If you have a business website, an SEO strategy is probably high on your list of priorities. At least, it should be. And although SEO today isn’t what it once was, optimizing your website and content for search engines will most likely continue be a relevant concern. Why? Well, Google, since it is by far the most-used search engine today, in turn monopolizes the way we market our content and business sites. We are reactive. When their algorithms change for organic search results and rank, our SEO strategies change accordingly.
But don’t misinterpret a reactive relationship for an adversarial one. Our end goal is the same: to make our products as useful to our customers and clients as possible. Google usually updates their rank and search algorithms to help legitimate sites with relevant content to appear further up in the list of results to more closely satisfy a user’s search terms. As their algorithms change, and we subsequently update our own content and website elements to cater to their changes, our leads, prospects, or customers get the information that they need and want. That’s because their algorithms value quality results. And that’s our ultimate goal as a business, right? To be a high-quality result that brings qualified leads to our website, hopefully completing the sales cycle by fostering relationships with pleased customers.
A Note on Organic Vs. Paid Search Results
As we discussed in a previous post, an AdWords update occurred in February of 2016, which affected PPC (pay-per-click) marketing efforts. The placement of paid Google ads were moved to the top of the SERP, and the number of sites shown in the results was increased. The paid results are high-value results as they are highly relevant to the search terms plugged into the search engine. Since organic search results appear below paid results, they are pushed even further down the page. It is now even more important to carefully consider your SEO strategy to make it on the first page of results.
A Move Towards Reducing Spam
Moz shares an easy-to-navigate compilation of many, if not most, confirmed and unconfirmed Google algorithm updates. The SEO community has many running forums and Twitterings that discuss these at length, but for each there are a few key takeaways.
The December 2016 Penguin 4.0 updates started a chain of updates that has continued into 2017 that focus on reducing spam results, or content and pages that do not have high quality content, are not as highly valued by users, or practice “keyword stuffing and linking schemes,” and other undesirables.
Mobile Penalty January 2017: We know now that making your website mobile-friendly is important, and that your site gains traction in search results if it is. An update in January included decreasing the rank value for mobile sites that use interstital overlays or pop-ups that cover page content. That’s basically because this kind of content is annoying for users. They disrupt the experience and are considered less valuable to users because it takes time to navigate away from the interruption to see the page content.
Other unconfirmed or unnamed updates occurred in February and March, and involved user engagement for Search Quality Rating Guidelines, including updates that determined value and re-ranked sites based on links. Broken or deceptive links, for example, were taken into account and devalued sites that employed many of these. The speculation around the March update, nicknamed “Fred,” in the SEO forums, maintained that this update targeted sites that disguised ads as content, but also sites that generate revenue from lead generation, according to Search Engine Land.
Just this week, SEL also reported that mobile is now even more tailored to users: AMPs (a Google project, Accelerated Mobile Pages load pages faster in mobile platforms) can now be featured at the top of the Google mobile search results. Even more motivation to get your site mobile-ized!
Elements that Affect Your Rank
What is commonly known as your Spam Score is certainly an area to consider when updating old SEO practices, because we know that it directly affects your rank. Remember that your SEO practices need to be targeted, but genuine; you don’t want your site to be devalued, or even de-indexed, for being spammy. Yes, that’s a real thing that can happen.
Sometimes, a search algorithm update may change your rankings for the better. There are many elements that Google’s algorithms consider to determine your ranks, from words, to timeliness, to location, and history of traffic, among others. Make sure that you have a trained eye looking at analytics and traffic to (and from) your site. If you haven’t changed anything on your site or in your strategy (or recently posted some amazing content), a marked or unusual change may be a sign that a major update has occurred. Hopefully, it’s both!
The beauty of the way Google works, and why it works, is that they are constantly learning and making changes based on their learnings to make their products better. We would be wise to do the same. Instead of seeing them as an adversary, see them as a (somewhat unpredictable) business partner that keeps you on your toes.
Keep on the lookout for more posts about SEO and other digital marketing trends right here on HuFu’s Level Up blog for tips on how to do just that – make it better. In the meantime, check out our upcoming Breakfast Event, featuring Evan Dean from marketing industry giant, HubSpot, who will teach us more good stuff about how to make a killer business website that earns conversions.