I picked up some good insights on search engine optimization (SEO) over the last few weeks. For those that aren't familiar, SEO is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine's "natural" or un-paid ("organic") search results. So these are not the 'bolded' results at the top or right hand side of a Google search page. 80% of users click on the organic links instead of the paid links (personally, I almost never click on paid links).
16% of Google searches that occur each day were never searched for before.
Google’s primary job is to satisfy the user, so they’re going to send the user to the place that will make them the happiest. So the primary drivers of good SEO results (in no particular order) are:
- Number of inbound links to the content
- Amount of content
- Recency of content
- Click-through rate (from search result to click)
- Stickiness of site (time spent on site)
- Lack of dummy content (content that isn't relevant to the page or topic)
There have been incidents in the past where e-commerce sites would intentionally and blatantly ripoff a portion of their customers -- causing those customers to go to the internet and write bad reviews with links back to the offending site. It used to be that this kind of behavior would cause the site to be listed higher in organic search results (more links = higher SEO score).
To prevent this, Google has started to use something called sentiment analysis or opinion mining. By applying an algorithm against a variety of social media sites, discussion boards, blogs and news sites, Google can get a pretty good sense of whether or not the internet likes your site. And if they do, you'll rank higher.
Of course, sentiment analysis is complicated and not 100% reliable (due to cultural factors, language nuances and wide-ranging contexts) but is a useful way for Google to ensure that individuals aren't gaming the system.
In short, I think the key insight is that if you want to rank high in SEO over the long term, you have to do the right thing. You have to give users a site that makes them happy. You may be able to fool Google for a little while, but they'll eventually catch up and when they do you can forget about SEO as a source for acquiring new business.