Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an interesting industry. It also happens to be pretty large considering its actual purpose: exploiting imperfections in search engines. The people who work in SEO generally don’t like to look at it this way, but all they’re doing is cheating at a game. The goal of a search engine is to give users the most accurate, high-quality results possible. When someone with a floundering website which isn’t receiving the pageviews they’d like seeks out a specialized SEO company just for the sake of getting better search-engine results, they are saying they’d rather get traffic than improve the quality of their site. Well as of late, the companies that provide the short-term relief that is SEO are going nuts, and it’s all because the company they make all their profit off of, Google, has made a pretty major change to their search algorithm.
It’s not exactly being explained this way, but the change seems pretty precisely designed to eliminate the ability to exploit faults in the existing algorithm, exactly the service that SEO companies provide. What the algorithm actually does is improve the quality of results by promoting sites with unique content.
When it comes to Google’s pay-per-click advertising, the updated algorithm will continue to use the quality and cost-per-click (CPC) figure but will be slightly tweaked for that coveted top ad position. Instead of using the actual CPC, Google will use the advertiser’s maximum CPC in the overall equation. In addition, Google will be applying a stricter threshold on the quality component for the top ad positions. Actual CPC is determined, in part, by the bidding behavior of the advertisers below you. This means that your ad’s chance of being promoted to a top spot could be constrained by a factor you cannot influence. By considering your ad’s maximum CPC, a value you set, you will have more control over achieving top ad placement.
According to Google, “In addition to increasing control for advertisers, the improved formula increases the quality of our top ads for users. This is due to more high quality ads becoming eligible for top placement, thereby allowing our system to choose from a larger pool of high quality ads to show our users.”
Other side effects include that the long-tail and mid-tail keywords (phrases with 3 or more words) are passing through more stringent semantic and ranking filters (meaning the array of broad match keywords a page could potentially rank for) have been tightened up or reduced to increase relevance.
Here’s a pretty technical video explaining the actual changes:
So who will be impacted by this change? First, those who currently have top ad positions will see more competition in that area. Second, the people who have spent their time increasing keyword density on their site just for the sake of reaching a higher position on the search engine will have wasted their time.
Really, it’s not as if Google is making a targeted assault on SEO. They are just trying to increase the quality of results and keep up with the evolving state of the web. They’ve recently begun to integrate real-time social media content into their results, which means that it will be impossible to pay a search engine marketing company to be constantly tweaking your site. Regardless, this is only reinforcing the reality that tweaking the content of your site so it’s more kosher for Google results will never stand up to regularly adding genuine, well-written content to your site which people will want to link back to. The truth is that if people reach a site solely because of SEO but the site itself is not well designed, does not have decent content, or doesn’t look trustworthy, no one is going to buy from it or link to it.
So what are the steps to take in order to compensate for this change? Obviously it’s still important to focus on where your site will place on Google. But the way to go about this is not to think from the search engine’s end and build your site around what will be successful on a results page. Rather, the priority should be the quality of your site and its unique content, its accuracy to its message or what its selling. Google is simply trying to make the web a better place – where the best sites are also the most popular sites.