Earlier this year, Google rolled out its latest set of changes to the secret algorithm it uses to determine search rankings. While the public isn't privy to the actual formula, the impact was a clear message to marketers to stop playing tricks to manipulate results and start developing websites that actually appeal to the public.
In its quest to provide authentic content, Google is cracking down on artificial schemes like "link building," where you talk the owners of a host of unrelated websites to include links to your site, giving the illusion that your site is more popular than it really is. It's just a matter of time until Google changes the algorithm that determines your ranking, booting you back into your rightful position.
Sound SEO practices focus on ensuring your site offers content of genuine interest to visitors because search engines favorably rank sites that are well trafficked and generate high visitor engagement levels.
Ensure that each webpage has a title and description (added behind the scenes) that both accurately reflects what's on the page and is likely to attract site visitors. These titles and descriptions are displayed during Google searches and having them in place can increase the likelihood that your interior website pages are pulled into search results, versus just your home page.
Equally important, Google is placing increasing emphasis on the conversations people are having about your company on sites other than your branded website. When the public talks about your brand through social media, for example, Google takes notice.
Search engines crawl through Twitter activity -- looking at company and brand names -- to determine which brands deserve top ranking. What they're looking for is two-way communication. Get to know your followers and provide them with interesting content. Request feedback. "Retweet" their content and share in their successes. Socialize -- as that's what social media is all about.
Upload videos to YouTube that others are likely to share. Don't forget that Google owns YouTube, which may give you an indication at the connection between the two.
While most businesses have been slow to warm to Google+, there's no doubt about the powerful role that conversations about your brand on this site will have on your future search engine ranking -- once this new player to the social media space really takes off.
It's time to change the conversation -- away from how best to rank well with Google and toward how best to be an active participant in the consumer conversations in your business category. Successfully addressing the latter will no doubt increase your ranking over time -- authentically and long-term.
Lori Turner-Wilson is an award-winning columnist and CEO/Founder of RedRover Sales & Marketing in Memphis, TN, www.redrovercompany.com. You can follow RedRover on Twitter (@redrovercompany and @loriturner) and Facebook (facebook.com/redrovercompany).