It's the end of summer, but surf's up at Google! So, hold onto your (key)boards and enjoy the ride. Today, we learned that they changed their search algorithm again. This time they’re focusing on websites with domain names that have hyphens in them. They’re considered “spammy”. So, www.your-site-name-atlanta.com gets de-indexed. That’s right. Tossed out of the search results altogether while www.yoursitename.com/atlanta hangs ten (that's my surfer dude lingo for "does well"). It’s just another major change in the rules that most people didn’t see coming. As a result, hundreds of thousands if not millions of legitimate, non-spammy sites just got tossed into a major time out. We have no idea right now if this is a permanent change to Google’s search algorithm or if this is a preview of a coming attraction. We’ll have to wait and see.
The reality is that many business owners are completely confused about what Google is doing with their search algorithm. Truthfully, so are many SEO experts, but the good news is that we’ve had enough time to test out a few things and a pattern is starting to emerge. It might be helpful if we shared a brief bit about the biggest changes Google has tossed at us recently.
First, a lot of people find all this stuff very technical, so it’s easy to get lost. Simply put, Google used a panel of quality raters to look at hundreds of websites in order to determine “user friendliness”. Issues like user navigation, content credibility, trustworthiness of information, etc were rated. They asked questions to the raters like “Would you trust this site with your credit card? Or, would you trust the medical information on this site to use with your kids? User metrics like time spent on the site, number of pages looked at, how diverse the traffic is to the site, etc were also looked at to help determine which sites seemed to be quality and which ones weren’t. Sites of quality were given higher ratings and the others dropped rankings. This was a complete change in the algorithm and changed the game for SEO. It didn’t matter how good your content was, or how much you had, or how good your backlinks were. The overall user friendliness of the site and the user metrics were what mattered. Suddenly, SEO experts were forced into a different paradigm. They were forced into being web strategists because now, everything about the site matters. Google has issued numerous tweaks to this update since it came out in April of last year.
The Google Penguin update also changed the way we do SEO. While Panda was about the user experience and feel of the site, Penguin was about spam. Just as your email most likely has a spam filter that sifts through what’s important and what’s not. Google placed a spam filter on its search results and sites that have backlinks that they don’t like lost rank as a penalty. What used to be common and acceptable SEO practice in backlinking techniques is now considered spam and will hurt the site rankings. It was a major change in the rules. We now realize that backlinking is still important. It’s just that the links need to be more diverse and involve more social media elements. This update went into effect in late April of this year and we are just now getting enough data together to know what adjustments will work and which ones won’t. In fact, Google announced that they made 52 changes in the algorithm in April alone!
It’s a fair comparison to think of a change in the search algorithm like a wave on the ocean. Each one shapes the beach in some slight manner while others hit so hard, they change the shape of the continent.
The main point is that we are adjusting along with the search engines and will continue to find appropriate, acceptable ways to get our clients higher in the rankings, increased traffic and more business. We love to make your phone ring.