Google Updates: The End of ‘Easy’ SEO
If your business strategy includes a healthy dose of search engine optimisation, the chances are you’re already aware of the huge changes Google has made to its algorithm over the last few months.
Thousands of sites being removed from the search engine’s index is just the tip of the iceberg – so how can businesses safely improve their SEO without jeopardising their site’s current rankings?
There was a time when there were certain shortcuts available to SEOs. Pay a small fee for an article submission and you could suddenly gain over 100 backlinks to your site, all contributing to the strength of your domain.
Then there were the link networks – groups of sites joining various online communities with the sole intention of building links to one another.
For a long time, Google were very public about their disapproval for both of the above, but still many SEOs continued to fill their online profile with these ‘spammy’ links – because at the end of the day they worked.
That was, until Google finally made good on their promise to devalue these links last month. BuildMyRank were the most high-profile network to see all their sites deindexed, but far from being the only service hit, they were just one of thousands targeted.
At the same time, webmasters started to receive emails from Google via Webmaster Tools about unnatural links – coinciding with a sharp drop in rankings for many sites. It was official – Google had killed off ‘easy’ SEO.
While Google has been praised for its support of sites that have been affected, it showed very little sympathy to those who had been affected. After all, these were the site owners and SEOs who had ignored their warnings and continued building links that fell under Google’s umbrella definition of ‘webspam’.
The only remaining option for webspammers was to drastically alter their approach – start promoting quality content and building more natural backlinks. In short, do things the hard way.
Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team, has never had a problem with SEO – there are even those that think the search engine relies on good SEO to fulfil their mission statement to organise the world’s information online. What Cutts and Google don’t want is to see their search results littered with poor quality sites that have taken advantage of their link-based algorithm.
Going forward, SEOs need to place a lot more emphasis on high-quality content marketing in order to attract links naturally. Businesses need to get more involved with their SEO agencies, providing an expert contribution to the industry rather than throwing X amount per month at low-grade article marketing.
Yes, your historical activity will always be a part of your online profile, but the strategy going forward is to dilute any harmful signals with positive activity. If you’re guest blogging and providing real, useful information, you’re contributing to the community – and rankings will follow suit.
Link building will still exist because links will still be the basis of Google’s algorithm, but trusted links will be harder to come by.
Additionally, last year’s Google Panda update (which penalised sites with low quality content) meant that websites had to support their offsite SEO by pointing links at pages with well-structured, relevant content. The message was: build all the links you like, but if your site doesn’t offer a great user experience you won’t rank.
There will always be those who try to ‘game’ the system, but the key point is that Google make hundreds of changes to their algorithm every year. It will always be possible to cheat for a while and have short-term success.
But for real long-term stability, the safest way to go is to make your site a genuine resource within your industry. That way, building natural-looking links from authority sources will be a doddle.