Google algorithm updates: Fear and loathing online

by Stratton Craig

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Three words strike fear into the online marketer’s heart – Google algorithm update.
But these words are also what keep digital marketing agencies in work. After all, the basics of SEO can be picked up from the thousands of blog posts published online each day, it’s keeping up with Google that takes time, skill and a thirst for all things technical.
Google tries to keep changes light-hearted, giving its updates names like ‘Penguin’, ‘Panda’ and ‘Venice’ – anything to detract from the potentially huge impacts on your website if you haven’t been link building ethically (whether you knew it or not), or you haven’t kept up-to-date with ever-changing SEO best practice. Of course, the harder SEO gets the more attractive PPC becomes and the more money Google makes from your paid marketing strategies – it’s no coincidence that Google is worth an estimated $197billion (£122billion).
But it’s important to remember that while it’s irritating, time-consuming and expensive for website owners to have their strategies at the beck and call of Google’s technical bods, for users it’s often a blessing. Algorithm updates mean search results are becoming more and more relevant and tailored to individual preferences and search trends, so when you search for ‘washing machines’ you’re presented with white goods retailers or relevant sites to your local area (if you’re signed in to Google), and you’re not bombarded with affiliate sites packed full of useless information and banner ads.
Panda and Penguin were both designed to downgrade over-optimised websites, or de-index those sites simply set up to offer backlinks to websites – this in turn saw many websites lose rankings for big keywords if they had relied heavily on such sites to prop up page one rankings for top generic keywords. The natural backlink profile has never been such a sought after commodity before.
On the back of recent updates, it’s important to ensure that websites meet new criteria. Here are a few top tips for how to do just that:
It is no longer enough to provide content for content’s sake (blogs, guest blogs, web copy etc), it should be of benefit and interest to your audience. Quite frankly it’s about time the idea of quality over quantity was rewarded by the search engines. If you don’t think your audience will read it and be interested enough to share it with their friends/colleagues, don’t bother writing it.
Think about upping your social media presence – it can help with your visibility in the search results (particularly for brand terms), as well as your chance to listen to your audience and market your wares to them accordingly (but that’s another story).
Keep your web copy fresh and relevant – regularly updating your strategies based on cold, hard evidence (Google Analytics is a good place to start).
Link building it still important, it’s the backbone of SEO and has been since the dawn of online marketing. But we beg you, please, don’t pay for those links, don’t relentlessly build links using the same terms – it’s not that simple and it can take a long time to achieve.
Ask yourself this:

  • Google updates its algorithms more than 500 times a year – are you up to date with the latest changes?
  • “If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative” – according to David Ogilvy, nicknamed ‘The Father of Advertising’ –are you concentrating on what your audience wants, as opposed to what you want to create?
  • Spelling mistakes can drastically cut online sales – are you ensuring your website is credible by having relevant, well-written, typo-free content?

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