I told myself that I wasn’t going to write about any Google updates because countless blogs already cover the topic every time a tiny change to the algorithm is made. However, I received an email several days ago which made my blood boil a bit.
So I had to write this.
Before I get into anything else, I guess it’s worth mentioning the Google algorithm change that caused this blog post to happen in the first place.
Google is always updating its algorithm to try to improve search results. This makes sense. They are in the business of providing search results. And if the results aren’t any good, Google’s business is no longer viable.
This creates a constant battle between Google and marketers who try to game the system with SEO tactics. For example, for quite some time “backlinks” were all the rage. And they still are to some extent.
But this resulted in many unworthy sites getting to the top of Google just by building countless backlinks from questionable sources.
So Google decided to take care of it…and they changed their algorithm.
The latest change was supposed to affect only a small percentage of websites. Personally, my rankings have not really been impacted by the algorithm tweak. For now.
I say my sites haven’t been affected by the algorithm “for now” because this latest algorithm change opens up a door for tactics that are…how should I say this…less than moral.
Google went from overvaluing backlinks, to de-valuing “low quality” backlinks, to now penalizing websites for these low quality backlinks.
This opens up the door for “SEO optimization methods” that I once thought would never happen. Methods that were being promoted in the email I received.
Marketers who want to “game the system” can now bombard their competitors’ websites with “bad backlinks” to sabotage their rankings. And what’s worse, is that there are marketers out there that are promoting this behavior in information products!
This puts your rankings in the hands of your competitors.
The funny thing is I remember reading a discussion about this tactic more than a year ago. The general consensus, at the time, was that this would never work because Google would never be dumb enough to make a change like this. I guess the general consensus was wrong.
There isn’t much we can do about Google’s constant updates. And we certainly can’t do much about shady marketers who try to game the system. And for what? How does sabotaging their competitors increase their own conversions and sales? But I digress…
The only thing you can do is focus on what you control. And the thing you will always be able to control is your own content and on page SEO.
On-page optimization will always be important. Period. This can’t change. How can Google rank your content if it doesn’t take your content into account in its algorithm?
And things like meta tags and descriptions still count. Although plenty of SEOs will tell you otherwise, I know from personal experience they still matter.
I am not going to make the claim that just having tags will get you ranked where you want. Some keywords are more competitive than others. Backlinks are still important. And so is page authority, and and so are social shares. But sometimes just simple on-page optimization is enough.
If you want to know the secret to great SEO, it’s really quite simple. Ignore the search engines.
Let’s begin at the beginning.
Why are you creating the content? Chances are its so people will read it, right? Otherwise what’s the point?
So don’t put the cart before the horse. Don’t start optimizing until you actually have something people will want to read. There is no reason to waste your time and efforts on optimizing content that gets no results. (Tweet This).
Before you even think about optimizing a single word, make sure your content is worth optimizing for. Is it going to get you a sale? Is it going to get you a subscriber? What is its purpose?
Remember that people will be reading the content. People are clicking the links for me to earn my income in the post I mentioned earlier. Would these people be clicking anything if the content was shit? No.
Brankica Underwood just announced that she’s starting a new project and won’t be doing much optimization at all. And you know what? I bet it becomes a huge success.
If you are going to take away one thing from this post please take away this one statement:
Write for people, then edit for search engines. (Tweet This)
After, and only after, you have a great piece of content, you can edit it to make it a bit more search engine friendly.
This is easier than ever with tools like Scribe SEO by Copyblogger. But for those of you who don’t want to invest in the tool, I have a simplified on-page optimization checklist as a bonus to Strategic Content Launch Pad, and have a much more intensive content optimization guide that you can pick up as well. :).
You didn’t skip step one right?
This is where actually having useful, people-driven content is an absolute necessity. Get out there and promote your content!
People link to, and share, useful content because they like it, not because it is optimized for search engines. So having done the second step in the process without the first doesn’t get you very far.
Oh, and guess what! Real people linking and sharing drives traffic back to your content! A nice safety net in case one of those shady marketers decides they want to sabotage you.
So what do you think? Should we worry about our competitors? Should we worry about Google? Or should we worry about only the things we can control? Or is this a naive way of looking at things because no one lives in a vacuum?
The big problem, like you had mentioned with the email, is that anyone with a long-standing website has been affected in some way or another with this update.
The biggest problem is that we have websites that have been receiving backlinks from scraper blogs, directories, and low quality websites because they are automatic – we can’t choose to put them on there and it’s often hard to have the links taken down.
One of my sites constantly gets scraped by auto blogs so I’m certainly getting a lot of “bad backlinks”. What’s frustrating is that it’s so out of my control yet I still get in trouble for it (traffic is quite down).
Hopefully Google can get this sorted out but as you’ve noted – go for the user first and foremost. Just sucks that there are things still out of one’s control.
Yeah, it’s really quite a shame. I remember reading a discussion about this, as I mention in the post, and the consensus was that this could never happen. And it made sense to me. So I didn’t worry about it. This is pretty astonishing quite honestly.
Of course I say that focusing on the user is the important part here, but that’s easier said than done…especially if the user is using Google to find the content! I usually could not care any less about Google Updates, and I haven’t been affected by this one (much), but this one just makes me unhappy because it opens up more doors for shady tacticians.
Yeah, definitely. Remove your own websites from the mix and it’s everyone that it affects.
Mom & Pop shops that were playing it straight got smacked around and so these businesses are being hurt.
General search queries are popping up bad, outdated information which hurts people doing research.
The list goes on and on. Hopefully things will get settled soon but it has certainly made me a bit more in-tuned with what Google might be doing in the future.
The problem I see with the mom and pop scenario is that many have no idea what SEO really entails. They outsource it to companies that are supposed to be experts. But they just practice shady tactics to get the quick result.
And you can’t really blame them either, I suppose. It worked, so they did it. And it’s easier to get paid if you can show quick results.
Whenever I do any sort of optimization for someone I explain to them that results are very unpredictable, and to see REAL results takes time. People get really turned off by that.
If your websites are damaged from bad links that you don’t even know, you can report to google for a reconsideration. However, it takes lots of time and sometimes, the giant search engine simply ignore your request.
Yeah, reporting to the search engines is just another headache. It’s a shame that that might be the only option.
I’ve read plenty of opinions about how the penguin update doesn’t “punish” bad backlinks, but rather just “neutralizes” them. I don’t think that’s completely accurate…I’m pretty sure there’s some level of punishment going on.
I have been reading about the new Google update, and even though I have been reading about how our competition can actually do things that will have a negative effect on our SEO, I still find it hard to believe that Google didn’t think of this. It’s just too stupid, if it was this easy to hurt your competition
On the other hand, I absolutely agree with what you’re saying. We can’t control what Google are doing, so we should focus on what we can control, and what we know will work – always. And like you’re saying, high quality content will always be preferred, and we should write for people. That’s why we are writing in the first place, and from what I’ve read, that’s always going to be Google’s priority as well, to help people find the best and most relevant content
I found it hard too…but then I got the email promoting a product telling you to do just that. Although someone promoting such a shady tactic could possibly be promoting it even if it doesn’t work .
Unfortunately there will always be people that will try to game the system. Even more unfortunate is that we, as writers and marketers that are doing things right, may be effected by the actions of those that don’t.
But doing things right should get you to your goals in the end .
You put this so nicely. Thank you for a simple, relevant message. I’m going to promote this article on my social media channels.
Thanks so much Jo!
Great post Eugene! I used to do some Submitterbot things in the past, but based on these new Google changes, it might actually be harmful. Great, one less thing to do!
Lol, yeah. I’ve taken part in a few link building things in the past. But honestly nothing has ever given me better results than just good old-fashioned on-page optimization. And social sharing is become bigger and bigger – at least as far as Google as concerned (but that’s really what anyone cares about, isn’t it? ).
Absolutely! I wish I had bought those Google shares when they were still affordable!
It’s really a nice and useful piece of information. I’m satisfied that you just shared this useful info with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.
You are right, we should focus more on what we can control rather than on things like SEO. These days, I don’t do any optimization for my posts (I guess that’s a bad move; I should probably do that when I get the time). Right now, I am more focused on commenting and social media – I have got great results from both sources, I am just going to try experiment with these techniques and see what I can get out of it.
Thanks for the post, anyways,
That’s not a bad approach. If you’re driving traffic through social media then you don’t have to rely on the search engines (and risk getting punished with another algorithm update). I think doing a minimum level of optimization is still a good thing to do though (tags, description, etc.).
[...] The Real Secret to Optimizing Your Content - An interesting take on Google’s new algorithm, how it puts you at risk, and how you should respond. [...]