When Google Says ‘Jump’, we ask ‘How high’?
21st March 2022

SEO was never an easy job but in the past it at least made sense. We had a pattern to follow and we knew that hard work would get us results. But then Google went and became smarter and smarter, and we started to feel dumber and dumber.

Google sits in the middle of a multi-billion dollar industry with trillions at stake in the global market for products and services. Millions of businesses fight every day for a coveted place in the ‘top 10’ of a search result. There is only one 800 pound gorilla in this circus and it’s Google.

So it will come as no surprise that SEO agencies and experts hang on to every word, sign or inference from Google which might impact their SERP (Search Engine Results Page) listing.

Google’s transition to an AI based system

Year’s earlier Google’s search results used to be quite easy to influence and tactics, although time consuming, were much simpler. You optimized the site and then you built a battery of inbound links to your site and watched the site go up the rankings.

All this changed when Google started to move to an AI based system that not only looked for keyword matches but also ‘meanings’ and ‘intent’. This was just another way of saying Google wanted their search engine results to be more meaningful rather than just powered by simplistic algorithms.

Google now takes a more holistic look at the activities surrounding your web page including mentions in social media sites and also what kind of language is used for links backed to your site.

The key is for the entire setup to look as ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ as possible. I cannot tell you how much time SEO experts spend trying to make their ‘work’ look as natural as possible to Google. And sometimes they get it wrong and Google’s AI punishes them heavily.

This entire change to AI based indexing has shaken up SEO in a huge way.

The ever changing Google algorithm updates

Ask any SEO expert what wakes them in the middle of the night covered in sweat, and the answer would be, a Google algorithm update. An update would overnight toss carefully setup rankings and make weeks of hard work irrelevant. As rankings start bouncing around, it naturally affects sales and then irate customers start calling their SEO agencies. It’s not a pretty thing.

After every update the SEO expert has to carefully analyse the changes, go through dozens of message boards to get ideas and microscopically examine every piece of information Google puts out. And then if he/she is lucky, figure out how to work around or with it.

It’s a never ending dance SEO experts do with Google and we have been dancing together for many years.

The signals – and it’s not green, orange and red anymore.

Initially there were very few factors that would affect a website’s ranking in Google; these factors are called ‘signals’. The earlier signals were a list of very simple dos and don’ts.

However, today Google looks at over 200 different ranking signals from page load times, spelling and grammar, relevance, domain age and many more.

We do now have amazing software that analyzes a website for all these signals but it is very difficult for any SEO agency to be able to address them all. Most agencies would focus on what they assume are the critical ones and then concentrate on them. Sometime we get it right and sometimes we get it wrong.

The basics still matter though and always will.

I have been in this business for over 20 years now and have seen all kinds of SEO strategies, ideas, tricks, etc. But one thing has never changed and that is to do the basics properly.

What are the basics?

  • Properly coded web pages without errors
  • No broken links or images
  • Well written precise content
  • Additional content to support the main product/service
  • Simple navigation and user friendliness
  • As fast a loading time as you can make it
  • No keyword stuffing, link farming or any of the other shady stuff.
  • Getting good quality inbound links from decent sources

These will never change no matter how Google’s algorithm changes and are the very basic stuff you need to do to be competitive.

Content is still King but with a caveat

In SEO we have a saying, ‘Content is king’. Interesting well written informative content always beats cheesy marketing content. There is a industry within the SEO industry dedicated to generating SEO friendly content.

The better the content, the more you engage with visitors and attract new ones and Google takes very close note of how visitors are doing on your site, how much time they are spending on it, what they are reading or seeing and this definitely affects your SERP.

Some of the best sites on the net have amazing content that attracts and engages visitors.

Now for the caveat. The content has to drive real engagement. Content is not supposed to be fillers for keywords. The Google AI is getting smarter everyday and is getting pretty good at detecting when content is written only for SEO. Two sites with similar content, one is written with SEO in mind and the other with actually visitors, the latter will always rank better (well almost ever).

Change is the only constant

When it comes to SEO on Google, this cliché is absolutely true. SEO experts can never rest on their laurels, their jobs are never done. They wait in dread for the next Google update, spend hours researching new strategies, fight for the slimmest advantage and all the while under pressure from impatient clients clamouring for better rankings.

So, please be kind to your friendly neighbourhood SEO expert.

About Me

He has been in the web development business for the almost two decades.He is a keen student of marketing and business development and writes regularly on web strategy and other related topics which is read and followed by many every month.

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