Crystal_ballWas your website hit by Google’s recent search engine algorithm updates?

Did you see a negative impact on your rankings, your traffic and ultimately your revenue?

Lots of websites suffered as Google rolled out various stages of its sequential Panda and Penguin updates (I wonder who picks out the names at Google?). They generated masses of online buzz, and varying degrees of indignation from site owners and SEO agencies who saw rankings plummet.

I don’t like this game… the rules keep changing

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is an uncertain game at best. After all those pesky search engines keep changing the rules. One day you’re riding high in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) reaping the rewards of the “free” organic search traffic your clever SEO expert has attracted – the next you’re in Cyber-no-man’s-land – buried on page four of Google, your torrent of search traffic reduced to a trickle.


The rules aren’t changing – search engines are just finding more effective ways to apply them

Bemoaning the fact that search engines change their algorithms is like complaining that your neighbour mows his grass too often, or not often enough. It’s their algorithm, and within reason (and the law) they can do what they like with it.

Search engines are constantly refining the way they operate in a quest to deliver the most relevant and useful search results to their users. That’s a really difficult thing to do… particularly as the level of dross online continues to escalate… but search engines (particularly Google) are getting better at it all the time.

Changes to search engine algorithms (and there are lots of them) are fundamentally trying to improve the search experience for users: connecting them with the quality content they’re looking for first time, every time. They don’t always get it right… but ultimately that’s the aim.

Looking after users makes search engines richer – and can do the same for your business

This is not rocket science.

Well, OK, understanding the intricacies of search algorithms might be close to rocket science… but as a marketer and business owner that’s not what you really need to focus on.

What you do need to focus on is the relationship between search engines, your prospective customers and your online content. When the goal is to attract, engage, retain and convert you’ll find understanding people and understanding business a lot more useful than understanding the underlying technology.

Back to search basics

The basics are simple enough: the search engines “prime directive” is to deliver relevant content to users based on their search query. The better the search user’s experience, and the more relevant the results the more users will gravitate towards that search engine, maintaining and boosting it’s share of the massive search market. A larger market is more attractive to advertisers, and more advertisers means more dollars in the search engine’s coffers.

But a search engine will only retain that market share (and the slice of advertising revenue that represents) if it continues to return the highest quality, most relevant content to increasingly discerning search users.

The rules of the game don’t change… they’re the same as they have always been. Search engines are striving to deliver the “best match” content based on a user’s specific search query – they’re just using a slightly different blend of signals to determine what that content is.

As a marketer it makes all sorts of sense to create content that matches what your customers are actually looking for. It’s also sensible to present that content in a way that makes it easy for search engines to index and rank, and easy for people to share.

The theory, at least, is pretty straightforward.

Investing in content is the only way to future proof SEO

Effective long term SEO revolves around effective content.

By focussing on content that delivers what your customers and prospects are looking for you not only align your business with their goals – resulting in much better targeting and ultimately much higher conversion rates – you also align it with the search engines’ prime directive.

That’s important… because if you get it right it should mean future search algorithm updates will work in your favour.  The ranking of relevant, authoritative content should IMPROVE as content optimised to exploit search engine loopholes slips out of sight.

Great content is social – it just begs to be shared

Any SEO consultant worth his or her salt will recognise the increasing importance of social signals in for SEO. While some of those social signals will come from a business or brand’s social media activity, the bulk of those signals are driven by… you guessed it… targeted, relevant content.

Great content just begs to be shared far and wide, across all of the social networks your customers are active on. People are hard-wired to share stuff… it’s what we do – and now we have more ways to share and distribute the great stuff we find online with all of our friends and colleagues.

By creating content that’s worth sharing your customers and prospects become your ready-made distribution network, helping to connect more and more people with your content. That’s great for your business in all sorts of ways… and ultimately has a positive impact on your SEO.

Content based SEO: forget quick fix, invest in the long-term

Improving your SEO by focussing on delivering targeted, relevant content isn’t easy. This is no quick fix solution – but then quick fix answers tend not to work for long.

It takes time, commitment and sustained investment to build and execute a content strategy that delivers enduring, cumulative business value. But make that commitment and you’ll start to see a real difference in your long-term search engine optimisation.

Search Engine Updates: no worries!

Focus your SEO around relevant, user-focused content that delivers real value and pretty soon you’ll stop worrying about search engine algorithm updates altogether. As your content strategy starts to bite you’ll find the updates have less impact on your business.

In fact over time those updates are likely to have a a positive effect on your rankings as the search engines gradually weed out the oceans of low quality content out there whose rankings are artificially boosted by less sustainable SEO techniques.

Future proof your SEO – invest in your content!

Photo Credit: By Gaspirtz (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons