Search and SEO have changed dramatically over the last five years. At one time, on-page SEO came down to optimizing page titles, meta descriptions and H1 tags. Then inbound links (by volume) and internal links became very important. Now volume of inbound links has been replaced by authority of inbound links.
Another dramatic change has come with the Google Hummingbird algorithm, with two major updates:
- Greater emphasis on mobile search, which has helped drive the adoption of progressive design websites
- Greater emphasis on conversational content, which added urgency to blogging and social media
Search used to be driven by keywords, which is why keywords have been so important to SEO. So a typical search for human resources software might be “human resources software” or “best human resources management software solutions.” The latter would be considered more of a long-tail phrase, meaning that if you try to rank for all these keywords, you will return a lower volume of traffic but a more engaged audience.
Users tend to ask questions when searching on mobile, so “best human resources management software solutions” might be replaced with “which is the best human resources management software solution.” This phrasing is more natural, and more likely to be found in website content, blogs and social media, allowing for more integration and stronger results.
Typically websites have tried to use the same keywords repeatedly (without “keyword stuffing,” which can get you penalized by search engines) on web pages, sometimes making for some unnatural phrasing. For instance, multiple sentences might use the phrase “human resource software” several times, even though in speech most of us would likely say “it” or “they” on second and third uses.
Hummingbird focuses on conversational patterns, so it sees “it” on subsequent uses as relating to “human resources software.” At least, that’s the idea. Google changes its algorithm all the time, and the effectiveness of different SEO strategies will probably shake out over time.
These details matter, but there is still no substitute for refreshing content often, producing content that’s valuable to others, and engaging in good faith with others.