The big question that everyone has had on their mind since September when it was announced that (not provided) would hit us harder than ever, is “Where do we go now?” While this is a loaded question and you only have so much time to read this post, I am going to hit as many of the finer points as I can in the short time I have you for.

Now, keyword data was our energy when it came to SEO and driving traffic to our site. We loved keyword data so much, that when Google said they were going completely secure search, we panicked. Not only did we panic, it felt like the entire Earth collapsed and we were scrambling to figure out our next moves.

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So, what do we do? Where do we go? And how to do we make sense of an industry that now seems like the wild west? While I may not have the Holy Grail insight that will give you all the answers that you need to wrestle Google into submission, I do have my instincts and clues as to where I have began looking. First, I’ll ask you to picture your website as your physical person. From there, let’s begin.

Backlink Profiles

In the beginning, we all played the volume game when it came to links. Didn’t matter where they came from or how you got them, as long as you got them. If you knew how to linkbuild, you were the king of the game. But ultimately, that’s all linkbuilding became: a game. And one thing that Google and the other search engines weren’t too keen on was their system and their algorithm being gamed. Which brings us to present day; cleaning up the mess we all made and figuring out what Google expects from us when it comes to our links.

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Oh, THOSE links? Don’t worry about those links.

That is pretty easy to answer. Think of any type of link that has anything to do with your website as your digital group of friends. The people you associate with ultimately reflect on you as a person and how you carry yourself in a social setting. Why would it ever be any different online? Google views every website in the same manner; who you link to and how you do it gives Google and the other major search engines a glimpse into the type of website you run.

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Would you want to be associated with these guys? Fuggedaboutit.

If you run a shady operation, Google is going to get the idea that you are a shady website. If you link to and accept links from websites that are authoritative and reputable, Google will view you the same way. And like any shedding of friends and reputation, it takes a minute to get back into people’s (and Google’s) good graces. Nothing happens overnight; that’s why playing the clean up game could take longer than you expect.

Content

Building on the idea of a website being relatable to your physical person, we all want to give the idea that we are knowledge, reputable, and authoritative in our expertise and our fields. When we present anything less, people that we interact with get the same feeling of us in return. We have to start holding ourselves and our websites to higher standards, and carry both with the utmost regard.

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Grumpy cat is not impressed. Try harder.

Creating content for the sake of just creating content and stuffing paragraphs with keywords, doesn’t do anything for anyone that is coming to your website. You want to be able to educate, to create solutions, and to give a deeper understanding. You want to create an experience that resonates with the user and makes them want to act. Content creation, while constantly talked about in the industry, should be a priority for anyone with a digital presence, and should be done with extreme care and attention. It’s your voice, use it wisely.

Social Media

Humans are incredibly social creatures. We live for connection and we live to engage with others. Whether it is family, friends, coworkers, or acquaintances, people enjoy the presence and interaction of another person. Social media humanizes us on the digital landscape. Whether on a personal or professional platform, we are using social media at a level that has never been seen before, and now more than ever there are opportunities for companies to connect with their users on a more personal and in-depth level.

Communities respond when you participate in discussions and also when you respond personally. Social signals, while not clearly stated by search engines in how they are utilized, are giving hints to their importance through connecting your Google+ page to your website and authorship tagging and letting us know how search engines are guiding us all to humanize our brands and our voices. The more you put yourself out there, the more people respond and view you as an accessible authority in what you are saying and how you interact with the crowd.

Structured Data Markup

One thing people like to do for themselves is highlight specific qualities and make them more noticeable to those they interact with. It could be humor, knowledge, athleticism, or other such qualities. Search engines also like when you are highlighting information and qualities about your website as well. One way of doing this is through the process of structured data markup.

Structured data markup is simply tagging the most important information on your website for search engine crawlers to quickly index and crawl. This information can be anything from contact information, reviews, product information, prices, event information, and so on. Make sure that you are taking notes of the possible areas for markup tagging on your website. We prefer Schema.org as it is a collaborative effort by the major search engines, including Google.

Conclusion

Listen, we all aren’t victims in this. A lot of you tried playing Google and the search engines in your shortcuts and thought you’d never get caught. Unfortunately you did, and it’s time for us to start making this right again.

Remember, whenever you are going to try something new on your website, think about it as looking at your online character reflection. Is it honest? Is it of substance? Are you linking and accepting links from websites and people that you would want to be associated with? Ultimately, are you putting your best foot forward? If you can answer yes to all of this, then you probably didn’t need my article to begin with – good on you.