Search Engine Land recently highlighted an interesting Tweet from Matt Cutts, Google’s distinguished engineer. The comments from Cutts came in response to a question about search algorithm updates that have coincided with the release of an exact-match domain algorithm on September 28. Cutts said, more or less, that Google rolls out algorithms almost of every day to address different issues within search.
In the last 19 months, Google has received substantial attention for its quality algorithms, Panda and Penguin, which changed SEO and will continue to do so. There is no doubt that marketers looking to win prime positions in search should focus on developing high-quality website content to inform and educate their target audiences. There is more to Google, however, than Panda and Penguin. These search quality algorithms have helped users avoid low-quality sites that don’t satisfy their queries, but there are countless other ways Google gauges a site’s value.
The company recently released a detailed list of its search quality updates in August and September. More than 65 different updates and improvements rolled out in these months, and it’s likely that the actual number was even higher.
The changes Google makes can range from adding scores from a professional sports league to SERPs to altering the size of video thumbnails produced on mobile SERPs. While many of these many not have direct implications for SEO strategies, it not necessarily Panda or Penguin that results in a major loss or gain in traffic.
The Twitter exchange began with Cutts’ announcement of a new algorithm that removes low-quality content from SERPs even if the site’s domain matches a query exactly. Whether it’s a freshness algorithm that gauges the most recent content related to a certain query or one that offers greater domain diversity, Google is consistently iterating to make its product as user-friendly as possible.
Worrying about each and every algorithm Google uses to determine rankings can paralyze an SEO strategy.
It may seem problematic, then, for marketers to develop a strategy to around search algorithms. Since so much changes so often, it can be overwhelming. This is part of the reason Google doesn’t publicly discuss every algorithm it releases. Not everything is going to apply to every site, and worrying about each and every algorithm Google uses to to determine rankings can paralyze an SEO strategy. Recently, Brafton highlighted a Webmaster Help video from Cutts that discussed the freshness algorithm, which brings users the most relevant content based on publication time. In the video, a marketer expressed concern related to the freshness factor, since his site doesn’t necessarily publish content every day. According to Cutts, this isn’t a bad thing. Not every website needs to share content on a daily basis, especially when they create relevant, useful information for their users.
Perhaps the greatest lesson in Cutts’ comments is that focusing too heavily on algorithms can hamstring a marketer. There isn’t anything wrong with making an adjustment or two when a new ranking signal rolls our or an algorithm receives more weight, but basing a strategy solely on Panda or Penguin or anything other perceived ranking signal in Google search could open a site up to penalization for optimizing too heavily.
The easiest way for any content marketing strategy to have its desired benefits is to focus on users. Content should be informative. Websites should be fast. Conversion funnels should be direct and easy to navigate. Optimizing for the user is real search engine optimization. Google has optimized its engine to deliver information that matters to its users. The company will reward businesses that develop sites to do the same.