I’m just back from a brilliant #truBudapest, which was put together by Balazs Paroczy and was sponsored by our friends Kelly OGC and Monster Hungary. They were fantastic hosts, and over 100 participants from 9 different countries attended.  It was a great event.

One of the tracks I took part in was SEO, hosted by Ivan Stojanonvic (@IrishRecruiter.) Ivan is a real expert in this subject who I always learn from, but last week i was on a call with Vito Lomelle who founded Jobrapido (I’m going to be posting our full conversation on Monday), and he spoke about why Jobrapido take a non SEO strategy, electing instead to acquire traffic through social and conventional web advertising. Vito sees the challenge not in getting traffic (and their Google rankings and positioning in the top 5 visited career sites in the world would suggest they are very good at it),but in making sure they stay and revisit once they arrive. Lomelle also didn’t want to build a business that was dependent on Google’s whims. Many people I know in this sector have been thinking the same thing recently, as soon as the algorithm changes through initiatives like Panda, then it’s all change with the ranking and positions, and this impacts greatly on traffic. Vito feels that it is better to have your traffic in your own hands through acquisition.

I put this view to Ivan during the track, which created plenty of discussion from the participants. Search results have become more local, geared around what is being viewed and shared by your social connections, (particularly Google+) , and your own search history. Recent changes have a greater ranking to content that answer questions, get liked and shared. Who knows what Google might think next?

During the conversation Ivan made a comment that really got me thinking, so much so that I stuck it in drafts as a reminder for this post,

“You need to think of Google as a person, not an algorithm.”

What Ivan meant by that is that behind all the technology, cogs, whistles, bells and complicated mathematical formulas is a group of people who decide what content we want to see when we ask Google a question.

Google has its own personality and is working on reading and ranking content like a person. This means that loading your content with keywords just doesn’t cut it, it’s content all the way. One of the problems Google faced is when they were trying to find the best answers to the questions people ask. The problem in the past is that questions asked have usually ended up at sites like Yahoo answers because the questions matched, and the answers were often of limited value. Google, the person, didn’t like this, so they changed things.

What Google is looking for now is answers and information that has some value, so they read posts as a person would, looking for original content that reads well and has plenty of information presented in a logical way, with  comments and shares. The way to get your posts picked up and noticed is to use the questions your post answers in the title, repeated in the text in bold. Tagging posts with questions is another key area. Think about the questions your post answers and use this.

Like a person, Google likes pictures in the logical places. Always include at least one image on every page and post, and because Google likes pictures, they love infographics and diagrams. Google also favours its family first. If you are including video, always make it YouTube first and share in Google+. Even if you don’t visit often, a big Google+ network will help boost your rankings. Google also looks for links inbound and outbound that are logical and relevant. The days of embedding links and blog rolls to get Google juice are long gone, overload the links and you will sink down the rankings. Google, like a person is on the look out for scams, and they don’t like them when they find them.

Another point Ivan made is that like a person Google flatters to deceive. When you search for a topic on your own search accounts, then your posts and pages will come up higher than they would on other people’s searches. This is because of the history and location features. When you are searching from the UK or on .co.uk then Google likes to serve up UK posts first, and based on your search history, content from authors you have searched for, opened, liked or shared before.  To find out your real ranking as other people find it, search using the incognito or similar  window.

Ivan closed the track by concluding that just like a person, Google can be temperamental, moody and unpredictable, they also change their mind often, so you are often left playing catch up. What is clear is that if you want Google to find you and recommend you, then you need to treat Google as a person and write for people rather than algorithms, and get rid of any books you might have read about SEO that are over 3 months old. Get to know Google the person.

In answer to my first question, based on Vito and Ivan’s comments, I think both strategies have merit, and clearly get results, but after conversations with two people a lot smarter than me in this area, I now feel a lot better informed to progress the conversation of acquisition v SEO. thanks guys!

Bill

Ivan Stojanovic

Vito  Lomelle