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Google is always making changes and updates, but it seems like the past couple weeks have been especially crazy for the biggest search engine out there. There have been tons of changes both big and small, but best of all, they seem to all be part of one comprehensive plan with a long term strategy.

Eric Enge sums up all the changes when he says Google is pushing people away from a tactical SEO mindset to a more strategic and valuable approach. To try to understand exactly what that means going forward, it is best too review the biggest changes. By seeing what has been revamped, it is easier to make sense of what the future looks like for Google.

1. ‘(Not Provided)’

One of the hugest changes for both searchers and marketers is Google’s move to make all organic searches secure starting in late September. For users, this means more privacy when browsing, but for marketers and website owners it means we are no longer able to see keyword data from most users coming to sites from Google searches.

This means marketers and site-owners are having to deal with a lot less information, or they’re having to work much harder to get it. There are ways to find keyword data, but it’s no longer easily accessible from any Google tool.

This was one of the bigger hits for technical SEO, though there are many work arounds for those looking for them.

2. No PageRank Updates

PageRank has long been a popular tool for many optimizers, but it has also been commonly used by actual searchers to get a general idea of the quality of the sites they visit. However, Google’s Matt Cutts has openly said not to expect another update to the tool this year, and it seems it won’t be available much longer on any platform. The toolbar has never been available on Chrome, and with Internet Explorer revamping how toolbars work on the browser, it seems PageRank is going to be left without a home.

This is almost good news in many ways. PageRank has always been considered a crude measurement tool, so if the tool goes away, many will have to turn to more accurate measurements.

3. Hummingbird

Google’s Hummingbird algorithm seemed minor to most people using the search engine, but it was actually a major overhaul under the hood. Google vastly improved their abilities at understanding conversational search that entirely changes how people can search.

The most notable difference with Hummingbird is Google’s ability to contextualize searches. If you search for a popular sporting arena, Google will find you all the information you previously would have expected, but if you then search “who plays there”, you will get results that are contextualized based on your last search. Most won’t find themselves typing these kinds of searches, but for those using their phones and voice capabilities, the search engine just got a lot better.

For marketers, the consequences are a bit heavier. Hummingbird greatly changes the keyword game and has huge implications for the future. With the rise of conversational search, we will see that exact keyword matches become less relevant over time. We probably won’t feel the biggest effects for at least a year, but this is definitely the seed of something huge.

4. Authorship

Authorship isn’t exactly new, but it has become much more important over the past year. As Google is able to recognize the creators of content, they are able to begin measuring which authors are consistently getting strong responses such as likes, comments, and shares. This means Google will be more and more able to filter those who are creating the most valuable content and rank them highest, while those consistently pushing out worthless content will see their clout dropping the longer they fail to actually contribute.

5. In-Depth Articles

Most users are looking for quick answers to their questions and needs with their searches, but Google estimates that “up to 10% of users’ daily information needs involve learning about a broad topic.” To reflect that, they announced a change to search in early August, which would implement results for more comprehensive sources for searches which might require more in-depth information.

What do these all have in common?

These changes may all seem separate and unique, but there is an undeniably huge level of interplay between how all these updates function. Apart, they are all moderate to minor updates. Together, they are a huge change to search as we know it.

We’ve already seen how link building and over-attention to keywords can be negative to your optimization when improperly managed, but Google seems keen on devaluing these search factors even more moving forward. Instead, they are opting for signals which offer the most value to searchers. Their search has become more contextual so users can find their answers more easily, no matter how they search. But, the rankings are less about keywords the more conversational search becomes.

In the future, expect Google to place more and more emphasis on authorship and the value that these publishers are offering to real people. Optimizers will always focus on pleasing Google first and foremost, but Google is trying to synergize these efforts so that your optimization efforts are improving the experience of users as well.

It’s hard to keep up with Google’s constant adjustments, and AuthorRank is a future feature that isn’t as understood as it probably should be. Its history dates back to August of 2005 when Google filed a patent for “Agent Rank”.

This patent included ranking “agents” and using the public reception to the content they create to determine their rank. Basically, the more popular websites with positive responses would be higher in rankings than less-authoritive “agents”.

After the patent, “AgentRank” disappeared for a while, until in 2011 Eric Schmidt made references to identifying agents in order to improve search quality. A month later, they filed a patent for what is assumed to have become Google+, which acts as a digital signature system for identification, which can be tied to content. And that content can be ranked. Hello, AuthorRank.

It has yet to be officially implemented, but there have been rumors all year that AuthorRank is under development, and AJ Kohn has stated it could completely change the search engine game. It would act as a factor in PageRank, which makes high-quality content higher ranked.

Mike Arnesen at SEOmoz says it’s not a matter of “if Google rolls out AuthorRank, but when.” He also has some great suggestions of how to be prepared for when AuthorRank arrives. I highly suggest reading his extensive article, because I agree strongly with the idea AuthorRank will be here sooner rather than later.

With Google’s recent focus on social media, and the natural concept that people want to see quality content in their results, it is just a matter of time before AuthorRank is a serious concern to the SEO industry.

 

The vast changes Google has been making to SEO are well documented and discussed, as they have rendered all of the old ways of ruling searches with manipulative techniques obsolete. Instead, the optimization industry is being dominated by content investment. That, of course, means you’ll need to know how to make the best content possible.

We have some quick tips for helping with the shift to content creation. For a longer list, check out Simon Penson’s list at Search Engine Watch.

Idea creation

  • Come up with a list of ideas you can serialize. Regularly appearing content like “Quick Tips”, Top 10’s, and Q&A’s are a good place to start.
  • Identify types of content that would work well for you online.
  • Use Highcharts.com to see a visualization of every part of your content strategy to make sure everything is consistent.
  • There are lots of different and innovative types of content to create now, but the blog post is still the old standard for a reason.
  • Competitions are a great way to grow audiences via social media that you can later engage.
  • Change up your locations for brainstorming. Different environments stimulate creativity.

Creating Structure

  • While serialized content is good, don’t just repeat the same type of content over and over. Try to come up with a pattern of types of different content you can create and publish.
  • Make a 6-month content plan in the form of an editorial calender, keeping in mind industry events and trends.
  • Include your site pages in your initial structural plan. It is essential to include every part of your site in your plan so that every word matches your brand persona and message.

Content Strategy

  • Think about your timing. Time of day has a large effect on online activities and you should try to maximize your potential reach by considering when you publish content.
  • Learn your audience. Use survey for quantitative data and customer meets for qualitative information. This will tell you more about how to approach creating content for your market.
  • Separate your brand into different personas to match three or four demographics with different needs, then create content for these different personas.
  • Create a content flow as part of your strategy creation process.

Content Execution

  • When creating copy keep the details in mind. Font style and size, kerning, and leading all matter. Your presentation is as important as your content.
  • Take time to make a solid headline.
  • When creating a post, plan the structure beforehand.
  • Create persona writers for your brand and build authority over time to grow AuthorRank.

Measure Effectiveness

  • Don’t measure outreach by just the links earned. Take into consideration factors like referral traffic and brand visibility.
  • Keep social metrics in mind during content marketing measurement campaigns.
  • Set up Google Alerts with a snippet from any major piece of content you make so that you will be alerted when someone copies it.
  • Think of content performance like baseball averages. One hit for every three pieces of content is solid performance.

Hopefully these short tips will help you make the transition from the old SEO practices to content creation. The more you invest in content, the more reward you will see later.