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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.

SEO tips being lies? Okay, not always intentionally, but it happens.  Mainly because with the ways SEO works changing so much, a lot of old techniques no longer work.  Keeping on top of these makes a big difference.

There are several, but I’d recommend checking out this great list put together by Stephan Spencer, Chris Smith, Rand Fishkin, and Eric Enge on Search Engine Land.

SEO is an evolving animal.  There are many techniques that worked very well in the past that no longer are as effective, if effective at all.

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Doing SEO for a massive site can be complex.  In the case of a large e-commerce site, you have a ton of pages with the different products.  How do you organize the categories do good SEO for all these pages?

This is a full project to do solid SEO, but some critical elements must be kept in mind.

  • Google likes unique posts, good content
  • Duplicate pages can hurt rankings
  • You don’t need to have top listing for every one of your 10,000 pages

By looking at these concepts, this means that using the 80-20 rule is a great approach for doing good SEO for a huge site.  Chances are 20% of your products produce 80% of your revenue.  Focus on only these elements.  Make these pages have solid content and fine-tune the on-page SEO here.

By doing this, you don’t spend so much time on the other few thousand pages, and the results are worth it.  In addition to this, try to be careful about categorization – it can hurt to have categories cross each other to make duplicate pages.  For example, having a clothing store with a leather category and a shoe category could have the same page in both “leather->shoe” and “shoe->leather”.  There are ways to avoid this, although my recommendation is to initially construct the categories in a way that this never becomes an issue.  By taking care of this up front it will help with many potential duplicate content issues.

Beyond these details, keeping great SEO for the site in general will always help.  Following all these tips will increase your traffic and listing positions.  For more details on SEOing e-commerce sites, check out this article by Eric Enge on Search Engine Land.

The 80-20 rule is one that applies to several areas of business.  This includes SEO.  There are some elements in SEO that take a large amount of time and effort, especially in areas like building backlinks.  In this case, deciding on which 20% of these can provide 80% of your SEO value can save lots of time while not cutting many results.

In addition to this, when you have hundreds (or thousands) of pages on your site, it’s important to try avoiding the duplicate content penalty where possible.  To do this, each page must be unique and have valid content.  With that many pages, even with a full staff it still takes a lot of time.  In this case the 80-20 rule can be applied to choose the most important of your site’s pages and make sure they’re prepped to be crawled fully by the search engines.  You can find more detail on how to apply the 80-20 rule to SEO from Eric Enge at Search Engine Watch.