In the very recent past, SEO was cut and dry. Google® made the rules and SEO professionals worked tirelessly to keep up with them and the ever-changing algorithm. While Google still has tremendous influence on what ranks and what doesn’t, times are changing. It’s becoming more than figuring out what keywords, content and links affect search engine results — It’s turning into more of a popularity contest where the winner isn’t entirely decided by Google.
Previously, marketers spent time trying to decipher one signal from another and adhering to rules like the number of backlinks each page should have and writing content based around relevant keywords in hopes to land on the first search engine results pages (SERPs). But as SEO expert, Rand Fiskin from Moz perfectly stated in a recent blog post,“Google’s ranking algorithm has become so incredibly complex, nuanced, powerful and full-featured that modern SEOs have all but given up on hammering away at individual signals.” On top of the known updates like Penguin, Hummingbird and Panda, Google makes more than 600 updates to its algorithm every year with the vast majority unknown to the public. Fiskin continues, “The SEO field’s obsession with knowing precisely how Google works and which signals matter is, at times, costing us a broader, deeper understanding of big-picture marketing.”1
Now, successful SEO is determined by more than the standards Google has created. While we can’t totally discount what Google thinks and the rules it makes, marketers should not be designing their websites and monetizing their content just for Google, because truthfully, your Google rankings are based more on your brand’s real life popularity than anything else. Oftentimes, showing up on the first SERP can be attributed to social media and content success. This means you are using email, blogs and social media to reach your audience, and those pieces of content are being shared and shared again. Not only this, but other writers, whether it’s bloggers or journalists, are also writing about your products and services, and this is the type of popularity that Google cannot ignore. As SEO blogger Tad Chef stated in a blog post, “Google’s job is to provide a high level of search quality based on what others are searching for. They have to find you. A search engine that ignores popular ideas, people or things is a bad search engine users will abandon.”2
This isn’t a petition to abandon all SEO best practices based on the rules and regulations of Google. It’s important that you utilize basic SEO tactics such as offering relevant content and creating a friendly user experience among other things, but it should be part of a more holistic approach that incorporates tactics which encourage others to talk about you so Google has no choice but to take notice.