How Google is Making Marketers Better
Of the six leading search engines, Google captures about 90.6 percent of all search engine traffic, making what Google says (and does) SEO gospel. Google updates are analogous to fruit fly reproduction cycles, in that Google tweaks its algorithm hundreds of times in a given year. Most of these tweaks are minor… and then, it launches a Panda or a Penguin, in other words, a major update, and throws a huge monkey wrench in search. But when we think about it, where would SEO be without Google updates? And what kind of search results would end users be looking at, without the concerted effort of SEO marketers to keep up with the vicissitudes of the search engine landscape?
Ultimately, as gut-wrenching as it can be to see your website drop in GA (Google Analytics), this effect (or the threat of it) is precisely what makes marketers create better site experiences: site navigation, user-defined personalization, more relevant and engaging content, and compelling graphics.
Vitamin “G”? Are Google Updates Actually Good for Us?
SEO marketers use Google updates to explain fluctuations in rankings and organic website traffic to their clients. But, we believe that by looking at the fallout of some of Google’s seminal updates, marketers can also learn how google updates are actually good for you! Here are some of the major updates that shook the SEO world.
In the Beginning, There Was the Florida Update
The Florida update touched down like a tornado and left a wake of despair in 2003. Sites that had ranked, lost their ranking virtually overnight. Cheap tricks, like keyword stuffing and repetitive inbound anchor text, were now liabilities, after having reigned as the default SEO strategy for years. Marketers who may have been clueless about SEO were now painfully aware of the need to adopt it. This is considered the update that brought SEO to the forefront of digital marketing.
The Austin update of 2004 took Florida’s clean sweep a step further, mowing down sites replete with invisible text, stuffed meta tags, and/or useless spam.
The Second Wave: The Panda Update 1.0 – 2.0 (Feb – April 2011)
The content farm inquisition went global (targeting all English language search results) with these updates. This sweeping website reform (which also incorporated user feedback signals, such as sites that users blocked) cracked down on 12% of searches and heralded a new era in SEO.
The following year saw the launch of the first Top Heavy update (January 2012), which dinged sites that blasted visitors with “too many ads” above the fold, hence the moniker “top heavy”.
The Panda Effect
Content for the sake of content was no longer the norm and SEO strategists had to quickly purge auto-generated and scraped content, and user generated spam from their website collateral.
The subsequent Panda updates (along with Penguin and others), would also continue the practice of penalizing sites that pilfered content from sources in order to rank higher than the original content owner and deepen Google’s ability to distinguish between higher and lower content quality, all of which resulted in a better content experience for the end user.
It’ll Just Hurt for a Second (We Hope)!
Throughout the main of Google’s algorithm updates, a core principle has been at work: rewarding marketers and webmasters who create websites with unique, relevant content. Much like an annual flu shot, these updates may sting a bit, but they keep SEO marketers honest and compel us, in the end, to do the very thing we aspire to do – create the best possible browsing experience for our end-users that money can’t buy.