Search Engines: Staying Ahead Of The Algorithm

To stay ahead of the algo­rithms, you must focus on your audi­ence. Cre­ate appro­pri­ate con­tent that address­es their need. The rest will fol­low.

Christopher Hart By Christopher Hart from Linkdex. Join the discussion » 0 comments

A sus­tain­able SEO strat­e­gy is not a sim­ple check­list of tips and tricks. It’s eas­i­er to under­stand your audi­ence than it is to under­stand search algo­rithms – the secret for­mu­las search engines use to rank web pages based on what peo­ple search for. There­fore, to stay ahead of the algo­rithms and reach con­sumers at crit­i­cal moments, you must focus on your audi­ence. Cre­ate appro­pri­ate con­tent that address­es their need. The rest will fol­low.

When peo­ple think about online mar­ket­ing, they often think about how to stay one step ahead of Google – like a game of chess. But being strate­gic does­n’t mean try­ing to “beat” the search engine. It means work­ing to under­stand where search engines like Google are head­ed, so we can work with them.

When you think about the type of dig­i­tal busi­ness cul­ture you want to cre­ate, the ulti­mate goal is proac­tive mar­ket­ing, rather than reac­tive.

See, search engines are prod­ucts, too. They are prod­ucts of the com­pa­nies that own them. And those com­pa­nies have their own goals for their search engines.

Work­ing to under­stand what those goals are can help you be more strate­gic in your approach when you’re play­ing in their sand­box.

How Algorithm Updates Factor Into Strategy

Google is a busi­ness first, one that makes bil­lions of dol­lars off its search engine.

To ensure it pro­vides the best search results, Google places a high pri­or­i­ty on the user expe­ri­ence. One of Google’s core philoso­phies is: focus on the user and all else will fol­low.

Google per­forms hun­dreds of algo­rithm updates per year, many of which go unno­ticed. Some­times, how­ev­er, algo­rithm updates have a big impact on sites.

Most of the updates Google makes to its algo­rithm are meant to improve the user expe­ri­ence by deliv­er­ing a bet­ter prod­uct (the search engine itself, and the results).

Fol­low­ing the mean­ing behind the algo­rithm update helps us plan for what’s going to be impor­tant to search engines like Google.

A strate­gic pro­fes­sion­al looks to the his­to­ry of Google updates to fore­cast what will con­tin­ue to be impor­tant in the future. Because user expe­ri­ence is often at the fore­front, if you’re opti­miz­ing for your audi­ence, then you’re on the right path.

Go Where Google Is Going

It’s crit­i­cal to pay atten­tion to where Google is head­ing.

Ulti­mate­ly, there is no way to stay ahead of the hun­dreds of changes to Google’s algo­rithm. The best way, then, to stay ahead of the algo­rithm is to stop try­ing to fig­ure out the algo­rithm.

As a dig­i­tal busi­ness, you must try to under­stand and focus on why Google shows the results it does and how it dis­plays the search results rel­a­tive to your audi­ence, the key­words you’re track­ing, the peo­ple you’re tar­get­ing, and the intent.

The search results dis­play is a unique lay­er on top of the algo­rithm. Based upon where a per­son search­es from, what they’re look­ing for, their search his­to­ry, and how Google is inter­pret­ing what they’re try­ing to do, Google may pick any num­ber of dif­fer­ent pieces of infor­ma­tion to dis­play to an audi­ence.

Try­ing to game the algo­rithm won’t get you any­where. Where you’ll find the great­est organ­ic search oppor­tu­ni­ty is in under­stand­ing why Google thinks a piece of infor­ma­tion, or the way the search results are dis­played (e.g., inclu­sion of images, news, or shop­ping), is impor­tant to your audi­ence.

Google has done a pret­ty good job over time fore­cast­ing their direc­tion, if you pay atten­tion. It’s fool­ish to decide that “you haven’t been caught yet,” so you won’t make any changes.

Take some time to under­stand the mean­ing behind some of the more infa­mous updates in recent years, and you’ll begin to see a pat­tern of what’s impor­tant to Google.

Audience First

You may have heard that the key to rank­ing #1 in Google is to cre­ate an amaz­ing web­site filled with infor­ma­tive and valu­able con­tent.

For­get all the junk about “rank­ings”. Talk to your audi­ence through your con­tent in a way that is best for your audi­ence.

Google always tries to put the user first. They want their search results to include the best con­tent for their audi­ence. Cre­ate the best con­tent so

Google sees fit to dis­play it to their audi­ence. You must learn how to talk to and write for your audi­ence, espe­cial­ly if it’s a niche audi­ence (e.g., PhDs or mom­my blog­gers). You should­n’t care if you don’t speak to a wider audi­ence.

Brands or busi­ness­es that fail to cre­ate valu­able pieces of infor­ma­tion in a way their audi­ence can con­sume should expect poor results online.

Create Valuable Content

You want to cre­ate con­tent that’s right for your audi­ence and dis­trib­ute it through the appro­pri­ate mar­ket­ing chan­nel. Don’t wor­ry about dis­trib­ut­ing through all chan­nels. Talk to and through the rel­e­vant chan­nels.

Con­tent might not be writ­ten words. If your audi­ence is large­ly on Pin­ter­est, then cre­at­ing valu­able Pin­ter­est boards might be the way to go.

Con­tent aids con­sumers at every stage of the pur­chase fun­nel – from dis­cov­ery, to lead nur­tur­ing, to con­ver­sion. To cre­ate life­time val­ue, think in terms of the entire deci­sion jour­ney, not just those in pur­chase mode.

In the end, the algo­rithm will do what­ev­er the algo­rithm does and the search dis­play will do what­ev­er the dis­play does. But if a query is a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of your audi­ence, and the intent in which the audi­ence is try­ing to dis­cov­er is rel­e­vant to your brand or busi­ness­es, and you do that well, you’ll be able to ser­vice an appro­pri­ate lev­el of your audi­ence through rank­ings.

Forecasting Change And Moving With It

If your orga­ni­za­tion isn’t pre­pared for the com­ing changes, you will con­stant­ly be chas­ing the algo­rithm.

Focus instead on how you can bet­ter under­stand the needs of your audi­ence. Fol­low where the tech­nol­o­gy is tak­ing us. Plan to be a part of that.

Look at the way soci­ety is evolv­ing, and how younger gen­er­a­tions will shift the online expe­ri­ence with their expec­ta­tions. Do this, and you can pre­pare a brand that is rel­e­vant online for years to come.

Final­ly, always aim to be in com­pli­ance. Search engines like Google are mass dis­tri­b­u­tion mod­els that sus­tain many busi­ness­es. To be a part of that, you need to play by their rules. Remem­ber, your brand or busi­ness is ben­e­fit­ing from their audi­ence.

Key Takeaways

  • Most of Google’s algo­rithm updates are aimed at improv­ing the user expe­ri­ence and the prod­uct itself: the search engine. Com­pa­nies like Google aim to have a rel­e­vant and use­ful prod­uct for its users.
  • By under­stand­ing what’s impor­tant to Google and where tech­nol­o­gy is head­ed, you can make strate­gic, proac­tive deci­sions in dig­i­tal busi­ness.
  • Fore­cast­ing change that will affect your strat­e­gy goes beyond the search engines. Think about where tech­nol­o­gy is head­ed and how users want to search and inter­act online.
Christopher Hart

Written by Christopher Hart

Head of Client Development, US, Linkdex

Heading up the Linkdex office in LA, Christopher has been key in building an expert account management team that has both a thorough knowledge of the platform and a genuine understanding of client needs. Christopher brings a mix of in-house experience and agency expertise to the company, which he applies to ensure clients get what they need from the platform and from the Linkdex team. At Linkdex, Christopher is excited about the opportunity to work with a platform that is both effectively aligned with the needs of the latest SEO challenges, and modern digital marketing teams.

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