Survive the Next Google Update by Learning From the Masters

Survive the Next Google Update by Learning From the Masters Featured Image

“Google changed the algorithm again! What are we going to do? We’re doooomed!”

Sound familiar? Whenever Google changes its search algorithms, site owners immediately run around with their hair on fire, convinced that this change — whether it’s Panda, Penguin or another endangered animal — will be the one that sends them to page 1,739 on the search results and puts them out of business. That fact that a lot of the information about updates only increases the confusion, or is downright wrong, doesn’t help.

The result is that site owners spend time trying to figure out a way to “beat” the changes instead of focusing on understanding the rules creating good content. But if you stick to the basics and consistently create fresh content that provides value to your visitors and drives conversions, you ensure your brand’s website is a high-quality site that Google favors.

Step One: Do NOTHING

“But what about the algorithm? How can I keep my site from disappearing from search results?”

The first step is to do nothing. Don’t go through your site looking for new SEO opportunities, don’t spend a fortune on paid search, don’t toss out your entire marketing plan. In short, don’t change a thing — at least until you have a plan.

According to senior VP Amit Singhal, Google’s success is built on “an ecosystem of high-quality publishers.” In Google’s world, “high quality” means giving audiences what they want: unique, informative, original content. This starts with knowing what you want to accomplish. If you don’t know what you want your site to achieve for your brand, or if it isn’t realistic, you’re content production efforts are a waste of time. If you have a clear vision and objectives, then you are probably already creating content that supports and drives traffic and conversions. You don’t need to do anything to adjust for algorithm changes.

You can still improve, though.

Step Two: Benchmark

While your business is not (yet) a household name, it doesn’t mean you can’t learn from the best. Try using the benchmarking technique, a form of measurement that rates your company’s performance against the best examples in your industry. Ecommerce site owners need to look no further than the most successful Internet business of all time: Even the smallest online business can learn from this master.

As of May 2014,’s global Alexa rank is #12 — in the United States, it ranks #5. While Amazon’s success is attributable to many factors, such as its endless variety of products, it’s the less obvious (at least to consumers) standards that keep its high rankings consistent. For example, for each of its selling categories, Amazon issues a style guide to generating product content, outlining the guidelines for titling, branding, images and product descriptions. When a product listing falls outside of the guidelines, visitors notice — and keep looking.

However, Amazon’s success is based on more than just consistency. The company’s mantra is “Know your customer very, very well.” Whether you’re selling a product or a service, it is vital to know exactly who your customers are and what they want. There is no lack of tools available to you to analyze the visitor traffic to your website — use them. Most importantly, invite customer feedback and use their thoughts to improve their experience and your business.

Online reviews, a backbone of Amazon’s business model, are one of the best ways of soliciting that feedback. A study of online book sales by Carnegie Mellon University concluded that “while higher ratings are associated with higher sales, higher quality reviews… have a stronger impact on consumer purchase decisions than other reviews do.” Another study indicated that online reviews influence buying decisions for nearly 90 percent of consumers — but that 87 percent of retailers don’t ask customers to post reviews.

Bottom line? If you’re not asking customers to leave feedback and product reviews, you need to be. It might take some time to see real results, but the difference will be clear. For example, a 2012 case study by MarketingSherpa revealed that Coffee for Less, an e-commerce site for coffee and related products, increased conversions by 125 percent by adding 6,000 customer reviews to its site over a three-year period and boosted time-on-site by 157 percent.

Amazon isn’t the only site that ecommerce sites can benchmark. Consider blogs. Spend some time exploring the best blogs in your industry (visit the Weblog awards site for ideas) to see what works and what doesn’t. Evaluate which posts receive the most engagement, which ones are shared the most and how often the blogger posts. Use this research to develop your own blogging strategy. It doesn’t have to be overly complicated, but you need a plan. Develop an editorial calendar for the coming months and stick to it. If you don’t have the time or talent to write quality content, get a professional to do it for you.

Don’t limit your brilliance to your own blog, either. Guest blogging can increase referral traffic to your own site while introducing your content to a completely new audience. Offer to guest blog for other respected blogs that are relevant to yours — and invite other bloggers to bring a fresh perspective to your site.

If you are devoted to continuous improvement and use benchmarking as a means to continuously improve your content, it’s unlikely that Google algorithm changes will have much of an effect on your business. In fact, in time, with persistence, your site might even become a standard for others

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