A Publication of WTVP

Want to drive qualified customer traffic to your business website?

Ranking high on search engine results pages is a good way to attract customers, but the rules have changed. Recent updates by Google have dramatically altered the SEO (search engine optimization) scene. Dubious techniques that once boosted a website in search engine rankings can now do tremendous harm.

To survive in the competitive Internet search space, you need exclusive, original content—and lots of it. Not plagiarized, mediocre or curated content, but new, unique, well-written, customized content in the form of text, photos and video. Frequently updated content indicates that your website is actively managed and signals to Google that you’re providing current information, rather than stale data that is no longer applicable.

Are you complacent about your website? What will be your fate? All your competitors have to do is comply with the new Google search algorithms (formulas for determining website quality and relevance) to dominate the search engine listings. Meanwhile, your website will be buried, forgotten, unvisited.

Google does not reveal its proprietary algorithms in elaborate detail, but it does instruct web developers in best practices for designing websites for human users that will also satisfy Google and other search engines. SEO consists of a set of methods designed so that search engines will rate a website as authoritative, relevant, non-malicious and up-to-date. But recent updates by Google—designed to thwart spammers, link farms, affiliates, “over-optimized” sites and black hat (unethical) SEO companies—represent a cataclysmic change in the SEO landscape.

SEO firms are scrambling to reform their methodologies and remove client websites from blacklisted directories. More directories are being de-indexed each month, in a gradual rollout of the updates. You may have already noticed a difference when you do an Internet search. Some of your competitors’ websites may have slipped in their rankings or even disappeared altogether from search engine results pages.

In other words, Google is becoming more sophisticated about identifying high-quality websites that really meet users’ needs. The tricks and gimmicks once used by black hat SEO companies to push websites with poor content high on the results pages no longer work.

How often has this happened to you? You type in a key phrase, the search results come up, and you see page after page of junk: websites that seem somewhat relevant, with a sentence or short paragraph that frequently appears verbatim on other spammy sites, surrounded by tons of ads and links. You were tricked into visiting that website by a black hat SEO company.

Google now advises that gaining a high ranking on results pages requires the patient addition of high-quality content to a website via a news page, blog, YouTube channel or Google Plus. This is good news for legitimate, established companies with high-quality websites. It’s also good news for shoppers, researchers, students and other web users looking for reliable information on a topic or product.

Here are a number of practices you should immediately reconsider or halt:

In light of the new search engine preferences, here are some essential components for driving traffic to your website:

Be patient. Organic search results—especially for a new business or website—can take from three to 10 months to see results. However, those results will be more reliable and last longer than gimmicks that promise to put your website on the first page of Google in just three months. These SEO tricks are now on Google’s radar in a major way, and they will backfire. Fixing black hat SEO damage and begging Google to re-index your site can be a long and frustrating process.

Keep these tips in mind and you’ll beat your competitors in the struggle for high rankings in search engine results. Developing web content to meet the needs of human users, while complying with the preferences of search engines, is the royal road to attracting a lot more customers to your business.

Steven Streight is a web content developer and trustee of the Peoria Historical Society. He can be reached at [email protected]. iBi