We hear it all the time: Google is constantly changing the algorithm—you must continually adjust strategies and tactics to keep up. Often this strategic advice is coming from an SEO professional. Nonetheless, we don’t buy it.
It’s an accepted fact that the first part of the statement is true. Google regularly makes minor changes to the formulas that determine organic ranking. And occasionally, they make more significant ones. At Dana, we don’t believe in continually “chasing the algorithm.” Our approach to SEO comes directly from our digital marketing communications philosophy — content is king.
Sure, you certainly could continue to adjust your content and strategy based on changes in Google’s method for calculating results. It’s just that you don’t have to. And, we would argue, you shouldn’t. Let’s take a look back.
The first iterations of the Google algorithm were relatively simple. Google crawled the Internet’s content and linking structure to determine what each website was about. Sites that mentioned specific keyphrases could often rank well for those phrases.
But to beat the competition, people began keyword stuffing and using link spam to gain better ranking. Google, in turn, adjusted the parameters and added more measures of content value. Smart, motivated people came to understand those changes through trial and error. Then Google adjusted again, and the profession of SEO was born. Now, site rankings are significantly more difficult to manipulate.
One thing hasn’t changed since 1997—Google’s goal is to deliver the most relevant webpages for a specific search, at the top of Page 1. It can be argued that every change to the algorithm is a reaction from Google to SEO attempts to improve ranking. This constant game of cat and mouse has pushed Google to develop an extremely complex and elegant algorithm, but it has not changed the search engine’s objective of providing the most valuable content at the top of search results.
At Dana, we envision Google’s objective as a distant point on the horizon. Google is working toward a system that can’t be gamed, an algorithm so well thought out that no matter what techniques are employed, only quality, relevant, non-duplicated results will appear at the top of a search result. While Google isn’t there yet (as evidenced by the temporary success of JC Penney’s attempts to gain an advantage), the search engine has made great strides in this area.
That’s why Dana’s strategy is to give Google what they want: easily indexed quality content. Instead of trying to exploit Google’s limited and diminishing weaknesses, we strive to produce deep, rich, usable websites that deliver content that visitors want to link to and consume.
Our strategy is to aim for that same point on the horizon. Consider some of our SEO recommendations that work regardless of the changing Google algorithm:
- Understand your site traffic and the keywords that describe your property or product and deliver ROI.
- Design a site architecture that search engines can index.
- Fill it with real, solid content that is sensitive to your keyword research—but not a slave to it.
- Create copy, images and navigation designed for human consumption.
- Establish page and domain authority by looking for linking opportunities with respected sites that have relevant content.
- Claim all of your local listings in Google Places, Yelp and others. For travel clients, this includes CVBs, travel directories and niche bloggers.
There are real advantages to this approach. You can work constantly and steadily towards your goal without danger of getting on Google’s bad side. Google may have only penalized JC Penney for their attempts to defeat the system, but a smaller site could be removed from the index entirely.
As an agency, we work for a wide variety of very strong brands. For our clients, the benefit/risk calculation of using gray hat techniques doesn’t add up. Temporary gains from keyword stuffing or link spamming would be dwarfed by the amount lost by our clients if they are absent in the results of crucial brand and generic search.
The final word: Be who you are, emphasize transparency, develop valuable quality content and attract relevant, quality links. Aim for that point on the horizon, and sleep well at night.