This week Legal Week reported that Irwin Mitchell’s main website had been de-listed from Google searches. Whilst Irwin Mitchell appeared in the paid search results, the firm’s domain – irwinmitchell.com – did not appear in the main Google searches. However, as of the 29th January 2014 the irwinmitchell.com site has reappeared on the first page of Google.
Speaking to Legal Week, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) consultant Alex Graves said Irwin Mitchell had likely been penalised for paying other websites to host content linking to the firm, spamming message boards or placing links to its website on other pages.
Old SEO used to be relatively understandable. Google searched based on key words in short search terms. For example, if you wanted to know of a good place to eat nearby, you might search “good Chinese restaurants London”. Focussing on these key words, Google would bring up a range of restaurants in the Greater London area.
However, since Google introduced the new Search Engine Programme Hummingbird in August 2013, it seems as if everyone has been playing catch-up. The new programme is looking for context in searches – driven particularly by the rise of searches (including vocal searches) on smart phones. Now for example you might ask when searching, “which are the best Chinese restaurants in Chancery Lane”. This ‘conversational search’ means that Google does not look at just single words but the phrase as a whole.
Hummingbird also seeks to stop the old SEO tricks from working. Black-hat tricks (stuffing key words, article spinning, linking to ‘unnatural incoming links’ –i.e. placing articles on low quality directories will not help you and, in fact, only hinders.
Here are just some key points to bear in mind in the new Hummingbird era:
1. Having a mobile content marketing strategy
Hummingbird has prioritised content that is mobile-friendly. From now on, content that is mobile-accessible must be the priority in your content marketing strategy. Therefore if your website is not mobile/tablet friendly it is going to suffer. It may be time to review your online portals and analyse the accessibility of the mobile versions.
One way to improve your portals is to make them social media-friendly. You must ensure that users can share content easily. Also look at e-marketing tools – are your newletters and e-mail-outs mobile-compatible? Small changes like these can make a difference.
2. Unique, high-quality content
This is easy to say and not always easy to deliver.
Regularly updated content, like blogs, which are of interest to those who view your website are needed – and long ones do increase SEO. However with the focus on mobile content you also need to make them easy to read on portable devices – so not too long. Balancing the two can be difficult but one way to achieve this is to have clear, short headings/introductions which can be used on the mobile site with the fuller article being accessed on the desktop version.
The growth of interactive content is also playing a role as mobile users consume visual content much easier and faster than text-based content. This means that you will need to use more visual content such as images, infographics and video to increase the value of your content.
Links still play a vital role in your SEO. Links to reputable sites will increase your listing on Google considerably. This can be achieved through having regular content that is easy to share. Mentions in the media are a further way of increasing your profile as these are reputable sites that Google will recognise. Finally you may also wish to think about guest bloggers on your site, podcasts and other interactive media which can be used to link to quality content.
I find the Search Engine Journal very helpful for keeping up to date on SEO. The following articles also provide a more detailed analysis of the points I have raised here (thanks to the authors!):
SEO After Hummingbird, Penguin, & Panda: How Link Building & Content Marketing Are Really Changing
What Google Hummingbird Means for Your Content Strategy
Hummingbird will undoubtedly not be the last change that Google makes as we move to a more online society, but preparing your content marketing strategy now in-line with mobile-compatible devices will help you in the future.