Every year, search engine algorithms undergo a major overhaul.

We’ve had the Hummingbird update, the Penguin, the Panda and many, many more. And with each one, came a new set of rules to remember – things search engines do/don’t like, what will get you penalized, what will help you rank higher, etc.

The truth is, keeping up with all these changes can be difficult – especially if SEO or digital marketing isn’t your full-time job.

Sure, you want to make sure your website is performing its best, but when you have other things on your plate, you can’t very well go changing your site every other month at Google’s whim.
We get it.

Heck, those updates are hard for even our pros to keep up with! And that’s why we want to help.

We’ve combed through all the algorithm changes, looked at recent stats and studies, and determined the absolute, most crucial SEO changes in recent years.
Take a look through the list, and make sure your website is all set for success – and high search rankings – in 2015.

1. Cut out those keywords.

Some might argue that Meta keywords are where it all began for SEO – the spark that launched it as a real and viable business strategy. And while it’s true, keywords did work for a time, that time is long gone now.

Like most first-round strategies usually do, Meta keywords quickly got overused and misused. People filled their tags to the brim with useless and unrelated keywords, and search engines could no longer consider them as true indicators of a website’s quality anymore.

Today, keywords are virtually nonexistent to search engines. They don’t consider them at all in their rankings of a web page. So stop wasting time, and just kick those keywords to the curb!

2. Integrate complementary phrases and keywords.

Gone are the days when content needs to be littered with precise keywords in every paragraph, heading and sentence. Now, search engines actually value TF-IDF, also known as term frequency-inverse document frequency.

At its simplest, this means you shouldn’t just be including a handful of keywords in your content; you should also include variations of the keywords, as well as other words and phrases commonly used in conjunction with those. According to search engines, this means your content is more authentic – and useful – than content that doesn’t include these complementary words.
Confused? Well, let’s look at an example. Say you were writing a blog post about the best rated brands of ketchup. “Ketchup,” or maybe “best ketchup,” would be one of your main keyword terms. But maybe you’d also include “Heinz,” “hamburger” or even “mustard.” These are all words commonly used in tandem with “ketchup,” and they can help boost the authenticity of your site and your content, thus helping your search rankings.

3. Make sure your Meta descriptions convert.

While Meta keywords might be out, Meta descriptions are still a crucial component of any good digital marketing campaign. Not only should they include a few keywords and phrases, but they should also be as close to the maximum length as possible (150 characters.)

Additionally, it’s important to remember that Meta descriptions are what customers see in search results – they’re not just another mark on your SEO checklist. Those descriptions need to be worded persuasively, and they should speak directly to the searcher and their needs.

Not only does this improve your click-through rates, but because CTRs are one of the biggest considerations of search engines today, it can help boost your rankings, too.

4. Cross promote on social sites.

Social media isn’t going anywhere, and if this recent study shows us anything, it’s that they’re growing. Search engines are still considering social content a significant factors in their rankings, with Google+ posts holding the most clout, followed by Facebook shares, Facebook totals, Facebook comments and Pinterest. Facebook likes and Tweets also factor in.

No matter what industry you’re in, there’s a social outlet fitting for your audience. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or just LinkedIn, sign up and start promoting your content and reaching out. Your customers – and search engines – will reward you for it.

5. Go Mobile.

Take a second and pull up your website on your smartphone. How does it look? Can you tell what all the images are, read the copy and find all the menus and navigation buttons? Does the page load quickly and easily?

If you didn’t answer a resounding “yes” to all these questions, then it’s time to make some changes – and fast. Google and other search engines are now weighing mobile usabilty heavily in their rankings, and if your site doesn’t function or display properly on alternate devices, your rankings are going to drop – and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Work with a developer or designer who can make your site mobile-friendly or, better yet, make it responsive, so that it displays correctly on any device, any time – no matter what brand or screen size it is.

Want another way to boost your search rankings and digital marketing efforts? Then download our free Insider Keyword Tips toolkit. It will help you choose the best possible keywords for your campaign.

Author Info

Brad Parnell
Founder & CEO

Brad is the Founder & CEO of Steadfast Creative, leading the team in exploring new ways to solve creative problems and bringing direction and vision for the company. His passion is building relationships, providing solutions and empowering his team to send new ideas out into the world. With over 10 years of agency experience serving local and national brands, he is focused on results for his clients and team. Outside of  work, Brad serves on the board of directors at his local Chamber of Commerce and loves giving back to the community and spending time with his wife and kids.