Don't Chase The Algorithm, Future Proof Your Website

Andrew Birkitt

Lead Technical Engineer
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Reading Time: 6 minutes

As the dust settles after Penguin 2.0 it is more important than ever to consider your SEO strategy and how you achieve results online. Prior to this update there were many people trying to guess exactly what Google had in store for webmasters and what impact it was likely to have if you fell foul of an algorithm given a name that many of us once only associated with a cute little bird! Head of Google Web Spam, Matt Cutts, launched a pre-emptive video warning everyone of what impending updates were likely to affect:

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Once again websites link profiles are under scrutiny with Google trying to identify any practices that violate their webmaster guidelines and artificially inflate a sites authority and position in the search engine results. This time the algorithm has evolved in order to take a much deeper look at your website and have a noticeable impact on certain small areas, according to Matt Cutts.

In particular paid advertorial links have been a target of the latest update, as these have traditionally been used to pass PageRank to buyer’s websites and inflate ranking. Google has aimed to stop PageRank being passed like this and Matt Cutts specifically said that it needs to be clear to browsers when advertorials are paid for. These links are a short term tactic and not part of a strategy that will continue to gain results in the future. There has been a mixed reaction to the impact of Penguin 2.0, with a lot of the industry pleasantly surprised by the extent of the impact on websites and the SERPs in general.

Marcus Tober founder of SearchMetrics
“It’s not the update I was expecting. I thought that this Googles Penguin update would have had a bigger impact similar to Panda 1. But that didn’t happen.”
visit his blog here:

However from our experience there has been a noticable increase in website owners contacting us for help after their traffic dropped noticeably at the end of May!

The ever changing algorithm that is Googlebot

Google continually makes tweaks to its algorithm and strives to improve the quality of their search results and that has led to a focus on rewarding websites that contain well written, authoritative content that  earn links on the merit of the content. It is important to remember:

  • Google makes over 500 algorithm updates every year.
  • Google are very selective on which updates they communicate with everyone.
  • Produce a well written, authoritative piece of content that is exposed to the right audience and it will naturally get endorsed by users with shares, likes, tweets and links from their own social profiles, sites and blogs.

Many sites have found themselves subject to penalties from Google for trying to boost their rankings with links containing keyword rich anchor text, often site wide! A dubious practice some “SEOs” have previously employed as a tactic to get a quick win for customers, promising them the earth, but essentially building their websites search presence on sand rather than taking the time to lay a solid foundation ready for the impending onslaught of Google.

House built on sand
photo credit: Libertinus via photopin cc

During time as an online marketer I have seen many websites use black hat techniques and gain great rankings in the short term, but then when Google has caught up with them they have lost their search engine presence altogether. Sadly in some cases this has led to companies losing the majority of their online revenue and even more worryingly there has been cases of people losing their jobs and whole companies have “gone under”. We have all had the promises of the Holy Grail that is the guaranteed number 1 spot in Google for some highly competitive term in your niche. However, if somebody could really guarantee this then they wouldn’t be offering you SEO at ridiculously cheap rates, they would be outranking everyone with their own e-commerce website and raking in millions in revenue!

Over-Optimisation – Google attempts to level the playing field

As well as off-site factors there are also many on-page factors that have traditionally been manipulated in order to influence your position in the search engines. Previous Google updates have focused on this, see this previous blog post Panda and Penguin might be the Culprits for more. It is more important than ever to do SEO in an ethical quality focused way, thinking about content rather than keywords alone! Some people still have the misconception that SEO is as simple as sticking a load of keywords in your sites titles, Meta data and h1 headers and body content.

SEO and digital marketing is not about trying to second guess Google, it is about future proofing your website and online presence as a whole, through sound principals and taking time to build a solid integrated digital marketing strategy. Through experience gained from optimising many sites, over the years, the ones that have always done the best and weathered every update that Google has implemented are the ones that have taken the most time to optimise and have been focused on the users and not purely written for the search engines.

Usability will stand the test of time – well thought out site architecture helps users and Google find information more easily

No matter what changes Google makes the focus needs to be on making sure all the relevant on-page and off-page factors have been put in place, but not with the mindset of purely gaining ranking.  It’s vital to consider your content marketing strategy in order to fully engage the attention of your target audience. This is where site architecture can play a pivotal role. Looking at SEO from an information science point of view, you need to make sure that all the your content is clearly structured with an easy to navigate menu, this will not only help users but it will help Google. Google assigns your site a certain amount of time for Googlebot to crawl and download your webpages. If you have a messy and unclear link structure, lots of duplicate content, orphaned pages or even a combination of them all, then you are penalising yourself. Googlebot either won’t find the content or it will waste time as it could be crawling and indexing multiple unique pages rather than the same content on multiple URLs, that it is having to identify as a duplicate. This is where a really well thought out structure, the potential use of 301 redirects, canonical links and a robots.txt can really pay off!

Work on quality and make the web better for everyone

Let’s help Google make the web a better place and make it work for everyone; build an information resource and work on establishing an engaged audience. A strategy with this, and not Google’s algorithm, in mind will lead you to more search engine traffic and a greater return on investment in the long run. The reason I talk of future-proofing your online strategy is because SEO shouldn’t be about where you are now or in the next few months, but were you will be in the coming years, so make sure you align your SEO partners with this in mind.

Authorship – everyone is accountable for their content!

Looking at the future, in terms of Google, there is one thing that is certain; Google are going to place more and more importance on authorship. As Matt Cutts recently talked about the use of rel=”author” in this post Penguin 2.0 webmaster video:

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It is clear that we are moving away from an anonymous web to one were everyone is held accountable for the content they produce. Established authors in specific niches will see their content given more weight in the search engine results. Part of this will also most certainly involve using Google +, as Google have committed a lot of time and resource to building their social network. Rich snippets with author’s pictures, names and the number of Google circles they are in already appear against results in Google. Now is the time to make sure you implement this, if you haven’t already done so!

Align all aspects of your digital marketing

Whether you work with an agency, do it all in-house or both you need to make sure that you align your digital marketing strategy, so that all channels are working in harmony, focusing on the same goals. By doing this correctly you can ensure that each channel compliments the other, helping each increase at a greater rate than if they were working alone, purely focusing on themselves. Your SEO strategy could follow all the best practice guidelines but without the other channels being aligned with this correctly your results will never be as strong as they could be. Remember on a very basic level Search Engine Optimisation is:

Great Content + Exposure to an Engaged Audience = Links

Links built this way help build your sites authority and increase your positions in the SERPs!

A Final Note

Is your SEO based around short term results? Do you worry about the constant changes and falling foul of Google or do you have a future proof strategy that is aimed at building a great site for users and making sure that this content gets exposure through relevant channels?

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