the HTML. Checking that your HTML is valid is actually quite easy to do, though fixing problems can be hard after you know what you did wrong. To see if your HTML is valid go to the W3C Validator and paste in the URL of your page. Instantly, youâ€™ll receive feedback on what needs to change to make the page valid.
After you have valid HTML, the â€œelementsâ€ on the page are the next most important feature. Page elements include things like a comment form, or a search form. It also means checking if video is embedded on the page, or if there is a print version of the page. Google doesnâ€™t always give bonuses for all types of elements. Instead, based on the type of query and some user data, Google decides which elements are important for the user and favors only pages with those elements. Some obvious examples include what results Google favors for a search for â€œTwerking videoâ€ (videos) versus a search for â€œCake recipesâ€ (Google gives a bonus to pages that use the Recipe Microdata format.) Figuring out which page signals Google is using can be difficult, but PlexiSearch offers a tool that shows you many of the signals for a search result when you do a search and then click â€œSearch Insightsâ€.
Itâ€™s important to note that todayâ€™s SEO is is not just about bonuses â€“ it is also about avoiding penalties. Google gives massive penalties to sites that are slow. (Slow is defined as more than 2.5 seconds to load.) To find out how fast your page is, Pingdom Tools offers a speed test that measures the time it takes to render your page. If your page is over the 2.5 second mark you may need to look at reducing the size and number of images on the page, or using a Content Delivery Network to deliver page assets.
SEO isnâ€™t dead. There are still plenty of people (both black and white hat) doing SEO and changing results. It may be harder to put up a total â€œsplogâ€ and rank, but the need to affect results between even local competitors means there is still a huge market for SEOâ€™s â€“ and it will be a long time before SEO dies, if ever.