Jason Woodford, chief executive, SiteVisibility
Any SEO consultant will tell you a year in our industry is never the same. They could easily argue that six months in SEO is never the same.
Even from the outside looking in whenever you read the latest articles about the digital marketing world you’ll find the word ‘updates’ strewn across many of the headlines.
Updates, updates, updates it’s what the search engines are all about.
Google is the game changer as most; if not all SEO activities are tailored to its requirements. So when a new update does roll out what does that mean for an SEO agency?
How does it impact SEO strategies and planning? What does it mean for the SEO agency’s cost base?
That’s certainly a lot of questions to ponder.
But these updates have considerable effects on an SEO agency from strategy formulation to tactical task planning all the way through to the types of technical, analytical and content marketing skills required within a SEO agency these days; all of which means increased delivery costs.
So how often are these updates occurring?
Well, according to the reliable ‘SEOmoz’ the Panda refresh that took place this year was the 24th update since its launch in 2011, so that gives us some indication as to the high frequency of these changes.
And what kinds of updates are happening to cause such change and how are they affecting SEO strategies?
Well, for example, late last year Google updated its algorithm to target poor quality exact match domains.
This is massive if you’re working on a site that’s been around for a while and that has an exact match domain as you can’t just simply start all over again with a new name.
And if you’re working on a new site for a client then you’ll need to make sure you’re not over stepping the mark on the exact match when you’re setting things up.
Additionally, exact match anchor text has recently been targeted as being spammy, this means that any link building that does occur needs to cater for this change.
It’s a tough job trying to figure out how to overcome these issues and it’s these road blocks that keep SEO agencies on their toes.
A good example in terms of how SEO tactics change has to be the inclusion of social signals.
It seems social is getting bigger and bigger and so is its importance within the SERPS thanks to the growth of Google+ last year.
With the aid of +1 buttons these clicks can provide your site and content with an SEO boost to push them up the rankings.
This has led to a huge shift in the focus of strategies for SEO agencies – more quality content.
Content marketing, moreover quality content is what agencies are striving to create these days, whether it’s video campaigns, infographics or animated graphics, everyone is trying to get their content shared virally.
Why? Because Google now places much higher authority on content which has been shared by authentic users.
Furthermore, spreading of content via Twitter has been known to improve the indexing of your content.
These social signals are hard to ignore and when you couple them with the introduction of ‘rel=author’ markup the incentive to utilise them becomes even greater.
'rel=author’ markup was introduced last summer and has had a huge influence on blogs and how content is ranked in search.
Additionally, the inclusion of author images enhances the content which leads to higher click through rates.
Most blogs with multiple authors have begun to use this which highlights a mind-set of how no-one wants to be left behind.
When important new features like these become available, you can’t help but follow the crowd and adapt your site to take advantage of them.
Google updates its algorithm to improve the quality of search results so it would be madness not to prioritise those developments and updates which become known to have an impact on rankings.
One could argue the fear of being left behind forces change within an SEO agency which leads to having to constantly evolve how we work.
Along with these incentives to do better, Google also wealds the “stick” with the threat of penalisation by always being on the mind sub-consciously.
No agency wants their name nor their clients name dragged through the mud and down the search results as a result of old SEO techniques which no longer work.
Constant change in the algorithm requires constant research into ranking factors and the development of new, impactful SEO tactics, as well as the retirement of old tactics which no longer work.
The pace and frequency of this change now requires significant investment on the part of the SEO agency in order to be able to stay ahead and deliver results – in SiteVisibility’s case we estimate we need to commit more than 18% of our time into the analysis, research, development, testing and approval of SEO tactics.
Simply put, in the world of SEO one could use a very familiar expression to capture the ever evolving industry - out with the old, in with the new.
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