Google has been rolling out updates and changes for a while now, and every time there is a “significant” update, the web stirs up with analysis and break downs on what the changes are, who got penalized, and what percentage of websites are affected. These changes really affect the SEO industry as a whole and the firms that provide SEO services, but they also affect every business that employs an SEO company to handle search engine optimization for them.
First off, if you are reading this, just relax. Google makes updates and changes daily to their search algorithms. Occasionally there are “major” updates which affect a large number of websites. From my perspective, Google really has 3 main goals in doing any updates to its ranking factors: 1) increase the speed of delivering content, 2) deliver the most relevant results, and 3) reduce the amount of spam and manipulative practices in the search results.
Rand Fishkin at SEOmoz summed it up best when he said “I personally care less about what Google actually uses as ranking elements in their massive algorithm than on what kinds of sites and pages tend to perform well.” I commented on that, saying “Going back to keyword density percentages all the way up to the debated 60% anchor text threshold – who cares what the percentages are or where the line is. The reason sites rank well is that they follow actual best practices in design, development, hosting, backlink profiles, and social influence. I’ve found that if you can provide users value in those main areas, the rankings and organic traffic will be in your favor.”
What Google is trying to do is to create a search engine that imitates real life. If something is relevant in real life, it should be relevant online. That is why branding has become so important. So much so in fact that brands tend to do well in Google because of the established trust and credibility that comes with being a recognized brand. Branding is the whole package – your look, feel, message, influence, and reputation. Your ranking in Google is leaning towards those items as well, but in search engine terms, its trust, authority, backlink profiles, content, website architecture, social influence, and user metrics (to name a few).
SEO isn’t about just knowing how to adjust titles, meta data, and add some backlinks anymore. Its becoming more difficult and requires a knowledge of real marketing tactics like branding, advertising, conversion rate optimization, outreach, networking, and engagement.
In the end, I think Google is getting it right. Yes, it makes our jobs harder as SEO consultants, but it rewards those that are actually good at marketing and branding – and that creates long term sustainability for our clients.
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