For anyone trying to stay one step ahead of Google on the search engine optimisation (SEO) front, it has been a decade where even the fleet of foot will have stumbled.
With a painful irony, Google have named each successive update to make them sound like hurricanes tearing through businesses trying to build on last year’s foundations.
Listen to this cry of anguish posted in May as a comment on a blog about Penguin 2.0, at the time the latest in a long line of updates that Google has made to its search ranking algorithm.
To paraphrase: “For 8 years I have been trying to follow the twists and turns of what Google wants websites to do. Every time I finish making changes, Google changes the rules again. I am trying to make my ecommerce site successful, but I cannot. I have lost my life savings on this business. I am not going to bother changing after this. If Google moves the goalposts again after Penguin 2.0 they can go **** themselves.”
Later in the summer those goalposts did indeed move again: Google released the Hummingbird update, a change to the algorithm which was an absolute whopper.
This is what this business owner, and the rest of us, have been contending with over the last ten years:
2003: Florida penalised websites that were stuffed with spammy key words.
2004: Brandy penalised too many synonyms (eg wealthy is a synonym of rich).
2005: Bourbon hit duplicate content; Big Daddy hit low quality reciprocal links.
2009: Vince rewarded news authorities and recognised brands.
2010: Mayday rewarded specialised niche websites.
2011: Panda tackled ‘content farm’ websites full of SEO-based content. And as well as algorithms, Google used human testers to identify low quality content.
2012: Penguin further penalised spammy links.
2013: Penguin 2.0 hit spammy links and other SEO deception activities even harder.
While I completely sympathise with the person whose savings had run out, there is a positive aspect to the changes that Google endlessly makes. Put simply, Google is busy penalising the tricksters and rewarding those of us that have all along provided good, honest, high quality content.
Hummingbird now moves beyond looking at the mere words in a search; it attempts to understand the full meaning of the query, so it can then deliver search results to match. So you can expect websites that answer lots of questions to do well.
Of course we have been aware, as we had to be, of the importance of SEO, but our starting point has always been the quality of our content. Of course we think about our key words, and the titles of our articles, because we want people to be able to find our good content. Not having advertisers on our site, though, has meant that rather than always playing catch-up with the latest Google update for a quick number boost, we’ve been able to focus on good, lasting quality.
By doing what we do best we have ended up with better traffic than sites that may have invested huge sums in SEO.
We are now getting to a point where all of us can focus on the website user. In the case of our Donut websites, rather than spending time and energy re-writing our strategy and content every time Google releases another update, we’ve got on with making sure that our content keeps our users happy.
Traffic is one measure. But what makes it all worthwhile for us is that our users return again and again. Following any kind of fashion can get you quick returns but is an exhausting business. There’s still a place for solid, lasting quality, loyal customers and a belief in your product.
Maybe, finally, it’s Google that has caught up.
- Visit our Donut sites to see examples of the practical, high quality content we produce.