Staying one step ahead of Google updates

  • 1
  • September 27, 2012
David Smith

David Smith

Head of Operations

Stay one step ahead of Google updates

So it’s 9am and you’ve just arrived to work, you sit down, switch on, and bam! Your Twitter account explodes with news of the latest ‘killer’ algorithm change from Google which has blown sites out of the SERPS left, right and centre. Sitting waiting for Google analytics to load up so you can check your traffic is not a great feeling.

At Branded3, we’re always aware of the latest Google algorithm changes and how these can affect our clients, and although no-one can predict the future or every release Google plan to make, I’ve compiled a few tips from our experienced strategy team to show you how we keep ahead of Google updates.

Beware of Google’s intentions

Google have always been open about (most) of their intentions regarding their search products; for example, they’ve repeatedly stated that the user is key, whether it’s a Google service or your homepage they think users should always come first. Let’s face it, a site which is more usable is a better site and should rank higher; you can even see Google’s plans to improve their search engine within their company philosophy.

Similarly, the introduction of the Panda update reveals how much emphasis Google places on high-quality original content and their intention to remove auto-generated content sites whether they’re article bins or directories. Their attack on sites looking for shortcuts to the top of their search results continued with the Penguin update, a clear signal that those trying to play the system would be punished.

Prior to this, Google had already given trusted brands a boost in rankings with the Vince update, it’s clear that there’s a pattern and that some of Google’s recent updates are related in what they’re trying to achieve. When we ask the right questions of each update, it’s possible to protect ourselves from future changes to Google even without knowing exactly what they’ll be. Try to fully understand each update in detail and ask:

  • What are Google trying to change?
  • Who are they trying to target?
  • How was I affected?
  • What’s the best long-term solution?

Focus on users, not the game

As mentioned previously, users are incredibly important to Google, and they should be in any SEO strategy. As such, Google are continuously making changes to their algorithm to allow sites with unique relevant content to rank better.

Searchmetrics recently conducted a study which suggests Facebook shares have an even higher correlation with high rankings than the number of backlinks; this is a clear indicator to how influential social media is becoming in helping content to rank.

Once you’ve got the users to your site, consider how best you can turn those visits into sales, or signups, or downloads or whatever your business objective is. Too many businesses obsess over rankings without keeping in mind whether these are essential to the success of the business, sometimes it’s more productive to just to focus on converting your current visitors.

What happens when Google drops the axe?

Just as we need to remember to focus on overall business objectives with SEO, we also need to remember that SEO should only be one component of your overall marketing strategy, though how significant a component may vary from business to business.

Social media is a hugely important resource for building your brand, generating reviews and for link-building; but social sales is a growth area that can’t be overlooked. Not only should businesses feel under pressure to compete in the social space, but they should now be looking to actively generate sales in this market.

Play the long game

Nobody said SEO was easy, right? Well it’s not always that difficult either, but it can certainly take a long time to compete for high traffic keywords especially in an overcrowded market, but whatever you do, think about the long term strategy, don’t be tempted to take short cuts if it’s likely jeopardise the site in the future.

For want of a better phrase, stick to ‘white hat’ tactics for your link-building techniques and ethical approaches in your outreach. Remember not to over optimise your content and links, Google’s clever at understanding the focus of content, so if you’re not ranking –   look at what else you can do improve your visibility.

Semantic web

Search-engines are constantly developing and updating their algorithms to understand not only information within content, but also its purpose and sentiment, understanding why a user is searching for specific content can significantly affect the usefulness of the displayed results. Google has declared its intention with the release of the knowledge tree, but this only seems to pull information from trusted domains with lots of input from Wikipedia. Ok, so it’s still early days for the semantic web but just remember it’s long game SEO.

So what can you do now to improve your sites? Well, the main basis for the semantic web construct is markup, rich snippets have been around for a long time have already shown that they have a positive impact on click-through rates in organic SERPs so ensure you’re at least using review, breadcrumb and pricing mark-up.

The author tag is another useful element to associate content with an individual author or publisher; what’s more, this looks set to become an influence on ranking for content with trusted, well published authors receiving a rankings boost in the same way a trusted brand might for a product for example.

Which way the Google is blowing

Finally, it never hurts to keep your ear to the ground, the basics of keeping up-to-date with the SEO industry for those on the outside is to connect with the right people socially on relevant social platforms, forums and blogs. Check your analytics, rankings and webmaster tools data regularly and respond to any changes rapidly, analysing them against discussion in the community. Remember that Google usually tests a lot of their algorithm changes out in the US before launching them elsewhere. Whether you’re new to SEO or not, here’s a few of our recommendations on who to follow and where to keep up to date:

If you’d like any more advice or think your in-house team could benefit from some SEO training, get in touch at [email protected] to find out more information about our one day sessions.