November 26, 2014

Google’s Algorithm Updates: Should Content Marketers Be Worried?

google's algorithym changes

It seems like every time we content marketers look up from writing blog posts and ebooks, Google has changed the game, yet again. Below is a rundown of a few of the changes content marketers fear may be changing the rules forever.

Google’s Algorithm Changes

Panda

Google now penalizes badly-written content, as well as duplicate content posted to multiple sites. Keyword stuffing, which I’m sure you never engaged in, is now officially a no-no on Google’s list.

Penguin

This algorithm looks at the inbound links your website gets. Google now scrutinizes the quality of those links. If you’re a lawn care provider, having links from babysitting and gambling sites could work against you. Not that you should have links like that, but I’m simply attempting to prove a point here.

All Searches Now Secure

Google now encrypts all search data, whether users are logged into a Google account or not. What that means is that no one can view the keywords you or anyone else are searching for. That means as a content marketer, I can’t see which keywords people searched for to find my site.

Some of the data is still available, but not all.

Authorship

Google now allows content producers to link their Google+ accounts to the content they produce.  On the surface, this is a good thing for anyone with an active Google+ account.

But for people who don’t bother to walk through the steps, we’re wondering if they will lose traffic as a result.

In-Depth Articles

Now articles that are longer than your typical blog post are considered “in-depth articles,” and are called out in Google searches. I still haven’t seen many examples of this in action. But what I have seen only shows results from well-known publications.

So how does the little player like me get recognition?

Is Content Marketing All for Naught?

As you can see, there are a lot of changes happening. Many affect how we use keywords to drive traffic to our sites. After all, if we don’t know whether people are searching for “how to carve a pumpkin,” and we’re using that phrase on our website, how do we know if it’s working? If we have hundreds of links to our site, and Google thinks some of them are spammy, how can we disconnect from them?

The answers aren’t all conclusive, but here’s what I have to say:

The reason Google is putting so much into play is because many people were taking advantage of the system. They’d use what are called “black hat” techniques, such as listing dozens of keywords at the bottom of a page, in the same color font as the background so they weren’t visible, in order for Google to see those keywords and rank the site for them.

Article marketing sites were popular a few years ago, but they’re so diverse in both the subjects covered as well as the quality, Google chucked them as authority sites.

Sure, you and I have been playing according to the rules all along.  And no, it isn’t fair that we have to shift our strategies. But c’est la vie.

Consistent Strategies

The good news is, if you use the following strategies, you probably won’t have to change much in your way of thinking:

Write for Humans

Some people were writing for search engines and got us in the mess we’re in. Don’t worry so much about keywords.  Focus on naturally flowing language that will appeal to visitors. Put keywords where you can, but don’t stress about it.

Be Less Analytical

We’ve killed ourselves with terms like “analytics” and “keyword density.” Let’s just get back to trying to show our authority in our niche and educating our target market. Keep an eye on Web traffic and conversion?  Yes – but don’t go overboard.

Write for Reputable Sites

Guest blogging can still be a great marketing strategy. But focus on sites related to your niche and only on the best sites. Ask yourself, “Will having a link from this site help or hurt my traffic?”

Write to be Useful

Your goal in content marketing should be to provide answers and solutions for potential customers. That hasn’t changed. Keep delivering value, and you’ll reach your audience.

Worry Photo via Shutterstock

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Susan Payton - Awards Communication Mgr.


Susan Payton Susan Payton is the Communications Manager for the Small Business Trends Awards programs. She is the President of Egg Marketing & Communications, an Internet marketing firm specializing in content marketing, social media management and press releases. She is also the Founder of How to Create a Press Release, a free resource for business owners who want to generate their own PR.

29 Reactions

  1. Thanks for your take on this topic, Susan.

    Personally, it’s getting kind of old; what we need…anyone who markets online, is some search engine competition.

    Can somebody please get Bing cranking?

    These days, online marketers cannot just set their sites up to be Google-friendly, anymore. They must diversify…and try to please their end users more.

    The Franchise King®

    • Joel–
      You’re right. It’s sad that we have to bow down to Google, but alas, it’s a monopoly, essentially, at least for the moment.

    • That’s right. It is no longer about the search engines anymore. It is about real people visiting real websites. After all, money is only spent if a real person visits your site. So the key to a more stable online income is by creating user-friendly content.

  2. Susan,

    Yes, I agree – the only way to do is focusing to the “evergreen” strategies.

    It’s no longer an urban legend that Google favors big brands/reputable sites.

    I write the same quality articles for SmallBizTrends.com and my own blogs. But surprise, surprise – for some reasons, my article is viewed as more reputable when published with SmallBizTrends.com :)

    Indeed, no matter where you publish your articles/blog posts, make sure that the site is of high quality.

  3. Guest blogging can still be a great marketing strategy. That is why many online work is offered for guest blogging to the right blogger who can write with persuasive tone.

  4. I believed in content marketing even before all the penguin and panda silliness started. However, despite content always having been my overall concern, I still value SEO linkage.

  5. You shouldn’t really try to trick Google anyway – if you create content that is engaging then the rankings will come afterwards. Surely, black hat techniques will become a thing of the past now?

  6. Yea, the updates don’t concern me anymore. I focus on writing great content and promoting my face off with it. Since taking a more aggressive approach to content promotion, my organic traffic has increased 300+%, meaning social shares are important and WORK!

    I still see a lot of “bloggers” keyword stuffing and think — that is so 2007. It makes the “blog post” so difficult to read. It’s typically MLMers.

    Notice how I used quotes as I wouldn’t consider these people bloggers and their posts are not considered blog post in my eyes :)

    • Adam–
      It’s nice to hear someone say that what we’ve been doing is still working. I keep hearing stories of people’s traffic dropping, so your increase should reassure readers.

      Susan

  7. Susan: I started with blogging in 2002 because I wanted to do it. Write first for your own sake and the rest will follow. I have never written for robots, only for thinking individuals! ;)

  8. Content marketers don’t have to worry till they produce high quality, relevant, and non-duplicate content. Anything that is natural is good for Google.

  9. While the constant changes take a little adjusting, this is really a good change for the industry and small businesses looking to online marketing. I have seen some horrible content out there that only has the search engines in mind and is near illegible to the “human” reader. Google is asking for great content, not computer-spun, keyword stuffed content and has links to relevant sites. Those that are already doing this will prevail as the “black hat” marketers fail.

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