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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.