Future-proofing Your SEO Strategy
One of the most common misconceptions about search engine optimization is that it is an ever-changing marketing channel and is just as likely to kill your business as it is to make you rich.
This is simply not true – strategically speaking.
Yes, search engine algorithms are updated constantly and therefore are in a constant state of change. Yes, even outside of the algorithms, there are constant user interface changes that have significant impacts on business. Yes, there are thousands of businesses that have been damaged because of one or all of these changes.
I once saw a company (not a small one, but a fairly good-sized one) that was primarily web-based lose 30% of their traffic in one day due to the first Panda update, although they were not intentionally doing anything out of bounds.
This obviously had devastating impact to this company, whose entire revenue was solely based on online engagement.
In that timeframe, this company literally was planning on firing 30% of its staff because of the algorithmic changes from Google.
Business is no doubt affected by Google’s updates.
If you take a step back from specifics, and look at the big picture, search engines of today are simply working toward the same goal they started with more than 15 years ago.
According to Google’s “Ten things we know to be true,” the very, very first guideline they use to make decisions is:
Focus on the user and all else will follow.
Since the beginning, we’ve focused on providing the best user experience possible. Whether we’re designing a new Internet browser or a new tweak to the look of the homepage, we take great care to ensure that they will ultimately serve you, rather than our own internal goal or bottom line. Our homepage interface is clear and simple, and pages load instantly. Placement in search results is never sold to anyone, and advertising is not only clearly marked as such, it offers relevant content and is not distracting. And when we build new tools and applications, we believe they should work so well you don’t have to consider how they might have been designed differently.
You see, from the get go, search engines have always had the goal of focusing on users’ needs and helping people find the very best answers to their questions in the fastest way possible.
The reason why Google is so popular is because when it came on the scene back on September 4, 1998, it helped people find what they were looking for faster and more easily than its competitors at the time.
Why does this matter?
This is one of, if not THE, most critical principles to understand about SEO because it is the single guidepost for a successful, long-term, penalty-proof SEO strategy.
The wrong way
To describe this principle, I will first describe the mindset that is the antithesis to the principle.
The non-future-proof way of performing search engine optimization, adopted by many, many webmasters, especially in the past, was to figure out what Google’s ranking algorithm is looking for in the here and now and to create a website that matches only that criteria.
This is the sole reason for SEO’s incredibly spammy past. Practitioners weren’t focused on the same goal as the search engine (putting users first), they were focused on their own goal – gaming the current system that exists at the time the tactic was implemented to a breaking point.
At one time, search engines would actually reward content that had been duplicated from one site to another, even if that site’s owner did not originally write the content (a.k.a. plagiarism).
As a result, there were many webmasters who created websites solely built with duplicated, stolen content. These types of websites were so rampant, they even had a name – they were called “autoblogs.”
These sites were essentially hotbeds of plagiarism, where one webmaster could just steal someone else’s content and reap the benefits.
Google caught on to this and created the Panda update. This was a change. A massive change to be exact, and it had an incredible impact negatively for thousands and thousands of websites.
So, although this was a massive change, it was 100% on point with the principle that you should focus your search engine optimization techniques around: put the user first.
The problem looks like this:
As you can see, each time Google improves its search engine toward its final goal, webmasters implementing the “here and now” approach have to twist and turn to get back on track. However, webmasters implementing the “users first” approach reap the benefits of having the correct focus.
In short, the better approach is to shoot straight for where Google will end up, rather than chasing it’s tail the whole way.
I write all of this to say that although SEO does change over time, there are ways to make sure that you don’t rise and fall as websites have in the past.
By taking steps to inform yourself about search engine optimization today, whether it’s an experience like Cornerstone Interactive, or by constantly reading a dozen blogs on a daily basis, there is no reason to make the same mistakes that so many people, including myself have made in the past.
There are very, very specific things to do and not to do that I share in the Cornerstone Interactive training experience, but all of them fall within the single principle that is the key to future proofing your search engine optimization success: align your goal with search engines by putting the user first.
By aligning your goal with Google’s (focus on the user), you ensure not only that you won’t be negatively impacted by future Google updates, but that you will benefit from future Google updates.
You’ll benefit because of two reasons:
- Google will rank you higher than your competition because you are positively better, and
- Google will rank your competitors lower and lower because they are probably not aligning their goals with Google like they should be.
Tl;dr: Align your goals with Google’s and your SEO future will be bright.