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Is it time for a new SEO strategy?

Google's new personalized search has changed the rankings game for many companies, forcing them to rethink how they implement and measure Search Engine Optimization for their websites.

Google now ranks site content based on individual search behaviors, preferences, etc. derived from the user's web history. That means your company's website may now rank higher or lower in Google searches based on a person's previous activity. For example, if someone has spent time on, or completed a transaction on your competitor's site in the past, this company will be selected as more relevant to the Google servers and will be ranked higher.

Yet many companies still review ranking reports that indicate where their site would show up in Google if personalization weren't in effect. Worse, some companies may be looking at their rankings through the filter of their own web behavior and misleading themselves that their website ranks better than it really does. This makes most ranking reports -- previously a key barometer for SEO success -- unreliable.
What's the solution? Well, first you have to shift your focus to how to improve traffic and conversions on your site -- regardless of your ranking. And you can do this by employing content marketing, social media engagement and advertising & pubic relations.

By publishing frequent, desirable, high quality content you will encourage more links to your site by people who want to share, bookmark, repost, etc. And since sites with greater page and domain authority (meaning higher relevance, fresher content) rank higher in Google search, it's a win/win. Of course, this means you need to develop consistent content AND have a plan in place to market this content so that users will discover and link to it.

Social media engagement is also critical since Google continues to regard it as significant to its ranking algorithm. This means you should leverage your content marketing and actively engage with consumers every day. Because if you don't, and your competitors do, your site will be at a disadvantage when ranked by Google.

Finally, you should be advertising and utilizing public relations to drive consumers to your site. You can do this via key word search marketing, targeted online ads, e-mailings or conventional offline media that includes a call-to-action that leads to your landing page. You should also write articles for online and offline media, post on other sites, and otherwise solicit media attention that includes links to your site. This aids rankings because Google's algorithm assumes that if users get to your page via an ad or an article and then convert (spend time on your site) that your site is providing a quality user experience.

Take a look at Tablet Hotels (, for example. This is a content rich site that puts itself in front of consumers during the all important research phase of their travel planning. Tablet markets its content via weekly emailings, promotional drawings, social media and advertising -- with an emphasis on informational queries versus transactions. This is consistent with how Google uses key ranking factors like time on site, bounce rate, and pages per visit rather than e-commerce conversions. The same strategy could be applied to many businesses, regardless of whether there is an e-commerce element. And this process complements brand-building rather than compromising it in the pursuit of SEO.