The next major Google algorithm change may be just around the corner. Here’s how to protect your company against what can be devastating updates.
By William Furney, PR & content strategist, Reachology
Whether you like it or not, Google is king (or queen, or something in between) of the online world. Commanding an apparently unassailable, massive lead over non-rivals like Yahoo and Bing, the search giant has a more than 90% share of the global market, leaving its dominance – and clout – in no doubt. So for those websites that don’t comply with Google’s ever-changing requirements, the future is bleak indeed.
Using so-called “black-hat” tactics like keyword stuffing, link spam and reams of low-quality content to game the search results to your advantage is now, mostly, a thing of the past. Because successive core algorithm updates rolled out by Google have penalised site owners who engage in dodgy search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques, meaning they practically disappear from search results and lose nearly all their traffic. They can even be banned.
It’s a disaster for any company relying on their website to generate sales, and particularly for those operating ecommerce sites. Overnight, you can lose everything and grind to a halt. Google doesn’t punish such websites because it doesn’t like them, but to make the internet a better place for everyone — website owners and all the billions of people who use the web. No one, after all, wants pages and pages of gibberish and spam when they can have what they want: quality content.
So how do you avoid such an undesirable business scenario, where you’re essentially wiped off the internet in a flash, whether you’re doing your own SEO or have a digital PR agency doing it for you? Let’s take a look.
What does Google say about its updates?
An overarching shroud of secrecy cloaks much of Google’s activities – to the immense frustration of many a website owner – and most especially matters relating to its algorithms. You may ask but you most surely won’t get an answer. While it may seem like something of a guessing game, there are clues, and paths to follow, so you don’t fall foul of the rules.
What we do know is that Google is constantly tweaking its algorithms — powerful software that relies on ranking factors, like relevance, page speed and many others — to find what users are searching for and deliver the results in an instant, or less.
Minor algorithm changes are made almost daily, Google says, while the big ones, known as broad core updates, may be released every few months. The company usually announces major algorithm changes in advance, giving website owners time to make changes so that they don’t suffer.
Some core updates have code names, like:
Panda, in 2011, which cracked down on manipulative link-building and spammy practices.
Penguin, in 2012, penalising sites that breach Google’s Webmaster guidelines.
Medic, in 2018, mainly affecting low-quality health and wellness websites.
If you’re confused about what it all means, consider this analogy:
How to future-proof your website from Google shocks
A fundamental way that Google, and all search engines, works is by indexing and looking at the links from one site to another, much the same way as library works. So you can think of the internet and its nearly 2 billion websites as a giant collection of books. If a site with high authority and great content links to another, Google deems the smaller website worthy of recognition and rewards it with more visibility: it will appear higher in search results for certain keywords and may even one day end up on the holy grail of page one Google.
So links to your site are incredibly important in gaining visibility online and making your business more valuable. But not all backlinks are equal, which is where the problem lies,when another whopper of a Google algorithm update comes along. Buying up tons of backlinks from questionable sites that may be full of spam and have little content will almost certainly prime you for trouble ahead. All your effort, of time and money, could go down the drain in the blink of an eye and land you right back at the unenviable digital spot of square one.
That’s not to say you can’t launch a great link-building campaign, as long as you do it with a reputable agency that has relationships with solid publishing partners with stellar website content and metrics, like our terrific sister company UK Linkology that clients around the world depend on to get ahead online.
Taking it up a notch, however, and we have digital PR and earned link-building: the kind of top-tier links that money literally cannot buy (because they’re purely editorial-led and are not for sale – you have to really earn them, with a great pitch and story). These are links to websites from prominent, prestigious and leading websites, like news and lifestyle sites, that choose to cover a story and link to a site where the piece originated. It requires vast infusions of creativity, connections and pitching to journalists and editors, and is a skillset that is not easy to acquire. Unsurprisingly, many working in the digital PR field are journalists themselves.
You may only get a mention, and not a link, or you might get both, depending on the weather that day and the mood of the reporter and their editor. There’s no need to fixate about links anyway, because Google also takes into account company and brand names – unlinked brand mentions can help you rank higher, simply because the more times your brand is mentioned online, the more Google sees you’re being talked about and you therefore have increased authority.
That combined with backlinks from top-tier media will help boost your organic visibility, show Google that big, worthy, authoritative sites are linking to you and protect you from crashing when successive search updates come along because your prized links won’t be annihilated.
If you would like to know more about how digital PR can help your company improve its online presence and rankings, with links and mentions in top sites, get in touch with the experts at digital PR agency Reachology. Book your free initial consultation now.