Google is still the name of the game in the search engine world. Even the incremental gains made by Microsoft’s Bing leave it lagging far behind Google in search market share. So when Google makes a change, it can have implications for your website traffic.
The fact is that Google constantly tweeks their search algorithm – the engine that decides what results you’ll see first when you do a Google search. But the changes they’ve done in recent months, including the “Panda” and “Penguin” updates, have sent some search engine marketers scrambling. In general, such scrambling shouldn’t be necessary. The writing has been on the wall.
For years, Google has said, simply, that if you want to generate good search engine results, generate valuable content, period. But the immediate reward of finding system loopholes – or worse yet, cheating the system – will always draw the interest of some, it seems. The term for this is “black-hat SEO”.
According to Wikipedia, black hat SEO “attempts to improve rankings in ways that are disapproved of by the search engines, or involve deception.” Much is also made of “grey-hat SEO”, but at its core, it’s also about finding loopholes that perhaps haven’t been considered yet. The difference between black- and grey-hat SEO, as I see it, is just how blatant the website manager is in bending or breaking the rules.
White-hat SEO, in contrast, just strives to reap the rewards of playing by the search engine’s rules. The specific algorithms Google uses are intentionally hidden behind a veil of secrecy, but Google and their competitors all give ample guidance about how to build pages and content, and what they like to see.
With this spring’s SEO algorithm changes, Google put a stop to some widely-used exploits that allowed weaker content to unnaturally place ahead of stronger content. What should those sites do now? Once again, I say, “create great content”.
It’s not easy. There is an art to producing great content. As Cliff Callis has been heard to say around the office, this concept “says easy, does hard”. It requires more than thorough descriptions of your products and services. You must set aside what you want to tell people, and think instead about what they want to hear.
When we develop an SEO plan, we consider how prospects are searching, and incorporate that knowledge into content creation. We also look at the underlying needs of those you hope to attract to your site. An online buyer’s guide with strong educational resources related to your product or service may generate many times the search traffic of the product pages to which you want to eventually drive visitors.
Working with Google by taking their recommendations to heart is a long term success strategy. Working against them by focusing efforts on finding schemes or exploiting loopholes that build false rankings is a short-term panacea at best. And once a black-hat SEO strategy has been “found out”, site rankings can take a long, long time to recover. Remember: Google says to focus on content. We couldn’t agree more.