As I am writing this I have had to deal with dozens of emails from clients who, over the weekend, saw their websites wobble and organic traffic tail off. In the information-rich connected world we live in, most online entrepreneurs are aware of Google’s updates and their animal names of recent and emails have been along the lines of “did the algorithm change again?’, “is this another Panda update?” along with the more stereotypical “have we been hacked? Traffic has plummeted”.
Readers of this blog know that I put out detailed information on Google’s changes and their impact when they are publicized. Google carries out over 500 updates each year to its algorithm and keeping up with the implications of it all can be a daunting task. As a matter of fact it can take up huge resources of time and money and derail even the best planned online marketing campaigns.
While things may quiet down a bit as we get into 2013 it is unlikely that we will see any time soon, a return to the pre-2007 every six-to-nine month period of search algorithm updates. So rather than worrying about every little change Google carries out to its search algorithm it makes more sense to know what to do to proof your website as much as possible to them and weather each storm.
How To Proof Your Website from SEO Turbulence
Just for clarification: proofing your website from the roller-coaster ride of Google SEO changes is not the same as ignoring SEO. The former allows you to take into your stride each SEO change Google makes while the latter lets you slip off into obscurity and profitably occupy yourself with work that does not feature the words, “online”, “SEO” or “digital’ in any way.
So, if you’re still reading this I take it that slouching off into the hills to live with the bears is not an option. That means that everything else that follows here has to be what you do:
01. Concentrate on core values: The days you could separate SEO from the UI experience are long gone. If your website does not provide a truly useful, easy-to-navigate interface to its visitors it will become apparent both by the Bounce Rate and the pictures-to-text ratio on your landing pages. The Click-Through-Rate (CTR) will also reveal whether you’ve done your homework in snippets and descriptions that attract visitors’ eyes.
02. Find out who you are: I know it sounds mystical but it shouldn’t be. I am still surprised by the number of businesses that lose sight of who they are and what they really do. This also means that they lose sight of just what it is that makes them unique. Differentiation is key when it comes to branding and unless you know what you do and why you are different from your competitors you cannot successfully project it to your potential customers.
03. Deliver value not products: Value is a service. Whether you sell software, hardware, cars or lollypops, if you cannot deliver true value to your online visitors you will not be in business for very long. Products and services are transient and they neither create customer loyalty nor generate long-term relationships. A service does both because it changes the transactional value of the supplier/customer relationship. How you turn your business from one that sells something to one that actually answers a real need and also happens to sell something is a conceptual challenge faced by many enterprises. Solve it and you’ve launched yourself onto a long path that is truly sustainable.
04. Communicate don’t preach: Content that preaches or delivers value that is questionable will not serve you well at all any more. Basically your content creation strategy needs to be informed by both points above. Communicate who you are and why in a manner that’s convincing without being strident. Use your content to deliver value first and sales second and you will find that on-going relationships are better drivers of sales than heavy advertising and strident selling.
05. Create quality not volume: SEO is frequently seen as the means to ‘push’ websites on the search results pages. This is patently wrong and if that’s what you think it is you will end up paying far more than you have to, longer, and with ever diminishing returns. Why? Because if you rely on SEO either in-house or as an outsourced service you end up chasing search engine changes constantly. By artificially boosting your pages you become dependent on always doing so and you are vulnerable to Google SEO adjustments. This means that your SEO budget and efforts can ever, ever drop. If, however, you see SEO as a service to help search engines find you and show your site in direct response to those who really need it, then everything becomes part of that equation automatically. This includes the optimization of images, the quality of text, the UI experience and the overall value of what you do. It is a conceptual approach, admittedly, but one with deep real-world ramifications.
These are five easy steps. Apply them and if your site should ever fall from grace and be badly affected by a Google algorithm update the chances are that the remedy will be far simpler than you think and the recovery period quicker.