Suzanne Collins’ "Hunger Games" is a pop culture phenomenon, with the trilogy taking us on a post-apocalyptic journey where "tributes" fight to the death and Katniss Everdeen dispels the Capitol.
What does this have to do with SEO? More than you think.
We hear "may the odds be ever in your favor" throughout the series, and it stands true for some SEO tactics. Implement them and hope Google’s odds are in your favor.
Also known as structured data, schema enables site owners to mark-up their site to create richer organic listings in the SERPS. You can pull information such as:
- Local businesses
- TV episodes and ratings
- Book Reviews
- Software Applications
Implementing schema can be a bit tricky, as Google takes time to show your new markup, oftentimes not populating it at all.
You just have to publish and, like the Hunger Games, hope the odds are ever in your favor.
Luckily, Google eases troubleshooting by providing a report in Search Console showing you which pages are marked up, how many items your site is populating and any items with errors.
KissMetrics also has a great step-by-step blog post on how to implement schema.
If you’ve practiced SEO chances are you’ve been through a site relaunch/redesign. With a myriad of moving parts, SEOs must ensure proper redirects are at the top of the list.
There are two main types of redirects: 301 and 302. The main difference is the 301 passes the SEO equity from an old page to its corresponding new page, while the 302 does not.
Many times SEOs run into a situation where someone has implemented a 302 redirect, forcing the new page to start from scratch in terms of SEO equity.
Sometimes even with the proper procedures in place this can happen. After all mistakes happen. You can only hope the odds were in your favor during a site relaunch and all proper redirects were used.
Even when properly filled out, Google may pull in different information than what you’ve written in your meta data, and meta descriptions are the worst culprit.
Keeping a pulse on what meta data is pulling in for your key pages is a must. While meta descriptions may not be a ranking factor anymore, they’re the first bit of text a user sees when searching for your product/service, so it must be enticing and contain keywords.
Throughout the series, the Mockingjay becomes a symbol of hope that unifies the rebellion. The SEO community has plenty of important animals to unify them, and Panda and Penguin are at the top of the list.
Below is a quick cheat sheet for the latest updates to these algo refreshes.
Created originally to help fight poor quality content, a lot has happened to Panda since its inception. In August, there were reports that Panda 4.2 was slowly rolling out, with Google planning to continuously refresh rather than issue specific updates.
Instead of entire sites being hit by Panda, the update would function on a page-by-page basis.
Fast forward to January 2016, and Search Engine Land reported Panda is now, “baked into their [Google’s] main algorithm.” Andrey Lipattsev, Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, shared some insight into what this means:
“It’s less about the functionality, which means it probably doesn’t change that much over time, and it is more about how we perceive it, in the context of the algorithm. Do we still think this is an experimental thing, it is running for a while and we aren’t sure how long it will last? Or is it like PageRank, it is part of it, it will always be there, at least in the foreseeable future and then probably call it in certain context part of the core algorithm.”
The biggest takeaway is that quality content that’s well thought out and serves the user is essential.
Penguin was created to find sites that use spam techniques such as buying links or using link networks designed to help boost Google rankings.
There have been many refreshes and updates to Penguin over the years. Penguin 4.0 is slated to go live in Q1 of 2016, but it is really anyone’s guess.
We did hear back in December 2015 that, “with the holidays upon us, it looks like the penguins won’t march until next year.”
The Rules are Always Changing
Reality shifts at any moment in the Hunger Games, and the same goes for SEO. Search engines are constantly maximizing results for the user, so SEOs must keep pace.
How to Avoid Major Penalties from Algorithm Updates
Start with best practices techniques, not tactics that might bolster immediate results. Some tried-and-true tactics include:
- Avoid keyword stuffing
- Don’t buy links to grow your backlink portfolio
- Create compelling useful content
Learn on Your Feet
Just like in The Hunger Games, SEO is about learning quickly and revamping based on results.
Just because it worked last year doesn’t mean it will now, so keep up-to-date on industry news and network with other SEOs to help keep those skills sharp.
Test, Test, Test
Much in the way Katniss increasingly tested the Capitol’s limits, testing is an integral part of SEO.
Publish and Measure
Every site can have different results, and what performs well on one may fall flat elsewhere. Create baselines and measure effects in test windows anywhere from 30 to 90 days.
Conducting an A/B test in SEO differs from other marketing A/B testing because you must consider duplicate content, but is essential to justify further investment in promising areas.
Whatever tactics you are using/planning to try in your SEO program, remember testing should be at the heart of your program.
The Hunger Games may be a book for tweens, but serves up a few lessons for SEO as well.
Next time you find yourself wondering what what’s next in your SEO program, ask yourself, “What would Katniss do?”