Creating a web page that the Google search engine will consistently rate high on its web results is less art than science, but keeping up with the irregular but frequent updates to Google’s policies can send SEO consultants and web designers to either the pub or the psychiatrist as they try to keep up. It’s not intentional, of course, but Google constantly updates their Google algorithm to give their customers the best and most accurate search they can.
Long gone are the days of keyword stuffing and cloaked pages as each successive algorithm update has made it more difficult to conceal non-relevant content. Other deceptive SEO tactics have also been banished from Google’s search engine and now that Google is the most popular search engine in the world, those changes are permanent.
It’s good to be the kingFor customers, the advantages of dealing with Google are obvious. With the strictest guidelines on SEO and a constantly evolving algorithm to keep web content relevant to searches, Google is a very user friendly search engine with a reduced risk of wandering into spam sites or unsafe sites used for phishing or other types of computer information theft.
For web designers, the advantages of creating sites optimized for Google means that the sites will be strong when using other search engines, as well. All of the major search engines – like Bing, Opera and Safari – use a similar, albeit less up-to-date, algorithm to Google. Creating SEO rich content that will be picked up by Google will also get a strong response from other search engines.
With its stunning popularity, Google has become the de facto standard for search engines and content designed to rank high with the Google algorithm will also score well with other search engines.
Coming soon to a web site near youGoogle is constantly changing its algorithm. Minor updates happen on a regular basis – between 500 and 600 times per year – with little effect on SEO optimization, but in 2016 there were nine major updates. The industry had little warning on some of these updates and since the algorithm that Google uses is a closely held secret, consultants and web designers had to scramble after each update to ensure that their client web sites were not negatively affected by the changes.
The difficulty with judging the effects of a Google update are linked to the lack of transparency with the Google algorithm. Because SEO relies on convincing the current algorithm that your web site is as close to perfect as possible each update runs the risk of turning your carefully crafted online advertisement for your product or service into an outlaw. The lines that separates good sites from bad are very thin and each update, especially major ones, makes it likely that your site will end up on the wrong side of the line.
That doesn’t mean that your site is deceptive or bad, it just means that the algorithm has changed. With approximately two minor updates per day and a major update every 90 days on average, SEO consultants are constantly redesigning or tweaking websites to keep them at or near the top of Google’s search result.
Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little mindsAlthough most of the updates make sense and the effects of them can be extrapolated relatively quickly, Google has made some startling changes in their algorithm in the past. It’s these major changes that cause sleepless nights for SEO consultants. It is a question of evolution versus revolution. Minor updates tend to be evolutionary and tweak the algorithm, major updates, revolutionary by nature, can introduce significant alterations.
Watching the minor updates, however, can give you significant insight into where the major updates are heading. There is a significant qualifier to that statement. Because Google keeps the parameters of its algorithm under wraps, major updates might not have the foreshadowing. With many major updates, SEO consultants had to start from scratch and rebuild web sites through trial and error until they determined the changes.
Of course, SEO consultants have little incentive to announce those changes. The world of web site optimization can be cutthroat. Having or determining the changes in the algorithm give these companies a brief but real advantage with their web site popularity.
The basics stay the sameGoogle publishes general guidelines that tell companies how to create a safe, Google-friendly web site. Using these guidelines will insure that your page is never dropped from Google search, but it won’t guarantee that you will ever have anyone see or visit your site.
The information presented is a good starting point, but it is also very commonsense and basic. It warns users against deceptive behavior but doesn’t explore the gray area where optimization occurs. Creating a web site using Google guidelines will never have a mass of clients making a mad run on your web site. Pushing the edge, on the other hand, will.
With that observation comes a warning. SEO experts agree that optimizing your company’s search engine hits requires working as close to the edge of Google’s guidelines as possible. Playing catch up for a day or so after the release of a new update is the price that successful companies are willing to pay for dominance of the Google SERPS.
Sam Cyrus is a Search Engine Optimisation Consultant, based in Sydney. Sam is also a creative writer and his interests include entrepreneurship, business, online marketing, SEO and social media.