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What 3 big Google updates mean for your SEO strategy

James A. Martin | Oct. 17, 2013
Recent changes to Google's search algorithm, its keyword planner tool and the availability of search query data may have you rethinking your SEO and online marketing strategies, but experts say it's best not to overthink things.

What does it mean for SEO? In the wake of Hummingbird, Google's SEO guidance remains unchanged: Publish "original, high-quality content."

With Hummingbird and other recent changes, DeMers adds, Google is "betting on the continued rise of mobile usage. It's safe to assume that Google is going to be looking for content and websites that deliver a great mobile experience. Mobile content strategies have become a whole lot more important with Google Hummingbird."

Adam Stetzer, writing for Search Engine Watch, offers this advice: "It is now critically important that (a website) answers questions for end users," due to Hummingbirds ability to more precisely match long-tail queries to relevant content. Content is still king, Stetzer writes, and "content that answers specific questions may be critical for Hummingbird success."

Hummingbird, like the Google Panda and Penguin updates before it, can actually help those engaging in legitimate SEO rise to the top of rankings, notes Joshua Steimle in a Forbes post.

"If you're the best at what you do, these updates Google has been rolling out are opportunities to separate yourself from your competition. They may have been engaging in spammy tactics to get good rankings, but if you've been focusing on creating content that provides real value to potential customers, their days are numbered," Steimle writes. "These changes will help you rise above, and the good news ... is if you've been doing the right things for your SEO, you don't need to change a thing."

Search Data Encryption: Keywords 'Not Provided'
What is it? In a separate move, Google began encrypting all search query data, except for clicks on Google AdWords ads, starting in late August. This means the keywords you type in a Google query are now protected by SSL encryption, even if you're not signed into your Google account.

Presumably, Google's goal was to block spying. (Heads up, NSA!) But many SEO experts believe Google had another motive: Turning off the spigot of useful, free data about keywords to SEO professionals and instead encouraging them to take out paid AdWords campaigns.

What does it do? Search data encryption effectively kills the nonpaid (also known as "organic") keyword data that many online marketers relied on in their site's Google Analytics.

Until the recent move to search data encryption, Google Analytics displayed the number of visits each keyword or search phrase delivered to a site during a given time period; the percentage of new visits resulting from the keyword phrase; the bounce rate (or percentage of visits in which the visitor only looked at one page); and so on.

For example, a career coach with a site focused on that topic could look at Google Analytics keyword data to see which keywords brought the most traffic: career coach, career counselor, life coach, resume writing and so on. This info was useful to determine which target keywords actually brought visitors to the site - or to discover keywords that deliver traffic but for which the site has not yet created content.


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