Google’s Game: Managing SEO in an Evolving Online World

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Google’s nonstop search engine updates can put the hurt on marketers who are unprepared.

Search Engine Optimization. Is there any other marketing concept as controversial and prone to debate as SEO?

SEO practices are notorious for being in a constant state of change, thanks in part to Google’s continual algorithm updates. They’re always tinkering with it, creating new frameworks that marketers must follow.

Why does Google get to make the rules? Given that they alone have almost 68 percent of overall search engine market share (with Bing’s 13 percent ranking in as a distant 2nd), it makes sense that the marketers who play Google’s game will see the best ROI.

Marketers must know what these updates do, how they affect on-page SEO, and content adjustments that must be made for marketing success.

A Brief History of Google Updates

Google changes its algorithm hundreds of times per year.

Every once in a while though, a huge update will roll around that significantly affects search results and the way Google handles its information. Here’s a brief rundown of the biggest updates that Google has put out over the past few years:

  • PandaFebruary 2011 – The Panda update worked to stop sites with poor quality content from appearing in top search results. Components of this algorithm are still in use today.
  • PenguinApril 2012 – Penguin’s responsibility related to link spam. This update sought to punish websites that tried to achieve a better Google listing through link buying and other black-hat SEO linking practices.
  • HummingbirdSeptember 2013 – This update (the first organic search update of its size in years) was named for its promised “precise and fast” search results. Hummingbird helped Google review the context of search queries rather than specific words, providing more relevant results for conversational queries.
  • PigeonJuly 2014 – Only for U.S. English search results, this update was aimed at providing better and more accurate local search results.
  • Mobile UpdateApril 2015 – Known as “mobilegeddon” or “mobilepocalyse” due to its widespread impact, this update gave sites that were optimized for mobile browsing a boost in organic search.

The Update Impact

So, what do all these updates mean for inbound marketers, really?

For outdated websites and prehistoric marketing tactics, they mean a lot. Google’s updates have worked towards doing away with old-fashioned SEO and link spamming strategies past used by lazy pages. Marketers who don’t understand the first thing about inbound marketing strategies have likely had a hard time with these updates.

Panda punished those with marketing content libraries full of fluff. Penguin put the kibosh on link spam as a traffic-generating strategy. The 2015 mobile update slapped the wrist of any site owner resisting the inevitable mobile push.

Google has had a long history of punishing shady SEO and marketing strategies. However, this doesn’t mean that marketers should be concerned about the Google of things. Those who approach on-page SEO carefully have nothing to fear.

Marketing Forward

If your marketing content is a beacon of quality on-page SEO practices, these updates don’t have as much of an impact on your content as you might think. The bedrock of best SEO practices is still the same:

  • High quality content
  • Strategic use of long-tailed keywords (often found with keyword research tools)
  • An understanding of how your market will seek out your material

seo close rate

These strategies still produce the best SEO results and marketing impact, despite the wealth of changes that Google has made over the years. Data collected by imFORZA showed that SEO leads have a 14.6 percent close rate compared to the meager 1.7 percent offered by outbound strategies.

Sure, the occasional Google update might require some tweaking to your content or site infrastructure, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The mobile overhaul in particular caught many site owners off guard, but the ones that adapted are all the stronger for it. After all, Google isn’t setting out to make marketer’s lives difficult. They’re simply using the ocean of data at their disposal to continuously craft a better user experience. This can only be a positive thing for inbound marketing.

Inbound strategies rely on users seeking out and interacting with your content. SEO was, and still is, the backbone of your content’s visibility. Any algorithm update that rewards quality content and SEO while streamlining search queries will greatly boost the accessibility of your marketing material. Google isn’t changing the marketing game, really—they’re just making it easier to play.

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