It seems kind of sad that you would ever need to explain Google search to a SEO (Search Engine Optimization) expert, but believe me: it happens all the time.
SEO as a skill set has been around for a long time now, and it’s changed dramatically over the years. But there are still a lot of “professionals” billing themselves as SEO experts who are trudging out the same worn strategies that got the job done back in 2002 and wondering why they’re stuck explaining poor performance and wasted effort.
So, in an effort to clear the air and aid American businesses in stepping forward into 2016, we’d like to provide the following guide to explaining Google to your SEO expert:
Nope, keyword stuffing doesn’t work anymore.
If you’re over the age of 15, you may still be able to recall web pages loaded up with paragraph after paragraph of poorly worded text that seemed to repeat itself endlessly and couldn’t use a simple pronoun to save its life.
Those sites were prime examples of “keyword stuffing” which was just as ugly and uncomfortable as it sounds.
Basically, at the time, a large part of Google’s ranking algorithm relied on the density of keywords in the text on a website in determining which pages were most likely to provide the information its users were looking for when they put those keywords into the search bar. So, if you were searching for “ice skating rink” and my coffee-lover’s blog included a post about enjoying a nice cup of joe at the “ice skating rink,” I could show up high in the search results just by having that term in my post enough times in relation to the total number of words in the post.
Of course, this led to plenty of poor search results – like the coffee lover’s post described above – but it also led to a ton of abuse.
Specifically, to the creation of those horrible web pages mentioned above where the text was artificially bloated with unnatural and repetitive use of a particular keyword or phrase just to ensure Google noticed it and ranked it high for that term.
In the best cases, these were simply poorly written and hard to read, but at least they were relevant to the search the user had made. But in the worst cases, SEO professionals would load up a page with completely unrelated (but popular) keywords and phrases just to take advantage of high search volume and hopefully snag some unsuspecting visitors along the way.
Or, even worse, the real black hat SEOs would place hundreds or thousands of popular but irrelevant keywords in a hidden spot on the page (usually way at the bottom) where readers were unlikely to notice them but where Google’s spiders couldn’t help but find them.
Needless to say, as soon as the technology evolved to the point that this could be rectified, Google did so.
These days, keyword density has little or no effect at all on search ranking. Google is too smart to be fooled by keyword stuffing at this point and is likely to penalize a site that tries it.
Nope, aggressive link building doesn’t work anymore either.
More recently than the keyword stuffing craze, but still a while back at this point, aggressive link building became the SEO silver bullet of choice.
Once again, this tactic was based on exploiting a known ranking factor in Google’s algorithm: the more websites that link to your site, the higher quality site Google assumed you had. At the time, however, the relevance of these links wasn’t checked or at least wasn’t affecting the results.
So, all SEO pros needed to do was send mass emails to website owners everywhere and offer “reciprocal links” to almost instantly boost the ranking of any site they worked on. By including a link to another site on their own and – in return – getting their site’s link on the other site, they created an instant win-win for both sites.
The end result of this tactic was usually a ridiculously long, poorly structured and confusing “Links” page on every site where a visitor could find everything from a car wash in Mexico to an adult movie store in Massachusetts. These long lists of links were rarely if ever helpful to the visitor, and finally Google caught on and created “nofollow” links and changes to the algorithm to dissuade this kind of worthless, aggressive link building.
The bottom line today is fresh, high quality content on a consistent schedule.
There are plenty of other less well-known but just as embarrassing old-school SEO tactics that simply don’t work anymore, but that old-school SEO pros may still be recommending.
In some cases, they may not even realize they’re doing it. For instance, I worked for an advertising agency just a few years ago that was still insisting on a 3-5% keyword density and a maximum blog post word count of 450 words in every article I wrote for them. I can’t tell you how soul-destroying it was to hand in those horrible posts week after week knowing they were worthless to the clients who were paying for them.
The people running that agency weren’t intentionally stealing their clients’ money. They were just stuck in outdated SEO strategies that had long since gone the way of flip phones and MC Hammer pants.
Now, don’t get me wrong: links and keywords still matter. But relevancy is far more important.
These days, Google’s search algorithm may still have a loophole here or there. Frankly, I don’t know about them anymore because I long ago stopped trying to keep up. Instead, I’m thrilled to be working with a professional inbound marketing agency that understands the real basis of sustainable, high-ranking SEO content for modern websites: fresh, high-quality content created to appeal to the reader and provide the very best answers to the questions they’ve gone to Google to ask.
This simple but powerful SEO strategy works consistently and will for the foreseeable future because it lines up perfectly with Google’s own stated goal: to provide the most relevant and helpful search results for their users.
If you think you may need to explain how Google works to your current in-house or outsourced SEO professional, send them this post. If they really get it, good for them and good for you. If they don’t, contact SPROUT Content and we’ll help you get things straight.