Sunday, February 1, 2015

Summary of Google SEO Major Changes + 1 Thing That Will NEVER Change with SEO

I think that one thing that won’t change anytime soon is Google changing its search ranking algorithm.

For the past several years, not only has Google been the #1 most-used search engine on the Internet, but it hasn’t even been close.  Depending upon which survey you check, the figures differ, but in every recent survey, well over 60% of all searches done online are on Google’s search engine.  Nobody else is even close!

That means that a lot of businesses will benefit by being in the right places within a Google search.  In general, they want to be on Page 1 and, if possible, the first position on Page 1.

Do you think that businesses might be interested in getting there?  Do you think that a few of those businesses have tried to get their businesses on the right spots within the right Google search phrases?

If you were one of the first to get on Google, this was much easier to accomplish, but today things have changed.

(NOTE: If you just want the 1thing that will never change, scroll to the bottom section.)

Google History Overview: SEO That Previously Worked & Updates

Through 2011- The “Old Days”
In the “old days” of Google SEO (through 2011), there were not as many companies trying to make sure they were getting ranked.  Many companies still thought they could simply put up a website, and people would come.  So anyone making any effort to get onto Google had a tremendous advantage.

Any sort of niche phrase would likely put you in the mix of getting considered by Google for getting listed on Page 1.

Basic Strategy: Old Days
Find a niche-specific keyword, and focus on it:
--Buy an exact match domain (i.e. Target Keyword = Michigan red delicious apples, Buy
--Make your website title begin with this same keyword phrase
--Make your website description begin with this same keyword phrase
--Use this keyword throughout the entire website (even if the wording is awkward)

There were other “tricks,” but this pretty much describes what was happening on the Web at that time, but this led to problems.

Google’s Goal has always been generate revenue from advertisers on its Google AdWords pay-per-click platform by producing results to search queries that make people want to use Google more than any other search engine.

In other words, once people start complaining about the quality of Google’s search results, Google finds ways to improve its search algorithm that determines which sites get listed to answer a person’s search queries.  So they make updates.  Here are the major ones:

2011 Update – Google Panda (Focus: Better Websites)

In February 2011, Google introduced the Panda Update.

Essentially, the Google Panda update placed a greater emphasis on website quality.  By “website quality,” this mostly meant that if you took information from another website and placed it onto your (i.e. plagiarism), Google would penalize YOUR (copying) website, not the original website.
Google Panda also attempted to discourage people from overusing keywords, just to get a better ranking.  Before this update, it was a common practice to use keyword stuffing, which simply meant that if people wanted to rank for a certain phrase, they would use that specific term (exactly, word for word) many times.

This led to abuses, and websites that read poorly but used keyword phrases the most would have the best chance of getting ranked in the best positions.  This led to lousier sites getting more visibility.

So after this, everything was really great, right?  Well…

2012 Update – Google Penguin (Focus: Better Links)

After the Google Panda update, there still were problems.  The search results were getting a little better, but there were a lot of search results on Google that were ranking more highly than they should.

How could this be?

Mostly, once many of the information on websites were cleaned up (courtesy of the Google Panda update), online marketers still were finding ways to “game the system.”

Basic Strategy: After Penguin Update—Same as Before
Find a niche-specific keyword, and focus on it:
--Buy an exact match domain (i.e. Target Keyword = Michigan red delicious apples, Buy
--Make your website title begin with this same keyword phrase
--Make your website description begin with this same keyword phrase

Basic Strategy: After Penguin Update—Newer Approach
--Use your keyword phrase roughly 1% to 3% of the content on the website page (See: Keyword Density)
--Build lots of backlinks from other sites pointing to your site (More Links = Better Ranking)
--Use lots of exact match anchor text (that was word-for-word the same as the target keyword phrase)

These last pieces about backlinks are the keys here.

At this time, many websites were looking similar, as the “formula” how to make things rank on Google was getting known by more people.  So as a “tie-breaker,” Google started to try awarding sites that people found to be most useful.

Google started measuring a sites “popularity” by the number of times that other sites linked to it (backlinks).  At first this was a good idea, but eventually, people started catching onto this.  It did not take very long for people to start creating low quality backlinks.

During this phase, article marketing was the rage.  People and companies were writing articles…many of which were pure garbage…and submitting them to article directory sites.  Where do you think these articles were pointing?  To their sites, of course.

This made a lot of mediocre sites look “more important” in the eyes of Google, and these lower quality sites got a higher ranking within its searches.

The Google Penguin Update of April 2012 sought to eliminate low quality links.  After this update, many websites were being penalized for having too many links coming from “suspect sources.”

So after this, everything was really great, right?  Well…

2013 Update – Google Hummingbird (Focus: More Common Sense)

After the Google Penguin update, there still were problems.  The search results were getting even better yet, but there were a lot of quirks within many of Google’s search results.

How could this be?

Let’s consider this…If you typed in the following terms:
(a) Michigan red delicious apples
(b) red delicious apples Michigan,

would you expect the same the list of responses to be the same or different?

Too many times, your website might be “perfect” for “Michigan red delicious apples” (according to Google’s search results), but it might not be so good for “red delicious apples Michigan.”

Most of the time, people are trying to find the same thing, regardless of whether of which order the type in these words.

The Google Hummingbird Update August 2013 tried to change this.  Essentially, this change tried to make searches less “literal” and translate different ways someone might type in something to mean the same thing.

After this update, Google still is not perfect with this, but today it does a much better job of treating similar phrases with similar search results.  Consider…
(a) Michigan red delicious apples
(b) red delicious apples Michigan
(c) red delicious apples grown in Michigan
(d) Michigan grown apples red delicious

Ideally, Google would return something similar for each of these since they’re essentially the same thing, but before Google Hummingbird, we usually got different sites showing in the search results for each of these.

Basic Strategy: After Hummingbird Update—Same as Before
Find a niche-specific keyword, and focus on it:
--Make sure to include your keyword phrase
--Use your keyword phrase roughly 1% to 3% of the content on the website page (See: Keyword Density)

Basic Strategy: After Hummingbird Update —Newer Approach
--Do NOT Buy an exact match domain (i.e. Target Keyword = Michigan red delicious apples, but  NO LONGER Buy, buy something that sounds like more of a “brand.”)
--Make your website title include the keyword phrase or something similar
--Make your website description includes words that relate to the keyword phrase
--Build backlinks from other higher quality (believable) sites pointing to your site
--Use a mix of different anchor text—be careful of using too much exact match anchor text

There are other factors, too, but essentially, Google wants to make sure that if they recommend your site (via a good search result ranking for a specific keyword search phrase), the user has a good experience on your site.

BONUS: Thanks largely to the Knowledge Graph, Google also does a much better job of suggesting other things to search, based on what you just searched.  (This is similar to Amazon mentioning that people who buy the book you’re considering ALSO BOUGHT these other books.)

Google has a similar battle with SEO experts that police do who try to catch speeders.  Cops use radar guns to catch speeders.  People buy technology to catch radar detectors so they can speed without getting caught.  Police improve their speed-catching technology to circumvent the speeder’s technology.  Guess what the speeders do next?  That’s right.  They improve THEIR radar detection technology to overcome the police’s improved speed-catching technology, and the cycle continues.

Google and SEO expects have a similar ongoing battle.  Google wants to catch people who wrongly manipulate its results to rank sites higher than they deserve.  SEO experts keep finding new ways to counter Google’s search result quality improvements.

1 Thing That Will NEVER Change with SEO

No matter how sophisticated Google search algorithm becomes, Google depends upon people providing information to help answer questions people ask it (via search queries).

There will always be a need for new and good information where there is not any, yet.

If you’re the first person to address that “empty spot,” you’re probably going to win that battle, because nobody else is there, yet.  Keep finding niches that are not filled.

They’re a lot more difficult to find than in 2010, but there is always an opportunity.  Find it; fill it, and you’ll own that part of Google search results.

THAT will never change as long as Google remains a search engine.  A search engine is useless if it can’t find anything when it searches.  You can fill that need, and you’ll be rewarded, no matter how many more changes Google makes.

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