Every time Google tries something new, site owners panic and hit the blogs, desperate for any sort of tidbit that will help them get ahead of the latest "shift" in the algorithm. While Google's mathematical page ranking system has been dancing since day one with updates on a secret schedule, last week's change is one big deal in sea of big deals.
Scrambling to adjust the whole lot for every change Google initiates is counterproductive. Simple best practices like a good content strategy focusing on delivering relevant and -- as if it were possible-- unique information to the world are best practice staples in search marketing.
So what's really different in this latest update?
It's not about freshness as much as it is the appearance of freshness. One of the core goals of search results has always been to provide timely information but not even Google's founders could have predicted the insanely high frequency that would be required to keep it "fresh."
This is yet another move to capture relevant information created in micro circles like Google + updates and information feeds. Google's recently acquired ability to index and subsequently appropriate some Facebook comments should clue you in to an ongoing struggle for search sites to capture and decipher repetitive and frequently updating information on a massive scale. The real-time web is generating colossal amounts of data that must be distilled into micro segments that can be spoon fed to individuals when and how they want it.
Google can't simply tell you how to make your site better than your competitor's site. If they did, everyone would be number one for everything. The trick is not getting caught up in useless metrics thereby winding yourself up emotionally for no good reason. The most useless metric I've seen to date are so called "visibility indexes." Much in the same way Klout really only measures the degree at which popular people make themselves look popular, "freshness," or "visibility" metrics are really only good for telling you exactly which way the wind might be blowing at that particular moment in time.
Much in the same way Klout really only measures the degree at which popular people make themselves look popular, "freshness," or "visibility" metrics are really only good for telling you exactly what you may or may not want to hear.
While there are valid reports being produced that are in effect useless on a 1-to-1 basis for marketers, some turn out valid trend spotting info for the industry at large. However, search engine visibility reports are a series of data points assembled to illustrate undeterminable conclusions. In short, they are about as reliable as a sundial at midnight.
No search site or information distiller has figured out how to deal with the volume and flow of information coming from circles, micro blogs and status updates. We may be able to thank Millennials for the burning desire to share everything all the time, but the trend has spread to normal hard working folk as well. Our culture and information consumption is on demand and that goes for search results as well.
If you are struggling with what to do with the latest algorithm shift, a few things will go a long way to making sure your wheels aren't spinning.
- First, continue on your current path of creating solid, relevant and fresh content. Don't try to change everything because there are plenty more updates coming.
- Second, make sure your analytics are configured correctly. You need to make sure you are making decisions based on accurate data. There's a reason marketers are lined up to pay Google the bargain price of $150,000 per year to help with a free analytics product. The bulk of panic stricken marketing masters don't even count visitors correctly.
- Third, staying the course on a good content strategy doesn't mean you should let it get stale. Don't count on your main traffic generating pages to stay that way forever. "Freshness" lends itself to giving credence to the latest and greatest content. "Fresh" diversity will be key to long term success.
In the end, the algorithm is just like we used to describe the weather back when I lived in lovely, Rochester, New York. If you don't like the way it's treating you, wait until next week and it will change. The weather goes hot & cold, precipitation comes and goes, but the landscape remains much the same. Remember that before you freak out when the algo shifts.