Google algorithms, SEO and the prime directive for your website

What the heck is a Google algorithm? Does it have fins? This was a question posed to me by one of our clients recently. It does not have fins. It may, however, make some hard-working people shriek at the approach of a potential website killer.

A procedure or formula for solving a problem

The problem that Google solves with its algorithm is, I’m sure you can appreciate, a problem worthy of some procedures and formulas. Namely, the problem is how to crawl every website in the world and then return the results to people in a way that just makes sense (no excuses). Fine. But how do these things work in practice? Well, a bunch of Google engineers figure out what is most likely to represent what you’re looking for based on a zillion or so criteria. An example?

Google Penguin Algorithm
Google Penguin Algorithm

The Google Penguin Algorithm was one that targeted “Link Spammers”. This might have been one of several “services” that offered to submit your website to several search engines in one convenient push of a button. Unfortunately, what often happened in practice is that your website ended up linked from what Google refers to as “Bad Neighborhoods”. A Bad Neighborhood is just a site (or a group of sites) that exist mostly to…well, mostly to link back to other sites. Not the most valuable contribution to the internet. Bad Neighborhood sites were trying to game the Goog by creating more links back to the sites that they were linking to. This is just one criterion among the zillions I mentioned above. So Google rolled out the Penguin Algorithm and tried to deal with that problem. The problem with an algorithm that addresses 30 trillion+ pages is that there are bound to be some unintended casualties – sites that are legitimate, but had some misguided marketing dollars directed toward a company that used a Bad Neighborhood linking scheme. 

So there you have Google Algorithms in a nutshell. We’ve seen them affect clients negatively more than once. This is a frustrating problem for web developers like us as well as for our clients. So what can you do to avoid the gnashing teeth of the Google Algorithm?

Well, the simplest, best way to stay off Google’s bad list is to delight your website users with website content that is original, interesting and updated frequently. While that is an oversimplified answer, it is actually an excellent start. In practice, it means:

  • Google loves blogs. Blog about what interests you about your business. It just may interest your visitors. And if it is unique and reasonably frequent, Google will love it.
  • Make sure that the content on your site is well-structured. There is an organization that makes all the rules for this sort of thing. They are called the W3C (the World Wide Web Consortium) and they write rules to make websites easy to interpret for every platform (desktops, iPads, old Blackberries, etc.).
  • Use common sense and try not to cheat. If you create 22 categories for your e-commerce store and then link your product to all 22 of them, Google will think that’s unreasonable. I agree. I bet that you do too, if you think about it. Google also really likes to see products with full descriptions, not one sentence descriptions.
  • Make sure that your site is mobile friendly. The most recent Google Algorithm is one that employs a “mobile first” policy, giving preference to sites that are optimized for mobile experience. The mobile-friendly test includes lots of tests for speed and other things that may not seem obvious, so be sure to work with a knowledgeable company to optimize your site.

Our WordPress Monthly Maintenance and SEO Package plan is an excellent way to get your site in top shape for the latest algorithm updates from Google. In the meantime, I hope that the above tips are helpful. Happy blogging!

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