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The (seemingly) Mysterious Google Search Engine

If someone tells you that they know exactly how Google’s algorithm functions, and they don’t work for Google…they’re probably lying.

If that same person tells you that they know exactly what Google is going to change next? They’re definitely lying.

Google’s algorithm isn’t quite as shrouded in mystique as people may think, but change is always on the horizon, with Google as a company constantly tweaking and changing their product to achieve the best result for the user. The algorithm is constantly being refined with user data, and with a massive update rolled out every 6-12 months, it can leave businesses wondering how to stay ahead of the curve when there’s a threat of being penalised, de-indexed or simply falling in rankings through seemingly no fault of your own.

Fortunately, there’s a much more solid method of ‘future-proofing’ your business and SEO strategy than trying to predict what Google will do: instead, look back on what they’ve already done.

The Constantly Shifting Algorithm

Google didn’t become the world’s most visited website by simply being the first to let people search for ‘pizza near me’. They started off with a powerful algorithm that was able to learn as it was fed data. Over time, the algorithm has constantly evolved and improved as more people began searching, to the point where it’s far better able to serve the needs of its users and deliver precise results.

They keyword here is ‘users’, i.e. the people jumping onto Google and looking for something. The Google algorithm is designed to deliver accurate search results, not give businesses a boost in the rankings; that’s something you have to do yourself, and to do that, you’ll need to follow ethical SEO practices.

The biggest updates have often directly targeted black hat SEO techniques: unethical tactics that attempt to game the system such as keyword stuffing and link farms. These techniques now have a very short shelf life and will actually hurt your website in the long run.

On the flip-side, major updates have been released that- amongst many other, more general improvements- specifically combat negative SEO techniques:

  • Google Panda: Rolled out in 2011, and targeted low-quality content, spam and keyword stuffing. After the release of Panda, it became more important than ever to write quality content for your site that wasn’t overloaded with keywords.
  • Google Penguin: Hit the web in 2012, and greatly-reduced the effectiveness of low-quality link building practices. As with Panda, Penguin also aimed to penalise spam and low-quality links.
  • Google Pigeon: Released in 2014, Pigeon was mainly aimed at improving local search results, but also made things much stricter when it comes to following basic SEO practices.

How to Measure and Improve Your Site Rankings

While it’s easy to look at a checklist of negative and positive SEO practices and think you have it all sorted, the ever-changing nature of the algorithm combined with the difficulty of ticking every box can mean that it’s still possible for you to be hit by a major algorithm update (or even a smaller one) and experience de-indexing or other penalties.

This means that Google has identified something in your SEO strategy that they deem to be either black hat, borderline black hat, or simply not in line with their goals as a company. The next and best step is to compare content on your various web pages, see what was penalised and what wasn’t, and then work out what you need to change from there.

As the industry saying goes: you can’t improve what you don’t measure. No one wants to receive a penalty from Google, but you can definitely turn that negative into a positive by learning what’s important to Google, and then using that data to make vital changes to your site, your content and your overall SEO strategy.

Take Google Pigeon as an example, which tried to greatly increase the effectiveness of local search terms and help people find businesses close to them. Pigeon is often cited as the most significant update ever released due to how it radically changed the way people found local businesses.

Post-Pigeon, 72% of consumers who did a local search ended up visiting a business within five miles of their location; as a result, if your site’s content was too broad for your business type (e.g. targeting a whole city, rather than a local neighbourhood), you may have fallen in the rankings. This is a tangible, measurable piece of data that gives you a solid starting point for fixing your content.

The Smarter Way to Tackle Algorithm Changes

If you think it sounds rich for an SEO marketing company to swagger in claiming that they know all about Google and their future plans: you’re right.

And yet, as stated by 82% of marketers, SEO marketing is on the rise and becoming more effective by the day. This may sound like it should be going in reverse, given the complications of the search engine game, but the more Google changes, the more we can understand about their values and goals. This, in turn, refines our knowledge of SEO.

SBM understands that the value lies in looking back, seeing what has and has not worked in the past, and using that data to provide the best SEO strategy possible for you and your business.

Always remember, ‘you can’t improve what you don’t measure’…which is why we measure everything. If you hold all the information and use it to plan a solid strategy that’s in line with Google’s values, you’re bound to achieve success.



Looking to supercharge your digital marketing? Contact Smith Brothers Media for a business discovery session today!


– Written by Stuart J.A. McNabb

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