In the last 10 years, I’ve heard many stories about the future of SEO. Now it is time to ask ourselves, isn’t it simply, honesty?

Some awesome teams like MOZ and Searchengineland try hard not to sacrifice content over sensationalism, and that’s what make them stay around. And somehow, these teams strategy is like SEO itself, focusing on relevancy, greatly organized content, education, and transparency.

Beware of sensationalism

The future of seo

I have a tendency to generally stay away from sensationalism. My greatest challenge these days is to filter my Twitter feed to remove all the “5 things you didn’t know about” and “what you’re about to read will change the way you see […] forever”.

I’ve always believed in honesty over tricks, long term over short term profits, and in a world where everyone has been put in competition with anyone, and even with themselves, it’s been pretty tough to stick with my principles.

The beautiful part of SEO nowadays: Honesty has become the best strategy.

Not because an ethical battle has been won, but simply because the search algorithm has evolved this way.

Some SEO predictions

SEO predictionsThe Nostradamus part in all of us has a tendency to try and predict the future. After all, isn’t it what I’m doing with this article? But like with any predictions, it’s important to not blindly follow them. Here are predictions I heard in the last 10 years that were supposed to happen “next year”:

  1. Bing is gonna be the real deal in 2011
  2. QR codes will be everywhere before the end of the year 2011
  3. Google instant preview is here to stay in 2011
  4. Social Media Optimization is the way to go to improve rankings in 2011
  5. Mobile apps will beat Mobile websites in 2012
  6. Website speed is the key for 2012
  7. Websites without a mobile version will die in 2013

It’s important to understand that I don’t necessarily agree or disagree with these predictions, but none of them really happened the way they said they would. It’s never black and white, and predicitons should show tendencies, no more.

The infamous one: SEO is dead

SEO is dead

This one likes to stick around. Every Halloween the fear for the living dead SEO specialists is back.

Apart from being the same old clickbait, this prediction seems to have some believers. Every year some people predicted the death of SEO. What they should have said really was that a way of doing SEO was not recommended anymore.

You can read this great article about the many deaths of SEO over history.

But the truth is as long as there are Search Engines there will be SEO. Because the Search Engines are algorithms, we can optimize our websites to get better rankings, explore opportunities, make our brand look better, help users find our content…

Working with website owners?

Search Engines are not much different nowadays. They simply have fewer flaws.

Google has always tried to satisfy users, and the only way for the giant search engine to do so is to offer the best results. Think about it; millions of links for each query and Google has to pick 3 of them… not only to please the whole world but also to please you, personally.Education in SEO

What better way of doing that than by controlling how websites are optimized?

That’s what Google decided in 2009 when they shared their SEO recommendations with web developers. They gave up the key to their algorithm, with the risk of helping spammers and black hat SEO. But what happened is really the opposite, they helped website owners getting ranked for what they are worth.

It took years to become mainstream, but it looks like now it quite is. Education has paid off.

Forget about old-school SEO

In SEO, the term old-school generally has a negative connotation. It brings back the time where cheap tricks had an impact on search results. People were not even known as SEO specialist, but more as that nerd guy that can help your website rank first for $10,000.

Some of their techniques were considered very bad (like writing keywords in the same color as the background), and some were considered fine, like paying to get a thousand backlinks.

You can read the awesome White Friday about the old school SEO practices that don’t work anymore by Rand to understand why these practices don’t work anymore.

In case you don’t have time to read his article now, here is what I retained:
forget about old school seo

  • Don’t over-optimize your content, unless you want to look sketchy, or spammy. There was a time when it was worth it but this time is over. What you risk now is getting bad CTR and thus, bad rankings.
  • Heavy use of anchor text internally. Well, that’s pretty much the same idea: it’s spammy.
  • Pages for every keyword variant. This one is not really spammy, but it still is not very… natural. would you incorporate ten synonyms of the same keyword in a well-done information architecture? probably not.
  • Most Directories and paid links.
  • Microsites, subdomains, and separate domains for same audience or topic target
  • Sketchy domain matching keywords, something like dentisttoronto.com instead of the actual name of the dentist.

The list goes on and shows what most SEOs used to do, not only black or gray hat SEO.

What it tells us is that we’re heading in a certain direction, and it’s pretty clear:

Honesty will lead you much further than any SEO technique you could think of.

Why do you need the services of an SEO expert then?

Why do you need the services of a Community manager, you know Social Media right? Why do you need a copywriter? You can write your own story… You can hire an SEO expert to worry about everything Search Engines related so you can have more time to worry about your business. Plus there are still finally so many things an SEO can help you with:

  • Information Architecture for both humans and robots
  • Quality of code
  • Quality of copy
  • Looking for topics that interest your audience
  • Understanding how your brand is seen by robots
  • Help you understand your website

In a more poetic way:

An SEO expert can help your website finds its place in the digital world.

Bonus chapter: RankBrain, Google’s IA

Google fabulous rankbrain and seoTo finish this article I want to talk to you about RankBrain, Google’s IA that helps the algorithm deliver better results. Basically, from what Google says and what we assume, it’s designed to understand what people are looking for exactly. After all, when we search for stuff, we don’t always type in the best query.

I could search for “pizza” but what I really mean is “I’m hungry, show me pizza around me”. And Google will show you a map with pizza around as well as articles like “the 10 best pizza place in Toronto”, and wait, just in case, the search engine will also show you a quick link to the pizza (dish) in case that’s what you actually meant. If you click on it, the page will adapt and show you images of pizza along with nutritional facts, and also suggest looking for burgers, or pizza dough… It knows what you need, and helps you get it faster.

You can read the awesome article from Searchengineland about Rankbrain to get more information and start freaking out at how smart Google is.

Thanks for reading!

After a few years of working in various areas of web development, SEO and web design, there is one thing I’ve heard a lot:
cannibalism.

Even though I’m sure people love to talk about ethnology; in most cases, I was listening to classic SEO language, whether it is to make one’s look brighter, or to actually do something about it.

 

What is keyword cannibalism?

Keyword cannibalism happens when your website has more than 1 page targeting the same keyword. While actually not leading to any penalty, it doesn’t help your rankings. In fact, fixing it could have a great impact on your rankings since you would help Search Engines understand your site better.

Example 1: Stuffing

Your website is trying to rank for the keyword “fur coats“.

So you’ve added it to every page, in the content, and also in the meta and the name of the pages.

The consequence: Search Engines don’t know which page does what since they are all sharing the same “focused keyword”.

Example 2: Conversion and SEO conflict

You’ve been careful not to stuff your meta Titles and tried to have different content on every page.

Your website has a service page named “eco friendly fur coats“.

It also has a blog post that explain how eco-friendly the coats are. Even though the content is different, the URLs and page names are very similar “fur coats are eco-friendly“.

Consequence: Even though you were careful, search engines are still confused and don’t know which page to rank for the keyword “eco-friendly fur coats” or the keyword “fur coats eco-friendly”. After all they are both very similar and any of the two pages could be relevant.

 

Don’t make Google choose, tell her* how to rank your website!

website cannibalism
Pretty much how Google sees your website.

 

Here are all the advantages of fixing cannibalism:

Content quality: If you keep writing about the same topic over and over again, chances are you’re gonna repeat yourself. Even if you avoid having duplicate content, your content quality will not be at its best.

SEO Juice: When you have 10 sites linking to 5 pages, that’s 2 external links each. If you have only one page, it gets 10 links. Basic maths.

SEO Weight: If you manage to merge your competing pages into one long, interesting page, not only the UX will be better, but the SEO weight of your new page will be much greater.

Conversions: Choose the page with the best Conversion rate and improve that one. No need to send visitors to low conversion rate pages.

 

How to fix cannibalism in a few, quick steps.

Know your web site exact Information Architecture. Use Google Search to find out what Google knows about your website. Go to Google and search for “site:yoursite.com keyword”. You should see something like this:

how to fix cannibalism

Now if you think that result #2 and result #3 are actually very similar, here is what you can do:

Option 1: Merge them into one strong page. Keep the strongest (the one that ranks the best for that keyword), and add the content from the weakest page. Once you’re done don’t forget to do a redirection 301 (permanent) to tell Google that your content has moved. Here is what it looks like in a .htaccess file, in case you’re wondering:

RedirectMatch 301 development http://www.noblepixels.com/web-development-services/

Option 2: Re-align the content of one of the pages. I recommend you pick the weakest (the lowest in term of page rank or traffic depending on your goals) and change the content so it’s clear what it does. In our case, I would focus more on the values and ethic of web development so there is no ambiguity. When you’re done, put a link on the modified page to the main page with the proper anchor. Like this:

Find out more about development.

 

Extra bonus points for making it to the bottom of this article on keyword cannibalism

Well done, you probably care a lot about fixing your website’s cannibalism situation. So I’m gonna give you a few more advice.

Map down your Information Architecture. You think you know your website like the back of your hand? Well, maybe you do. But are you 100% certain that your WordPress hasn’t generated tag pages or category pages? Worst, did you forget to remove the “hello World” article? Take a look at your sitemap to be sure.

100% Optimized. Have you heard about “long tail” or “niche”? They are perfect for fixing cannibalism. Instead of having 5 pages on your website competing for one keyword, make sure each page competes for a different keyword. You’ll have your main page “fur coats” and then 4 differents “smaller” keywords targeted like “duck fur coats”, “organic fur coats”, “synthetic fur coats”, “sustainable fur clothe line”. Make sure you use 100% of your content. You can use Moz Keyword Explorer to better find what keywords to target.

Get indexed in minutes! despite how scammy that title sounds like, you can actually get indexed in minutes. Connect to Google Search Console and click on your website (assuming you already added it). Then, in the left column, go to Crawl and click on “Fetch as Google“.

Google search console

Then you simply add your modified pages or new pages one by one and request submit to index. If you’re submiting a page with a lot of links you can ask for this page and its direct links to be indexed as well.

Google will then index your content in minutes, which should motivate you to fix keyword cannibalism right now.

 

*Yes, Google is a lady.