There’s no denying that the Google search engine is a spectacular achievement. Its ability to sort through vast amounts of information at blistering speed and index the almost limitless amounts of data on the web is mind blowing. There’s is, however, still a significant problem. They know there’s a problem, and with Google’s performance to date, they’re likely to solve it soon.
For as long as it’s existed, people have been trying to work out how the algorithm ‘ticks’ so they can beat it and get sites to the top of its results. This is a noble aim, as getting to the number one spot when somebody searches for your product or service is sure to drive web traffic. Marketing people know this, and so they are in a constant battle to make sure they get there.
Google tells us that the best way to do this is to publish useful, quality content, and so we do. However underneath the “content is everything” story, we all know that some people can manipulate the search results and cheat their way to the top. Google knows this, too, and through a series of updates, they’ve been working on ways of fixing this problem.
You’ll have probably heard of Panda and Penguin, two updates that lifted the lid on the architects of poor (and easy) SEO. But this just made people try harder and go deeper. Still, Google said, “keep creating great content”, but as long as they rely on methods to rank that involve signals that can be manipulated, there will still be those that will cheat the system.
But they’re working on it, and it seems in the last month changes have been taking place that aim to take the ability of Google to recognise good content further forward.
It began early in the month when people complained of big ranking changes. It seemed that some content was starting to drop in the results, while other content were gaining positions. The content that fell seemed to conform to a pattern, based around the shorter “how to” style articles, that consisted of a list of facts that didn’t provide a deeper level of content for the user.
Google remained tight lipped about it and wouldn’t say if anything was going on. This gave rise to the moniker “Phantom” for this particular update as it didn’t seem related to either Panda or Penguin. What was going on?
Eventually, Google gave in and admitted they had changed the core ranking algorithm, so it now processes quality signals differently.
Although they won’t admit what signals or how they’re affected, it does highlight their continued quest to push quality content above all other ranking factors. So how does this affect us?
As a company based in traditional technology PR, it makes our job even more significant and relevant. Before Google, content had to be of high quality to pass muster with editors. When the web came along, anybody could create any content and publish it for the world to see.
Then, Google made it so people could find that content but, because of its weak algorithms and ability to be manipulated easily, it meant even this content could get your sites ranked. Yes, quality above quantity resulted in sites being forced to the top of the results by using spam techniques.
Now, things are changing and hopefully they will continue in this direction. Getting content indexed and found by Google will eventually be as hard as passing by the eyes of a critical editor. As producers of content, we can only welcome this change so that we can serve our customers better, and the producers of poor quality filler are pushed further below the top spot.