Your website needs Google. True, you can get traffic using all sorts of other methods – like offline marketing, emails, links on other sites and so on – but Google does bring significant numbers of visitors to websites. The whole notion of “search engine optimisation” centres around getting your website to “number one on Google”. It is a fruitless task, to be honest, because being “number one” is worthless if people do not then engage with your website and buy something or recommend you. Conversion rates are much more important than being at the top of the list, yet many business owners are still focused on that dream, often being pushed that way by the heavy promotion of SEO companies.
But in an interview with AFP, the French national news agency, a senior executive from Google has revealed two important facts for website owners. Scott Huffman, who heads the Search Evaluation Team at Google, said that in the past year Google made 500 changes to its algorithm from its list of 6,000 internally derived suggestions. He added that typically, the Google search algorithm gets changed twice a day.
In addition, Mr Huffman revealed that what Google was trying to do was understand the context of what we type into a search engine. The example he gave was people typing in the single word “Japan” in the past few weeks. Many of those people would have been trying to find out information about the earthquake or tsunami and would not just be people thinking about holidays or the history of the nation. In other words, Google takes into account what else is going on in the world at any particular moment in time so it can contextualise the search phrases we type.
So, let’s imagine you pay a search marketing specialist to get you to the top of Google. They spend three weeks doing the job for you and show you that you are at the coveted top of the shop position for your target keywords. But in the three weeks since they started your SEO project, Google will have moved the goalposts around 60 times. That’s great news for SEO companies, because, things will slide, the competition will get in on the act and hey-presto you need your SEO doing all over again. Once on the SEO treadmill you can’t get off.
But take another look at what Google are saying in this interview with AFP. “People are not just expecting a search engine to return every document that has most of the words typed in a query box,” said Mr Huffman. In other words, Google’s algorithm team is not adjusting things to match specific keyword searches (which much of SEO is focused on). Instead, it is concentrating all of its work on context.
And how does Google judge context? Timing of a search query is important, where it is coming from is also a consideration – but in returning the results what else is on the site is a factor. What Mr Huffman’s team is focusing on is ranking quality sites that demonstrate they fit the context. High content sites will win in the Google world.
So how does Google recommend you do that? Well, check their Webmaster Help and you fill find a clear answer – prepare web pages for people, not search engines.Just write loads of stuff for human beings, all on one subject area and your site will do well – no matter how Google fiddles with its mathematics.
No matter what the changes Google makes to its algorithm, or how often, that advice will always work. Write for people, write regularly and write well and your website will always satisfy the ever changing algorithm. And that is precisely what the best SEO companies will tell you – if you company says anything different, try another firm.
- Google’s Panda Update + Social = New Enterprise SEM Opportunities (searchenginewatch.com)
- Google’s Algorithm Officially Integrates User Feedback (searchenginejournal.com)
- Google Told You So. (seomoz.org)
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+