The updates made by Google over the past few years, referred to as Panda and Penguin, and the many many minor updates, have dramatically changed the world of SEO. Gone are the easy days of SEO when stuffing a bunch of keywords in the right places was almost guaranteed to get you better search results. The ranking signals Google uses have changed. Some have all but disappeared in the weighting of the search results and others have been introduced and taken a prominent role in determining what web pages make the top of Google searches. The focus has shifted to content, fresh content, quality content, social exposure, and well performing site architecture and technology. Low Quality Content Not that quality has been ignored in the past, but now it is crucially important. Quality content follows the rules that you would need to pass to get high marks in your writing classes. Proper spelling, proper punctuation, good grammar, and everything else you should have learned but maybe didn't think was important. If you can't get good marks in a university level English class, then Google won't think much of your content either. Be mindful of whom is writing the content for your site. Ensure their writing skills are high quality. If necessary, review past content and bring the quality up to the new requirements. Freshness Counts When did you last post content on your site? How often do you provide your audience with more reasons to read about what you have to offer? Old content is stale content and if your website visitors would not spend the time to go over old stuff, why would Google. Build into your marketing process a regular dose of content creation. Originality Counts, Too What do you say that sounds like everyone else? If you can slap a competitor logo on your site and no body will know the difference? Then not only is your value proposition too bland, so is your marketing. Make your writing unique. Make it personal. Make it stand out from the mindless dribble that so many people try to pass off as content. Consider setting up your content writers with Google + accounts and tagging the content so Google knows who wrote it. This will become increasingly powerful in the later half of 2013 and beyond. Social Impact Your social media marketing must be active. This means more than copying and pasting your website content onto your Facebook or Google + page. If your social marketing plan it to simply re-tweet mentions of your brand, then stop right now. You are wasting time and resources. An active social media strategy needs something useful to talk about. Share more than blog posts, more than your company picnic photos, more than your promotional offers. Social media is not free, it is a resource time requirement. Do it right, and results will come. Technically Sound Architecture How old it the technology of your site? Do you rely on code that is outdated such as tables, frames, or Flash? You may be seeing a ratings downgrade by being built to old standards. Does your site produce error messages? These pages are worse than bad content, they get your ratings penalized. Consider also the performance of your website across the various browsing platforms and devices. Mobile counts, as do the wide variety of operating systems. Keep refining your site until your pages work, without errors or omissions, using current web standards.