What Business Owners Need to Know About Google's Coming Algorithm Update

I have worked in the SEO industry for 9 years now and I have seen many changes come in the industry in that time. What was best practice when I started is now laughable and will do nothing to get you good rankings. The algorithm that Google uses to rank pages in search results changes all the time. In fact, according to Google it changes, on average, more than once a day. Most changes they make you will never hear of, nor does it impact anything significantly enough that anyone realizes it. Recently, Google announced a change that is coming.

The Announcement

First off, in all my time in the SEO industry I do not recall any time in which Google has announced a change to the algorithm, ahead of the change. This is a little different than other updates that have come in the past. At a technology conference called South by Southwest, or simply SXSW (see the post on Doc’s road trip to SXSW), Matt Cutts, head of Google’s web spam team, made an announcement of sorts when he answered a conference attendee’s question (paraphrased) “what happens when everyone is optimizing and some can afford thousands of dollars a month then the mom and pop shops will never show up”? Matt’s answer was a bit surprising to most SEO’s who attend conferences like this because he essentially pre-announced a change to Google’s algorithm.

What about the people optimizing really hard and doing a lot of SEO. We don’t normally pre-announce changes but there is something we are working in the last few months and hope to release it in the next months or few weeks. We are trying to level the playing field a bit. All those people doing, for lack of a better word, over optimization or overly SEO – versus those making great content and great site. We are trying to make GoogleBot smarter, make our relevance better, and we are also looking for those who abuse it, like too many keywords on a page, or exchange way too many links or go well beyond what you normally expect. We have several engineers on my team working on this right now.

You can listen to the session yourself here. What a refreshing insight for those of us who work in the industry. It is nice to have a little heads up so that we can evaluate our strategies and make sure that we are in line with the update that is coming.

The Update

In a nut shell, the update is targeting the content on websites. More specifically, it is targeting content that is written and presented solely for the purpose of search engine optimization. While this is a new update to the algorithm at Google that will be rolling out in the near future, it is not a new concept for them. They have long stated that they prefer and want to rank the sites that have the most useful and helpful content for their users. This update is simply trying to bring the search results (SERPS) in line with their stated objective.

The Past Results

In the past, although Google has stated that they wanted to rank the most relevant, useful and helpful content at the top of the SEPRS, that has not always been the case. The signals that they have used to rank content (otherwise known as web pages) in the past have not always produced the desired result. It has been possible for some to essentially bully their way to the top by simply overpowering other, more relevant sites with the sheer amount of links and SEO they have done in comparison.

Is There Such a Thing as Too Much of a Good Thing?

The newest update that is coming is being referred to as the over-optimization penalty. While Google has always said that this did not exist in the past, most any SEO will tell you that it did, regardless of what it was called. So what is the difference now? Google is getting better at recognizing all the elements of the content on a page rather than relying so heavily on the links pointing back to the site.

What Does This Means for SEO’S?

For those of us who work in the SEO industry this change will impact in some areas more than others. Many of the changes to the approach that an SEO services company will take as long as they have been doing it right to begin with, will be subtle. The largest change will come in the need to increase our ability to communicate how important great content on a page is going to be in obtaining rankings. In the past, despite clients not implementing the changes we recommended, we often could obtain the desired rankings through link building efforts alone, though it took longer to do so. Now, that may be near impossible after these changes.

What Does This Mean for Business Owners

For a business owner, this is going to mean that there truly is a need to determine what their targeted market wants and deliver it to them. This means that they will be rewarded for their efforts in adding value to the industry space on the web. The time spent to develop out great, valuable content is well worth the effort.

My Professional Conclusion for Business Owners

  1. This change in the Google Algorithm should be one that business owners are happy about and embrace. In the past it was sometimes difficult to merge the business message and the desires on how a business owner wanted to present their content and implement the necessary SEO strategy within the content on the site. This change will merge these two things better.
  2. Your SEO Company will likely be asking you to change and improve your content. Don’t resist this change. Change is good. If you are not a fan of change, you can at least like “change” here.
  3. Good content, in addition to being excellent and valuable to your industry, also refers to how it is arranged and how diverse it is. In other words, use video, pictures, text, bulleted lists, short paragraphs, headers to the sections of content, etc. In other words, how easy is your content to consume. Pay attention to the content you consume and what is easiest for you.
  4. Even if this new update does not impact the search results as much as Google would like it to, it is still good to make these changes. Google has said what they want to rank well and they have said it for years. With each update they make, they are getting closer to making their mission a reality.
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16 Comments

  1. Ryan Z says

    After reading this post I have realized that I really need to focus on adding some valuable content to my site asap! Thanks!
     

    • Rick Hardman says

      Thanks for the comment Ryan.

      Adding useful, helpful content in everything you do as a business, including commenting on blogs and in your social media presence, as well as the content on your site will be critical in any online marketing strategy in the coming months and years.

      Being quite frank, the internet is very cluttered with stuff that is done only for the purpose of getting good rankings. Google is getting better and better and determining content that is valuable and that which is not and there as long as they will reward the efforts to produce that high quality, valuable  content there is no reason to put garbage content on the internet. 

  2. Phil says

    Rick thanks for the information. I’m very new (couple of weeks) to the SEO strategies and quickly realized theirs a lot of junk out there in the form of redundant information. What good is a high ranking site with little value to the user.

    • Rick Hardman says

      Phil – Yes, there is no question that the strategies that have been implemented by many seo’s have caused a lot of redundant information as well as a lot of low quality and useless content on the internet. However,it is  hard to convince any seo or webmaster to stop that practice when it is working to get top rankings on terms that make that webmaster money. Hopefully the upcoming update will help to force webmasters into spending more time developing quality content and paying more attention to the users than the search engines. However, this will only happen if those results are rewarded with ranking improvements for those efforts. 

      Thanks for the comment.

       

  3. Ricky says

    This change is a welcome news for me, the little guy. I don’t have a lot of money for SEO. But I do have some great content and enjoy what I am doing.

  4. Lloyd Sexton says

    Honestly , no matter what size your website or what your budget, SEO should always be about getting your best quality content in front of users who are looking for that type of content. Any change to search that helps this along is great in my book.

     

  5. says

    If it does what it says, that’s great. But I really wish I could peek inside the algorithm to see how this is possible- for Google to crawl a site and determine its quality.  The common factors I would assume are what have existed recently- quality backlinks. I would imagine from Matt’s quote, that rather than really analyzing the quality, they’re going to simply penalize sites for having too many unnatural links, which is already happening. Of course, I think the best long term SEO plan should focus on good on-page optimization, quality content, large sites. These kinds of sites will generate organic backlinking and social voting and be useful to customers, which any algorithm should reward with higher SERPs.

  6. says

    Kyle,

    It is hard to know just how this will impact things, but one thing is for sure and that is that a “change” is coming. How an internet marketing company decides to “change” their strategy will likely depend on what that was before. Do you react now, wait and see, a little of both, etc is all going to be played out, I am sure.

    Mostly, what I hoped to accomplish with the post was to simply say, we know what Google wants and by far and large that is what our clients want as well. The sites that have gotten by on content that could be done in an hour needs to change their thought process. Quality content is going to be the safest harbor, in my opinion

     

  7. William says

    hello,
    i am new in SEO…i just want to know that if backlinks come from sites like who-is look-up or sites like alexa…are they as helpful..are they counted as backlinks by google?

  8. Ralph says

    I find a lot of references to “too many keywords per page” but nothing that tells me the number of keywords that is consider the proper amount. Can someone help?

  9. Rick Hardman says

    Ralph – In my opinion the key is to look at it and read it as a customer. Read it out loud and if it embarrasses you or reads really choppy, then it needs to be reworked. If the content is of value to the client, but reads funny because you have used the same keyword over and over, look to “re-word” some of those keywords. Using synonyms can be a great way to do this.

    One of the reasons that you have not likely found anything about the “proper amount” of number of keywords is because Google is not going to say and so anything you are told is a guess and may not apply in all situations. Write content and build web pages for users first, then tweak some things if Google is not understanding the theme of the page correctly.

  10. Paul says

    We have used 3 different SEO agencies in the last 3 years. I have always believed in great content and view my website as a unique visitor. But I do not believe Google will focus entirely on the keyword stuffing practices.

    I was completely unaware about back linking and how poor quality links could have an effect on our site. We have recently had 3000 odd links drop off our site, and have suffered a drop from the 1st page on Google for our main keywords. I have researched and researched, loads of scare stories going around regarding the latest Google update, what the best practices for SEO are etc. Found divided opinion. I’m almost certain Google is going to penalise (if they already haven’t) a number of sites, that have developed a high quality of poor links from various directories.

    The question is, how will people rid their site of these links and gain Google’s trust once more?

    From my own experience it is not easy to have these links removed. Many sites don’t have any contact information, forms or email addresses. Surely there should be a ‘link approval’ scheme developed to block these spammy links.

    I have been naive with these SEO agencies, and I’m paying the price. 
     

    • Rick Hardman says

      Paul,

      Thanks for the comment. My recommendation in your case would be to focus on continuing to build out good content and making your site very valuable to your users. Also, work on building good links to round out the link portfolio.

      In my opinion, your site is generally not directly penalized for the links coming into it (unless it is through a paid link scheme or a reciprocal link scheme that is detected and you are found to be part of that network). Rather, the poor quality sites that are linking to you are penalized for the links on their site that are going out. In other words, all the links going out from these sites are devalued. If that is the only place you have links coming from and they alone have been what have gotten you rankings, then you will see significant drops. Therefore, you need to work on building a better link portfolio, so that your rankings do not lean on those bad links. That way, when they are devalued, it will not impact your rankings. Make sense?

  11. Mary Kendall says

    Well I am really impressed with your article. The business men should be updated with the coming google algorithms as it is the most valued and frequently used search engine in the world. The business can have great promotion and also great business if they keep an eye on the changes that google is adopting. Keep it up :)

    -Mary

  12. Sam Knibbs says

    Rick I Am a big fan of your site, and I want to say that quality is everything, so we need to ensure that there are values on what we are sharing to keep our subscribers interested :)

    Thank you.

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