WordPress 4.9.1 is now available. This is a security and maintenance release for all versions since WordPress 3.7. We strongly encourage you to update your sites immediately.
WordPress versions 4.9 and earlier are affected by four security issues which could potentially be exploited as part of a multi-vector attack. As part of the core team’s ongoing commitment to security hardening, the following fixes have been implemented in 4.9.1:
Use a properly generated hash for the newbloguser key instead of a determinate substring.
Add escaping to the language attributes used on html elements.
Ensure the attributes of enclosures are correctly escaped in RSS and Atom feeds.
Search engines like Google update their algorithms so frequently, and it can be dizzying to know how to get your site ranked the way you want. One thing is clear, however: keywords just aren’t enough to get you the traffic you want.
So what will give you results when it comes to SEO? According to Google’s latest algorithm, Hummingbird, you need to build sitewide trust.
Trust is the core component of Google’s relevancy-oriented search, and without it, you won’t be relevant.
Building real trust with Google isn’t easy. The smarter the system gets, the harder it can be to rank. But don’t worry just yet. There are things you can do to ensure that your site still ranks the way you want it to.
Why Google’s SEO Algorithms Matter
Google’s algorithm rules aren’t arbitrary: they have a purpose. Before you can improve your SEO ranking, you have to understand the ultimate motivation.
Google’s main goal is to deliver the most relevant search results as fast as possible.
They use deep neural networks of data to create a system that can think like the human brain, or attempt to, anyway. This approach is called “deep learning” and it’s used all across the Internet to improve user experience.
It’s ultimately an effort to help computers process information the same way humans do.
So when you search for “best website design ideas,” you get results based not only on your query, but on your search history, what other people are searching for, and what sites have content that closely resembles what the engine thinks you mean.
The smarter that the algorithms get – the more humanlike – the harder it is to “game” the system. Plugging your site with random keywords doesn’t work anymore, because Google can see through your attempt to keyword stuff.
Instead, you have to get Google to trust you. How do you do this?
In a book entitled SEO 2017: Master Search Engine Optimization, R.L. Adamslays the groundwork: You build trust with age, authority and content.
Building Trust with Age
You may think that using age as a ranking factor puts newer sites at a disadvantage, but know that with Google, age is more than a number.
Google relies on its relationship with your site over time to judge whether or not you’re trustworthy enough to list on the first few pages. Time is still a factor – the longer it knows you exist, the more likely you will be to rank – but if it sees that you produce value for visitors over time (you have heavy traffic, your site gets linked to, you produce frequent content, etc.), your relationship will improve.
For sites that have been around longer, this gives you an automatic boost to your rankings, which may come as a relief. For newer sites, or those that post less frequently, you will still have to build up your reputation over time.
Keep in mind that age doesn’t necessarily mean when you launched your site, though. Age refers to the indexed age, meaning when Google actually discovered you first. So if you had a site for a while but haven’t done anything with it until now, you will still be a baby in Google’s eyes.
Building Trust with Authority
If you don’t have age in your favor, you can also boost your ranking with authority.
In the past, you would build authority through your Google PageRank. The higher on the scale of 1-10 your site sat, the more trusted it would be. If you could link to more established (higher ranking) sites, you could boost your own score.
While Google still uses PageRank as a factor in SEO, they no longer gives public access to PageRank ratings, making it impossible to know how you actually fare. Instead, Google uses Domain Authority to determine the trustworthiness of your site.
Domain Authority is a score (100 points) developed by Moz that predicts how well a website will rank on search engine result pages (SERP). While it’s not a direct replacement for PageRank, it does allow you to see where your site sits in the rankings.
What makes Domain Authority helpful is that it gives you a way to measure the strength of your links. You can see exactly which sites are giving you the best boosts and which links are altogether worthless for your ranking power.
A few ways to improve your Domain Authority include:
Optimizing your internal links – Making sure links go to relevant content, use natural anchors that make sense to users, are linked to the right keywords, etc.
Creating more link-worthy content – Avoiding keyword stuffing, but creating content that does link out to other sites
Pursuing higher quality links – Linking to trustworthy (older, more established) sources, putting your site in a directory like Google My Business, Yelp, TripAdvisor and the Better Business Bureau, etc.
Running link audits – Eliminating broken or bad links as often as possible
The better links you have (the better your link profile is), the better your Domain Authority will be.
Building Trust with Content
The other thing that Google looks for when building trust is fresh, quality content.
When you publish quality content on a regular basis, you give Google more opportunities to index your site for links as well as for targeted keywords (yes, keywords still matter).
Frequently adding content, like blogs or articles, allows you to optimize the article with pertinent keywords that can attract visitors to your site, and provides you additional ways to link to authoritative sources and higher ranking sites.
The trick is that your content has to deliver genuine value. In the past, Google’s algorithms would look at the number and frequency of keywords being used throughout the content on your site to determine relevancy.
But the trouble with this is that Google’s new algorithms actually punish keyword stuffing. Instead, the algorithm looks for specific keywords or keyphrases (even “natural language” search phrases and questions) that fall into the content naturally.
In other words, the keywords have to make sense in context – and yes, Google can tell.
This means that for content to help you build your credibility, it has to:
Be popular enough to attract traffic
Include relevant keywords naturally
Provide enough value that users share and save it
Include meta tags, title tags and descriptions
Be published frequently
The good news is that you can publish as much content as you want, as long as it’s high-quality. This can be one of the best strategies for newer sites looking to rank higher in SERPs, since Google will still build a relationship with your content even if you haven’t been around for long enough to have age or link authority.
If you want to create a site that ranks under Google’s new SEO algorithm, you have to focus on building a relationship with Google and steer clear of smarmy tactics like keyword stuffing or over-linking.
Thanks to Artificial Intelligence, Google thinks and acts more like a human when it processes your site, meaning that, in a way, it’s judging what you have out there.
In order to make sure it trusts your content, you want to produce content that offers value for searchers, build natural links and relationships with other high-ranking sites, and stick around long enough for Google to see you.
Ask us what we can do to help. It’s easier than you think.
Social networks, for example, can be a great way to drive traffic to your blog. But they are not the most dominant force out there. Similarly, advertising on social networks can be effective, but only for the length of time you are running them and shelling out cash. It’s yet another machine which, with rare exceptions, does not compound upon its success. This is why the vast majority of top bloggers, even those spending a lot of time promoting themselves on social media, will tell you that social media is not where they get the majority of their traffic from.
An influencer in this space who knows this all too well, Darren Rowse, runs ProBlogger, a website with a huge following that teaches bloggers how to create and grow their blog. I heard him speak to this issue of — where bloggers get traffic — on his podcast, so I reached out to him to get more detail.
“Most bloggers that I talk with admit to focusing most of their promotional efforts on social media,” he said. “However, when you dig into where most established bloggers get the majority of their actual traffic, the answer I often hear is from Google. It seems to me that many bloggers are overlooking one of the biggest and most lucrative sources of traffic: search. The lure of viral traffic from social is strong but if bloggers put a little bit of time each day into their search strategy instead, I believe they would be far more successful.”
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is really the only traffic-driving force that has the potential to one day cross the bell-curve and work passively in your favor. The chances of someone stumbling across your social post from a year ago and sharing it with their audience, for example, is highly unlikely. And yet year-old blog posts constantly find their way to the top of search queries and continue to bring in big ticket traffic for websites that understand the value of quality content.
For example, according to a study by Hubspot, “66 percent of marketers say improving SEO and growing their organic presence is their top inbound marketing priority. Similarly, a report by Ascend2 stated, “72 percent of marketers say relevant content creation was the most effective SEO tactic.”
So, what are the steps to creating content with an SEO strategy in mind?
1. Start with relevant keywords, and search for the low-hanging fruit.
You need a firm grasp on what people in your industry or niche are searching for in order to create successful content. A few ways you can do this:
Use Google’s keyword planner, or a tool like Ubersuggest.
Search keywords on Quora, and look for what questions people are asking.
Do a few web searches with those related keywords to see who is currently dominating the first two pages of search.
Once you have a sense of what people are searching for surrounding your area of expertise or interest, you can start to cater your content toward the keywords that are not as competitive. For example, ranking on the first page for “social media” is going to be much harder than if you were to try rank for something more targeted like “real estate social media strategy.”
2. Create long-form content for better searchability.
Marketers often talk about how today’s online readers have short attention spans, but I don’t buy this for a minute. Readers don’t hate long form content, they hate bad content. They hate bad content even more when it’s long. If the content is great content, then they want even more of it.
A study by Buzzsumo found that long-form content between 3,000 and 10,000 words ended up performing the best online. In fact, according to the study, “There are 16 times more content with less than 1,000 words than there were content with 2,000+ words.”
What this means is that trying to stand out with short-form content in a world of saturated short-form content is extremely difficult. However, if you come in wielding long-form, keyword specific, valuable content, you are far more likely to rise to the top of the rankings and accumulate more organic search traffic. Just make sure it’s great content people actually want to read.
3. Establish a network of backlinks from other websites.
If understanding the landscape is step one, and creating valuable content is step two, then step three is expanding your reach and having other blogs and websites point to your website via backlinks. According to Hubspot, “Companies that blog have 97 percent more inbound links.”
Here are a few ways you can get websites and content publishers to link back to your content:
Reach out via email to relevant content publishers in your space or market, and let them know about your content piece. Ask them if it’s a good fit for their audience, and if so, to feel free to share it.
Create a similar piece of content for another website, and link back to your own content as an added resource or reference.
Quote or otherwise include relevant content creators in your space in your content, and when you publish it, tag them in your social media posts with the article. Do you think they’ll share it? Of course they will!
The key is to get what you’ve created in front of the right people, whether that’s through email outreach, social media or even good old fashioned networking.
With SEO there’s bad news, and there’s good news. The bad news is that SEO is a long-term strategy, which means you’ll need to do a lot of work for a long time to get consistently great results. The good news is that because it’s a long-term strategy, most of your competitors won’t focus on it, and then you win.