You have to give Google credit for trying and trying to improve their algorithm by means of constantly updating it. If only I had that kind of perseverance I would be sitting on a sandy beach sipping cocktails by now (probably). The only problem is, is that these updates don’t appear to do very much apart from hurt small and medium sized businesses. After numerous updates and revisions I still see a lot of spam, but I also see MASSIVE brand bias. Nearly everything I see in the serps now is either some news website, some large brand or Youtube or Amazon or Wikipedia…the list goes on. And when I talk about updates, I am referring to the 500 estimated algorithmic updates they make. Panda for content, filtering out so-called ‘thin’ content. We should of course have 1500 word articles on every page, a brief and succinct description simply will not cut it! At major update no.25 you’d think this would work perfectly. Then there is Penguin, which we know is the mother of all changes. This focused primarily on poor linking strategies, but as we know, they didn’t quite get that right either. Domain crowding was also an update to deal with the complaints made by many about seeing multiple results from the same domain, which no one particularly wants. It has been successful to a degree but it won’t take you long to find an example of where it still exists – I’ll give them C- for this one. Exact match domains, you know the ones, keyword-keywordkeyword-keyword.co.uk. Those dirty spammers have been at it for so long that you probably couldn’t even rank a keyword rich domain nowadays anyway. I switched one out myself for a branded domain and serps returned almost overnight. The PayDay loan one was a great one, the results post-update are laughable. Go ahead, if you’re in the UK Google ‘pay day loans’. Well, at least I have a choice of highly authoritative news websites to choose from – now where to find a good pay day loan provider…ah, page 5.
Now I don’t like to seem like I am ranting but I actually find this quite irritating, for I for one feel that if I am having to use a search engine to research information on products/services I probably have already considered that the big brands are not what I am looking for. Google, please explain to me why I need to see Amazon and eBay listings so often in your serps. If I want to look at things from Amazon and eBay I will go and use their very useful internal search engines!
So anyway, back to small and medium businesses. It’s really sad that in Google’s pursuit of algorithmic perfection they have dialed down all the signals that once listed very good and very niche websites. I think part of the problem is that there was a lot of cross-over between good sites and bad sites using roughly the same sort of grey-hat techniques, and by dialing down all the signals that the bad sites used, it caught all the good sites using it too. Actually I can live with a bit of spam, I can see it a mile off and I just skip over it. I would continue doing this if it protected small and medium businesses from getting caught in the crossfire.
Taking out the middle-ground does achieve one very useful thing for Google, that middle-ground it has punished will more than likely resort to using AdWords. Hoorah! for the shareholders. Damn shareholders, you’re killing what was a fine and beautiful search engine. But I guess we are all guilty, we allowed ourselves to be seduced by Google and all its wonderful (and often free) offerings.
But as they say, “Google giveth, and then Google taketh away again”. What’s that? Yes, Google Shopping is not free anymore, so c’mon small business owners, hand over your last sheckles – and your children’s uni fund if you have to.
My advice really is to continue creating great content and developing user friendly websites, back-linking from sources you think could act as good referrers. The internet is so vast that search engines are a must, but I wonder if working on direct and referral traffic would be a good way to combat the reliance on search engines. Engage with users where possible, in forums for example, offering advice and becoming an authority. Time consuming I know but the quick routes in life are never permanent.