Google Does The Update: What’s New?

Google has (once again) updated its search algorithm, panicking webmasters everywhere. What will happen to those high rankings you’ve worked so hard to achieve? Wayne explains what you need to do to raise your score with search engines (and your site visitors) regardless of any software changes.

Google has finally updated its display of sites’ incoming links. Along with that incoming link update, Google has made public some changes in its vaunted Google PageRank. As always, misconceptions, conflicting theories, and webmaster panic are everywhere. It’s time to look past the mythology, forget the quick fixes, and ignore the latest hair pulling and teeth gnashing.

By developing a solid Google strategy, a website owner can weather almost every storm that any new algorithm wrinkle tosses into the sea of search. Instead of chasing what is already outdated by the time of the public display, cast your eyes on the shore. Your site’s wake is not going to help you on your journey to safe harbors.

Google is tinkering constantly with both its search algorithm and its Google PageRank calculation. Instead of concerning yourself with back link displays and green lines on the Google Toolbar, the time would be better spent on building a solid website foundation. Some ideas for basic search engine optimization are timeless, and will remain part of the algorithm regardless of changes.

As Google continues to change, and it is hoped, improve their search ranking algorithm, many website owners will continue to panic. The problem with panic, especially if it involves a temporary loss of search ranking position, is the resulting actions. Often irrationally applied, or done in haste, or perhaps following the latest hot tip about Google’s alleged direction, these panic-driven moves often do more harm than good in the search results.

It’s important to keep a level head, as Google’s latest update affects many sites, not just one. While many website owners might mistakenly believe that they are the only ones hurting, they should be relieved to know that there are others out there with lower search rankings too. More than one webmaster is feeling the pain. It is certainly widespread.

On the other hand, for every lower search result for one website, there is a corresponding rise in the rankings by another site. One webmaster’s loss is another one’s gain. Some website owners are thrilled with the latest Google update, as their most important keywords are seeing a rise in the rankings. As we all know, every coin has two sides. Keep that in mind when assessing any search results.

The best way to look at any Google update is for the long term. On any given day, a website can rise and fall in the search engine results pages (SERPs) for the site’s most important keywords. Short-term thinking will lead nowhere, since the Google algorithm is constantly being updated and changed. Don’t get yourself into the trap of chasing yesterday’s good advice.

Thinking long-term, and about what benefits your visitor traffic, will yield positive results in both the search engines and in your pocketbook, as we shall see.

Google is constantly upgrading its search algorithm. Despite various conspiracy theories alleging otherwise, the goal of the Google engineers is to provide the best and most relevant results for any keyword or keyword phrase typed into the search box. The people at Google fully understand that if their search results are not of value to their users, then Internet searchers will consider using an alternative search engine.

Google sees the competition right in front of them, in the form of Yahoo and MSN Search. The last thing that Google, and now its investors, wants to see is search traffic using other search engines. Loss of user search traffic means lower advertising and other revenue for Google. That is a given. Because of that desire to make money for the shareholders, Google engineers and management want to optimize the search experience to provide the best possible relevant results.

The goal of Google’s algorithm changes leads to concerns with relevance. By that, Google wants to keep the results of any search as closely related as possible to the search phrase entered into the search interface by a Google user. That is logical, one would think.

Webmasters should keep those same needs and desires for relevance in mind. Websites must be kept relevant for the users as well as the search engines. This two-pronged approach to relevance will certainly pay off in stronger search results. Pleasing the website visitors will also make the search engines happy.

While it’s easy to point to unique and isolated cases of a site using optimization tactics counter to Google’s posted webmaster guidelines, those cases tend to be fairly rare. I know that readers of this article might have that exception right at hand, but the same search results also show pages and pages of relevant results too. The spam sites are exceptions, and not the rule.

Google is moving toward relevance. That means lowering the value of — but not entirely removing — a link that has limited use to a website visitor. A site on polar bears will not be especially relevant to a site that sells beach wear. The idea behind this lessening of passed along link popularity and Google PageRank, is to reduce unrelated link exchanges and link sales. Google engineers do not view unrelated sites as naturally linking, and therefore they are a bit suspect from a search algorithm point of view. A link trade made for search engines only is not going to win points in the new Google world.

Link anchor text falls under the same relevant and natural linking umbrella. A site whose entire incoming link inventory features identical link anchor text is not going to be treated very well either. The similarity would never occur under a natural linking regime, and therefore it is treated as very suspect by the Google search calculation programs.

In most cases, aiming to please the search engines using artificial and contrived means will not offer value to the visitor traffic either. That means lower sales and fewer dollars in the pocket of the website owner. That loss of revenue is usually not viewed as a good result.

It’s a cliche that providing good relevant content for a site’s visitors will provide stronger search engine results. It’s also a truism in the brave new Google world. If a webmaster provides a large amount of interesting and useful information on the website’s main themes and topics, it will enhance the visitor experience. Skeptics will point to the fact that a great site is of little value if it ranks somewhere beyond the Moon in the Google search results. The good news is, helping visitors and good search results are related.

Since Google’s algorithm stresses relevance, the road to happiness runs through providing interesting and informative content, along with helpful and relevant links. Relevance is the key to the door.

Google is rewarding sites that provide abundant content by awarding the coveted authority site status to sites that comply. In other words, the more relevant content a site delivers, the closer to the goal of authority site status it moves. Note that visitors will be attracted to the authority site as well, due to the large amount of information on a given topic. Relevance pays off in content for the site’s visitors, and with the search engines.

When a site provides powerful theme related content, it will also gain many natural one-way incoming links. Those links will feature relevant, and slightly different, link anchor text as well. At first glance, a webmaster might not be thrilled about the variation in anchor text. A deeper examination shows the fallacy of that concern. Sites will rank highly with only a few sites featuring the most important link anchor text. The link text is only part of the algorithm.

The sending and receiving pages are both theme related, and that adds ranking value as well. The high number of links also benefits the site, as PageRank flows heavily in its direction. Link popularity has a powerful influence on Google, and a high volume of relevant links, regardless of anchor text, will boost the page higher for the sought-after phrase.

As an added bonus, the site will rank highly for many other search phrases which had been ignored previously. While perhaps not the most voluminous in traffic individually, they provide strong traffic numbers collectively. Gaining high rankings from many secondary and tertiary search phrases will pay off handsomely in extra traffic and additional sales. Dominance in many search terms is a good idea. The better rankings in many search phrases prevents a disastrous loss resulting from a drop in the main keyword phrases.

Providing links to other informative sites in your topic area helps your visitors find information as well. It also works toward achieving Google’s highly valued hub site status. Once again, thinking of your visitors finds a parallel benefit in the Google search rankings.

Many website owners are concerned that if a visitor leaves their site, their business is lost to a competitor. While that possibility does exist, the loss is far greater from not having the search traffic find your site helpful at all. A visitor who fails to find the required information will click away to the next site very quickly.

Abundant relevant content will hold the visitor’s interest for a longer period of time. That longer site stay gives your content time to convince the user that the offered products and services are also helpful. Creating the subconscious relationship between your helpful content and your product line will result in many more sales than it will send away to competitors.

Once again, relevance as required by the visitor traffic pays off in Google as a potential hub site. The relevance of topic provides higher rankings in the non-hub or authority searches as well. The relationship between the needs of your site visitors and Google’s algorithm is getting closer all the time.

Conclusion

The current Google update is a wake up call to webmasters who failed to notice the relationship between visitors and the search results.

By providing helpful and informative content, and relevant links to other good theme related sites, a website will help their visitors. The site will also rise higher in the search engine results.

The rise of authority sites and hub sites is the clue for everyone that Google has taken relevance to visitors seriously. Hubs and authorities also point out quite clearly that Google fully intends to reward that relevance as well. Speaking of reward, relevance will also potentially produce more paying customers.

Think of your site visitors and your website will do well in any Google update.

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