Google changes its search methods so often businesses can’t keep up

www SearchYour 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.

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Graham Jones
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+
Graham Jones

@grahamjones

Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist, professional speaker and author of 32 books who helps businesses understand the online behaviour of their customers
Is it time to focus on the nitty-gritty? The basics of your web presence probably need more attention.… https://t.co/qFnonYR2tu - 7 hours ago
Graham Jones

5 thoughts on “Google changes its search methods so often businesses can’t keep up

  1. I have to agree with the point 'write for people'. After 10 years specialising in SEO and search for Google and others I find it hard ot understand why website owners do not listen to simple advice. Literally all a website owner has to do is focus on what their clients want from all perspectives. Do they want to hear waffle?, no, do they want to see a page full of search terms, no – what they want is relevant content that means something to them not a search engine and guess what? Because the content is relevant, Google and others will list the site highly – it is as they say "a no brainer". Keep it simple, keep it real, keep it relevant and please website owners, tell people what you sell not how brilliant you are at it – its up to others to do that!.

  2. While the old rule of "content is king" is of course correct, one cannot suddenly ignore SEO techniques completely and hope to do as well as others. I dont mean obsessing over keyword density to the last 0.5% but ignoring keywords completely is also madness – it's frankly naive to think that if you write well traditionally you will be just fine and rise to the top in Google. Maybe one day that will be true, and that's what the team at Google are probably aiming for, but Google is simply not clever enough to judge the quality and relevancy of your writing without reference so it approximates it by seeing what everyone else thinks of your writing.

    It judges this opinion of others by the number of people who link to your article, the number of people who visit your site etc. and these factors account for the vast majority of your ranking. Only 15% of your ranking comes from how you use those keywords, but its the FIRST 15% – if you dont use relevant keywords, and place them in titles, in your body text, in the links to your articles, then you are relying on blind luck alone to get those people to your site. You could the write the most amazing, useful, witty, insightful, analogy for home insurance that has ever graced a web page, but if you dont use the words "home insurance" you can forget ranking high in Google, or giving that article the exposure it probably deserves.

  3. Alex, I slightly disagree – here's why. When some people ignore SEO they write better. When they concentrate on SEO or try to include the right words in the right places it takes their mind off writing effectively. If they understand their audience the SEO (such as title tags etc) is natural. However, I agree if you know your keywords and use them wisely, it will help. But the problem with the whole SEO concept is that it takes people's minds off writing for people and moves them towards writing for Google. The advice from Google themselves is do not do that. Google's algorithm will catch up. You are right that this is something of a future possibility, so I would advise people to write for human beings first and then get editors to adapt for the right keywords. Oh goodness me – that's what newspapers and magazines have been doing for centuries….! Nothing new – just an entire new industry created out of good editorial practice.

  4. Hi

    This is clearly an SEO Company diatribe. And simply a plug for social media marketing.

    If you believe that Backlinks have no bearing on ranking then I assume that all linking is none effective?

    Also your (False) assertion that the algorithim changes so often that the web page will de rank or drop on a regular basis is false. Pages that I ranked last october on page one of google.com and google.co.uk are still there in April 2011!

    What is not understood outside the seo community is that SEO is NOT a one shot activity. Initally a lot of work needs to be done with later continued lower volume SEO activities being carried out. Indeed SEO will never end BUT not for the resons you state.

    The main reason is other sites/pages will appear on the web and compete for the top slots. If you just leave a site alone it will eventually decline.

    You also fail to mention that Google is lookng for fresh content and new links all the time.

    So as you can see I fully disagree with your proposals. This is not unusal. SEo is a very mis understood disipline.

    Very we want great content thats just a given. In the same way as we want great design, High standards of useability. Sure throw in some twitter feeds and the all im portant (cough) facebook page. It all helps.

    Bottom line SEO proffesionals will outrank your well writen content every day of the week.

    Have fun

    Tom

    • Tom, thanks for comment. The assertion that the algorithm changes frequently leading to de-ranks and drops of placings is NOT mine; it is Google's. They say this in themselves. I am merely repeating what they have said. I don't fail to mention Google is looking for fresh content. My blog repeatedly makes this point as I do in all the talks and presentations I give. This blog post on which you are commenting is merely on the aspect of the frequency of change of the algorithm, based on the interview given by Google's executive in charge of it. As for SEO professionals outranking my well writen [sic] content "every day of the week" – there is no evidence for that generalised claim. SEO professionals frequently outrank badly written content – but Google re-iterates the point that its algorithm looks for quality content. And how you can say this post is about social media marketing when I don't mention it I'm not sure….?

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