Each year Google makes on average 500 changes to it’s search engine algorithms. Some of these are small incremental changes, some however are fundamental to the way we see the web. This relentless pace of change is actually speeding up, so we all need to know and understand enough in order for us not to have our business websites damaged irreparably.
The focus here is on Google as in the UK over 90% of all search is done via Google, albeit Microsoft’s Bing is applying a good amount of competitive pressure, but it’s still a way off in terms of overall impact.
So what’s the reason for all the changes I hear you say? Well the search market is maturing, people (SEO companies) are becoming more and more sophisticated in manipulating the search results and the revenue that Google is getting is plateauing. This latter fact will clearly put extra pressure on Google to maintain their lead in the search market and they can only do this by continually improving search results for the user.
For many of you I can hear you say “why does this matter to me? My site is fine.”
The truth is that, depending on how clean your SEO team has been, future Google updates could have a massive impact on how you are viewed on the web (this is not just about B2C it is the same for B2B)
As an example of this, in February 2011 Google introduced the Panda update, in it’s first version it affected over 12% of all English language results. The Google algorithm looked at the content on a site in order to determine which site had quality content and which sites were just repeating, copying or plagiarising content from other sites.
Not you? Possibly not if you’re a B2B site, but in April 2012 Google then rolled out the Penguin update. This affected 3.1% of all English language search queries.
The Penguin update sought to decrease the ranking of sites that had unnatural ‘back-link’ profiles (a back-link is a link from someone else’s site to yours). This building of backlinks has been the bread and butter of most SEO companies for years, some do it in a sensible way, some not so much so. Many of the websites affected by just these two updates have never recovered.
Q. Do you know what your SEO team or agency has been doing on your behalf?
So, in order to stay ahead of the game and keep in Google’s good graces, what can you do to future proof yourself?
1. Keep your eye on the ball. Keeping abreast of what Google is doing is key. If your site is managed by an agency, ask them what’s going on – do they provide you with a summary of changes?
2. Google yourself. When you look at your website in search results, how does it look? It’s not just about you; it’s also about what your competitors are doing. Your agency might tell you that you’re at position 8 – great I hear you say – but for that particular search term Google may only show 7 results on the first page. Also, don’t forget that when you do Google yourself you should do it in “incognito mode (Google Chrome Browser), because your normal search results are altered by your own search history, otherwise you won’t see what the rest of the world sees.
3. Keep your bounce rates low. If you find that people are coming to your site, looking only at the one page and them leaving it suggests to Google (and to your users) that they’re not really interested in your content.
Whilst in the past this has not really been that much of an issue, Google is reportedly starting to use “User Behaviour” as an additional signal in its ranking algorithm.
4. Engagement. Create content that your target users will be engaged in, let them post comments (and respond to them). Google is looking for real interaction with the user before it starts to consider the site to have any real authority.
5. Social Media. It may not sell your product in the short term, but understanding what the users think and engaging them in your topic is important. Link your content from your website to Facebook and G+, let users find you and interact with you in multiple ways, this will help Google validate that people want and use your site.
The key to all of this is creating a site with quality content that is being updated on a regular basis. The question for Google is that if the content is right then the user will come back to the site again and again, the user will also use and share the content (this creates high quality links to your site).
If your site is outdated and has little or no content of value, or your SEO agency have been less than perfect in their SEO effectiveness practices to get you to the top of page 1, then it may be time to look at your internet strategy in a little more depth.