When Google Changes the Rules: 6 Strategies for Keeping Your Sanity

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5 Signs Your Website Needs a MakeoverLast fall, the almighty Google made some significant changes to its algorithms, changes that have affected many businesses. Well, guess what? More changes are a comin’ because that’s the way it works: Google is constantly tweaking and refining its process.

Now, it might feel like Google changes the rules willy-nilly, but stop for a moment, and look at the situation from Google’s perspective. Its number one goal is to provide a rich and relevant search experience for users, one that offers up the most helpful content to a person’s search query. Every tweak it makes to its algorithm is done in an effort to accomplish this.

Yes, it’s that simple.

So, knowing that, you should be able to relax, right? No? OK, well here are six strategies to help you maintain your sanity.
1. Write for people first, search engines second. Yes, you’ve no doubt heard this nugget before, but it’s worth repeating. Your job is to develop content that will delight your prospects and customers, not game Google’s algorithm. Why? Compelling content that helps people is what converts site visitors into leads. Content that has an ulterior motive—such as outsmarting Google—might draw traffic in, but it probably won’t result in the conversions you’re looking for.

2. Understand what you’re seeing. Whenever Google makes a change to its algorithm, so many people go into a tizzy and keep an overly watchful gaze on their analytics, often questioning every blip and anomaly they see, believing it’s a precursor to their website’s inevitable doom.

Don’t be an alarmist. Don’t panic. And make sure you know what you’re looking at. It’s easy to look at analytical data and construe a story based on that data, but it takes a strong analytical mind with experience in statistics (among other things) to understand what the data is really saying.

If this isn’t your bailiwick, don’t punt and attempt to “figure it out” on your own. You can teach yourself some things on your own, of course, but deep analysis (which is what should take place if you feel a Google algorithm has had a catastrophic effect on your site) is not one of them. Outsource to a professional who can interpret the data, who understands Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools, and who can make sound recommendations based on what the numbers are really saying.

3. Always use “white hat” optimization tactics. White hat tactics are legitimate, “legal,” non-spammy ways of optimizing your site and helping people discover your content. White hat tactics include things like having a keyword-rich title tag and clear, compelling meta descriptions.

On the flip side, black hat tactics are considered no-no’s. Keyword stuffing, cloaking, and thin content filled with spammy links are examples of black hat tactics. It’s important to note that black hat tactics do produce results (otherwise no one would bother with them). But you never know when Google might discover your nefarious work and penalize your site accordingly. This could hurt you much more than it could help in the long run. It’s not worth the risk.

4. Remember that traffic volume is only one metric (and it’s not the most important one). Would you rather have 10,000 website visits per month with a 1% conversion rate or 5000 website visits per month with a 10% conversion rate? It’s more important to have targeted traffic that converts into leads rather than an inflated traffic number that doesn’t convert into leads. If you find your traffic drops precipitously after a Google update, don’t panic. Check to see if conversions have dropped as well. If conversions have dropped, check out strategy #2 above and solicit insight from an SEO professional.

5. Don’t put all your eggs in Google’s basket. Yes, you want prospective customers who are looking for your specific products and services to be able to find you when they plug a relevant keyword phrase into Google. But that shouldn’t be the only way you attempt to attract prospects, right?

Simply posing the question probably makes you realize how silly that would be. Google should be one piece of the puzzle. You’ll want to have a mix of other marketing programs, specifically ones that attract new customers:

  • Referral programs – get your current customers to sing your company’s praises. Bonus: word-of-mouth referrals will trump a random website that comes up in search any day of the week.
  • Online advertising that doesn’t involve Google. Buying advertising on relevant sites where your audience frequents is one strategy (say hello to Bing). Running Facebook advertising is another economical option.
  • Direct mail – despite what you’ve heard, it’s not dead.
  • Social mediathe referral traffic generated from platforms like Pinterest and Facebook is impressive.

6. Follow reputable sources that will help, not heighten the hysteria. When Google makes a significant update, so many people want to share their opinions and thoughts about the changes. Much of what’s written resembles Chicken Little hysterics (“The sky is falling, the sky is falling”).

Other people write well-intentioned, yet misguided advice, simply because they write about things from an anecdotal standpoint (“Hey, Google made and update, and I observed this happen to my site; therefore, it must be a result of the update AND it might happen to you”).

Know where you’re getting your information from. There are certain sites that you can trust, specifically the ones that live and breathe SEO day in and day out, like Search Engine Land, Search Engine Guide, and HubSpot. Whenever you hear about an update, follow our first bit of advice—take a deep breath and don’t panic—and then turn to one of these sites for the latest information, what it means, and what you should do (if anything).

How do you keep your sanity intact when Google issues an update? What other strategies can you recommend?

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