Big Picture: Why Google Algorithm Updates Don’t Matter

Google Algorithm Updates SEOEvery time Google makes a public algorithm change the news feeds go abuzz, everyone speculating about what impact it will have on online marketing as though it’s going to turn website rankings upside down. This ‘sky is falling’ mentality ripples through headlines, but the reality is that it’s never that big of a deal.

I think a lot of it has to do with the perception that if you’re an expert on a topic you naturally have an opinion on everything that happens related to it, and that not having an opinion is a sign that you’re not as knowledgeable in that field as you’d like to look. As a result, you get thousands of SEOs busy in speculation because it looks industrious; it satisfies the “mandatory” reassertion that one’s knowledge is so important that others should again pay attention.

For over eight years I’ve watched this play out, even before I did any kind of SEO for a living. In this time I’ve seen one thing end up being true over and over: the only time an algorithm change means you need to rethink your whole strategy is when you’re a black hat SEO (read: polluter of the internet). Anybody practicing legitimate methods and actually creating something worth a damn generally has little to worry about.

Sites that I’ve gotten to rank well over the years remained largely unchanged after each Google update. Numbers would fluctuate, but traffic numbers always fluctuate. Google likes quality content wherein each page or article is clearly about a given topic, in a site where expertise in these things is well reinforced. That has never changed. Nor should it, because at the end of the day that’s the type of stuff a searcher is looking for.

Maintaining Your Core SEO Skills

Think of it like this. On a scale of one to ten of your SEO impact, you can largely ride at a seven or eight with a well-developed set of core skills. If you’ve been at it for years and have paid attention, if you’re for real, these quality practices more or less continue to be true for a long time. You may notice a minor drop in traffic as ranking factors change, but adapting to new rules or new things a website needs (like the increased importance of local results) account for those last two digits to bring you to a ten. Those subtleties mark the difference in a pretty good and an excellent SEO, but it’s not as though you were a nine and then after an algorithm change you’ve become only a four.

And if that does happen, more than likely it’s because you built your strategy around lame tactics you shouldn’t have been wasting your time on to begin with.

The Bottom Line in Foundational SEO

White hat SEO tactics are very momentum-based. Employ a well thought out strategy and you may not be number one tomorrow or even next month, but once you attain some movement if you keep it going you’ll coast for a long time. On the other hand, rely on some trick that games the system and you may leap to the top very quickly, but you’ll drop just as fast when Google makes a change to lock it out. And then you’ll be scrambling around looking for the next trick to save your ass.

Sometimes, I’ve even seen an algorithm change improve sites I’ve managed. My guess is that it’s because a number of the site’s competitors were winning through BS, and the algorithm update stopped them from beating me.

So Google made local results matter more? Great, and quality business sites should focus on that. Content keyword count is less important? Good; people focusing too much on that tended to write crappy content. Content topics are more contextually-driven now that exact keyword matches? Good, for the same reason. See the pattern?

Read more SEO articles by Brian Watkins.

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