How Google Updates Have Permanently Changed the Face of SEO
By John Terra, Media Shower
Once upon a time, if an individual or a business wanted to make sure their site ranked near the top of search results, they engaged in a number of tactics collectively known as Search Engine Optimization, or SEO for short. Although there are a plethora of terms describing various SEO types (black hat, white hat, internal, external), it all boiled down to this: Do whatever it takes to get the site at the top of search results and drive that traffic to the site itself by any means, fair or foul.
Today, SEO rules are in a continuous state of evolution. The Internet's 600-pound gorilla of search engines, Google, is intent on improving the quality of the material that comes up in search results by changing their algorithms. But rather than lament the end of free-wheeling, dubious SEO methods, site owners should see this as a valuable tool in business reputation management.
Novus Ordo Seclorum
Welcome to the New World Order according to Google. Thanks to past updates like Panda and Penguin, the algorithms have changed. Rather than look at links and keywords as the deciding factors of a high search ranking, these updates now penalize backlinks and over-use of keywords. Whereas once you could easily flood the Internet with press releases, posts, and articles that were little more than link-infested spam, now such practices will result in a dramatically lower search ranking, if not outright removal.
An Emphasis on Share-ability
Forget advertorials (an advertisement that looks like an editorial), link spamming, invisible text, over-dependence on questionable key words, and the other pre-Penguin and Panda tricks. What Google wants to see now is original, real content created by original, real people; content that attracts the user's attention because it's well-written, relevant and enjoyable.
Such content is eagerly shared with friends, family and acquaintances, which shows Google that the material is real, not some canned, generated garbage simply meant to inflate search rankings. Google's updates change search rankings so that shares, replies and views matter more. Companies who try to trick the system so that their sites come out on top are punished.
You Can Tell Someone's Character by the Company They Keep
Google isn't the only search engine out there. Consequently, it is incumbent upon them to make sure that their search results point to relevant, useful content that people will want to interact with, because if they don't, then their competitors will. If a Google search result steers you toward garbage, it is easy to declare Google to be garbage as well. Thus, Google introduces game-changing updates to make sure that the sites who engage in questionable practices vanish, or at least are relegated to the deep dark depths of a search results. Let's face it: no one plumbs those depths, so a site relegated to the bottom may as well just be banned outright.
Wanted: People Who Can String Words Together
Instead of seeing the changes to SEO as an irritating obstacle to achieving search results dominance, site owners should use this as an opportunity to bring in new talent that can generate quality content, not limited just to articles, but also images, video and info-graphics. If your site has engaging content that informs as well as entertains, people will stay longer and are likely to share links with their friends.
The thing to bear in mind is that a site engaging in questionable tactics to improve their search rank is actually only winning a Pyrrhic victory. Certainly, some unsuspecting user may click on their link, but once they see how they've been hoodwinked, the reaction will be to get off the site quickly, taking their business with them. And rest assured, if the user is disgusted enough, that news will get out to others. So yes, congratulations on being ranked first on Google's search results; too bad no one wants to spend any money on your site. Enjoy being Number One, because your reputation has turned into Number Two.
Granted, bringing in professionals to produce quality content will cost, but in the long run, if the improved material brings more hits to the website and consequently increased sales, it's a worthwhile investment to make.
Is SEO a Goner?
No, the concept of SEO is most emphatically not dead yet. What is happening, however, is that SEO is being put on notice that it must change its wicked ways, or perish.
Byline: John Terra is a freelance writer who refuses to buy products if their commercials are stupid. He considers the principle also applies to websites.