Why I Love Google Algorithm Changes

September 4

Sounds pretty crazy, right?  Really, no one expects to hear about an SEO professional who loves waking up to the news that Google’s latest tweaks have resulted in dramatic changes to the natural search results!

For most SEO insiders and webmasters, the news that Google’s made changes is often accompanied by panic and terror – but I’ve always taken a different approach.  In my years of working in the field, I’ve seen plenty of changes come and go, including all of the following:

  • The release of “Universal Search” in May 2007.  Before this important date, the natural search results were standard, ten-item text-based listings.  Afterwards, they were bolstered with helpful results pulled from Google’s New, Local, Video and Image results – making search much more user-friendly and engaging.
  • February 2009’s release of the “Vince” update.  Although Google indicated that the change was fairly minor, it signaled the start of Google’s tremendously important shift towards weighting known brands more highly in the SERPs.  That’s had a huge impact on how I handle web promotions and on how I advise my clients to run their digital marketing campaigns.
  • The launch of “Google Instant” in September 2010.  At the time, plenty of SEOs felt that this change – which displayed recommended search queries as users typed in the search bar – signaled the end of SEO as we knew it.  Not only did the industry fail to collapse, plenty of us are now using this service as a part of our keyword research efforts.
  • The “dreaded” Panda update, which hit the industry in February 2011 (since no list of SEO updates is truly complete without this zinger…).  Lots of sites were hit hard by this web spam crackdown, and while I don’t want to sound combative, I was glad to see it.  Any effort on the part of Google to get rid of thin content will always be welcome in my book.
  • Google’s next “small animal” update – the Penguin algorithm change, which went live in April 2012.  This one was a big game-changer for working SEOs in terms of the best practices used to handle on-site optimization.  As you’ll see below, I love it when Google changes cause us to reevaluate the way we SEOs do things – nine times out of ten, the changes that result from the search giant’s algorithm tweaks lead to better on-site experiences for our visitors.

Specific algorithm changes aside, here’s why I love Google updates so much…

Algo changes weed out old websites that use dated techniques

Google’s search algorithms are constantly changing and evolving in order to provide the best possible search results to their users.  For webmasters using outdated techniques, this is incredibly frustrating, but I see it as an opportunity since my goals are aligned with Google’s.  I want them to provide the best results – I just want them to consider my results to be the best!

As an example, one technique that’s recently been devalued due to algorithm changes is the use of profile links.  In the past, spammers would set up bogus profiles on high PageRanks sites that offered user accounts with the sole purpose of adding URLs to these sites.  Obviously, this doesn’t help anyone – from the manipulated sites that receive inappropriately high SERPs rankings to the legitimate sites whose servers get hit with millions of fake accounts – so I’m glad to see it gone.

Algo changes hit spammers hard

The problem with black hat SEO isn’t just that it’s unethical, it’s also temporary!

The search engines are constantly working to weed out the unscrupulous and manipulative practices that get low quality sites ranked in inappropriately high SERPs positions.  After each change rolls out, I’m delighted to see certain types of spam plucked from the results pages in order to favor higher quality sites that deserve these positions on their own merits.

And really, who am I kidding?  It’s always great to see the websites that put in the effort to do things right be rewarded over black hat spammers J

Algo changes weed out the weak

In addition to filtering out spam results from the SERPs, algorithm changes weed out the weak results – including sites that haven’t kept up with recent changes or ongoing website maintenance.  For me, this means less competition and higher rankings for the sites that I actively manage using the latest best practices.

Whether I’m working on my own sites or my clients’ projects, I’m constantly looking for ways to beat the results that rank ahead of me in the SERPs.  This can be frustrating – especially when I see content in the top spot that appears to be their due to age only.  Sometimes I get lucky and Google’s algorithm changes open up these spots for me as they weed out results that haven’t kept pace with SEO changes.

Algo changes aren’t always fair

This might not sound nice, and I certainly recognize that there are situations where good quality websites are penalized unintentionally by algorithm changes.

However, what I love is that this inherent unfairness forces SEOs to figure things out on a deeper level.  When a site is targeted unfairly, we have to tweak things, apply recommended fixes and even contact Google in order to regain lost rank – all of which makes us better SEOs.

In general, I’ve found that most of the sites that receive penalties unfairly are those without concerted SEO strategies (or those whose campaigns haven’t kept pace with industry changes).  Yes, it can be frustrating for these sites to deal with algorithm changes, but in all the cases I’ve seen, the result is a webmaster that’s smarter and more aware of SEO priorities – and much less likely to let similar issues arise in the future.

Algo changes keep us guessing

Finally, one of the things I love about SEO is that it’s never boring!  Can you imagine how SEO work would look if the algorithms never changed?  We’d all be sitting in our offices, plugging away at the same, repetitive set of tasks – day-in and day-out.  I can’t think of anything more mind-numbing…

Part of the reason that I got into SEO in the first place was the constant challenge.  Sure, it might be frustrating to have to drop everything in order to determine exactly why one of my sites dropped rank or lost traffic, but I’d rather the search engines keep us guessing than have to stick to the same guidelines every day for the rest of my career.

Overall, you can’t deny that the world of SEO is always changing.  What passed for acceptable SEO just a few years ago doesn’t even scratch the surface of today’s methods (really, just try to conquer the first page of Google’s results with a few optimized meta tags, compared to a site with a fully-integrated content marketing, branding and link building strategy).

However, I challenge you not to think of these changes as something so terribly negative.  While they can be stressful in the moment, they actually represent a significant source of opportunity for the webmasters who are willing to step up and do the work needed to secure high SERPs rankings in the long run.

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15 Comments

  1. Eric Lander says:

    I love this line: “The problem with black hat SEO isn’t just that it’s unethical, it’s also temporary!”

    While many will say that the risk / reward is worth it – I’ve yet to find that to be an acceptable case if you’re providing SEO for a client.

    Really solid post here, Sujan – and I’m with you. This is why I love this space.

  2. Lee Hughes says:

    I feel the same, I can’t wait for the next big Penguin update :)

  3. Andrew Woo says:

    I’m new to SEO and I hated the idea of being afraid all my hard work is wasted cuz of an algo change. Glad you wrote this because it confirms my theory so far of sticking w/ stuff that won’t likely get blacklisted in a future algo change.

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  5. CE2011 says:

    I think if you are not doing any think wrong you should not be afraid of it. Actually I think it is a good idea due to this changes no. of spammers are reduce and they also trying to do the actual SEO. So I think the SEO is getting better and better due to this changes.

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  12. Jeff Berkey says:

    Excellent post Sujan! I couldn’t agree more. You can really tell the quality of someone’s SEO by their attitude towards / reaction to an algorithm change. The higher the quality of your SEO, the more algorithm changes should help your position in SERPs.

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  14. Kristy says:

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