The digital marketing industry is one of continual evolution. Tools and techniques used by digital marketers have changed dramatically since the dawn of the World Wide Web; what used to work in the past may no longer produce positive results now or in the future. Much of that evolution has been spurred by search engine giant Google. Google’s search engine relies on complex algorithms to process website content, allowing it to properly index and categorize that content and to deliver relevant search results to users. Google updates its core algorithm continually, necessitating new strategies for maintain and improving online visibility. Failure to do so can result in ineffective marketing campaigns and lost opportunities. Even in the face of constant upheaval and updates, in digital marketing, there’s a way to stay ahead of the curve. Here’s how.
A Look at Google’s Algorithm Update History
Since its inception, Google search has had one purpose: to connect people with information. Over the years, Google’s capability and accuracy has improved dramatically, with relevant search results just a few clicks away for nearly every user. To do this, Google has modified its core algorithm with technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI). In its early days, Google only updated its algorithm in small increments and only occasionally; today, thousands of changes may be made, although several major updates have received the most attention. Those major updates include:
Hummingbird, 2013 – this update ushered in natural language processing as a means of gauging user intent and context in searches. The algorithm ultimately was more accurate and could deliver better, more relevant search results.
Mobilegeddon, 2015 – with increasing use of mobile devices, Google rolled out this update that favored mobile-friendly websites in search results. Today, mobile friendliness is one of the most important ranking signals in the Google environment.
RankBrain, 2017 – introduced in 2015 and receiving a major update in 2017, RankBrain was the first live AI technology Google used to sort search results and to deliver more relevant results for user queries.
Panda, 2017 – this algorithm update was designed to reward sites that featured rich content, which consists of well-written and informative material. The update favors these sites over those with thin content, giving users better results than ever before.
BERT, 2019 – billed as one of the most important Google algorithm updates in the past decade, BERT is a natural language-processing technology that helps the search engine understand context in web content. Ultimately, this technology handles user intent and delivers quality search results based on the user’s unique natural language search terms.
It is important to remember that these updates are only a tiny fraction of the hundreds, if not thousands, of tweaks Google performs each year. How the updates impact search engine optimization (SEO) and digital marketing is continually in flux.
Managing the Ups and Downs of Google Algorithm Updates
Faced with an ever-changing search landscape, how can digital marketing professionals stay ahead of the curve? How can they maintain or improve online visibility for their clients’ web properties? The answer, surprisingly, is relatively straightforward. SEO and digital marketing professionals should focus on developing quality content across websites – content that answers visitor questions, offers details on products or services, and helps to influence purchasing decisions. The goal here is to add value to content, with factors like:
Next, take advantage of other platforms beyond the company’s website. Social media, including popular platforms like Twitter and Facebook, help shore up any performance declines caused by algorithmic updates; if traffic dips due to one of these updates, a robust social media presence can help direct visitors back to your site from these other sources.
Another great tool that helps maintain top rankings is to employ link-building strategies. By developing backlinks to a website from reputable sources, digital marketing professionals can promote a given website and to ensure great rankings. Links from within the site itself are important; improving the user experience and navigational is one of the many ranking signals Google’s algorithm looks at. External links should come from sources like:
- Industry resources
- News media outlets
- Business directories
- Third-party review sites
- Established industry blogs
Most importantly, it is critical that digital marketers and SEO professionals use analytic tools to gauge website performance. There are many free tools, including Google Trends, which can help pinpoint details like:
- What users are searching for.
- Specific search terms/keywords/phrases being used.
- Where searchers are located geographically.
Another popular tool is called Moz. This tool is aimed at providing insight into many aspects of SEO, including numerous performance metrics like number of links, page loading speed, and keyword identification. With these tools, great website content, and as many quality backlinks as possible, digital marketers can better weather any changes Google throws at them.
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