We seem to have reached a time when massive launches or wholesale updates are no longer fashionable in the tech world. We recently saw the release of Windows 10, apparently the last version of Windows ever. From now on, all updates will be via incremental upgrades and changes, so any new features will all be downloaded and applied automatically.
This is a huge shift in tactics for Microsoft, but they’re not the only company moving to this kind of delivery system.
Over the last few years, Google has been making enormous changes to its ranking algorithm, changes that have sometimes devastated companies. For example, it used to be the case that if you filled up your website with thousands of documents, you could rank well. You could easily copy this content from other sites and then eventually get that number one spot. But then Google got wise.
They released the “Panda” update and overnight, websites suddenly disappeared. The same also happened with the “Penguin” update. Sites that one day were doing well suddenly found they were gone.
People sometimes lost their livelihood. I know of one company that lost £40,000 per month in revenue after one of Google’s updates. Overnight, his business disappeared.
The End of Jarring Updates?
But maybe this is about to change. Many people complained when Google made these changes (and they’ve made many such adjustments over the years), saying that they need to be clearer with their requirements.
And so the latest version of Panda has been rolling out for a couple of weeks now, and it will continue for months. But it took a while for people to realise and Google themselves still haven’t announced it on their Webmaster blog.
So what’s happening?
If we go back to December 2014, Google spoke about their Penguin update, the other “big” change to the algorithm. They said that from now on, it would be continuously updated:
“That last big update is still rolling out — though really there won’t be a particularly distinct end-point to the activity, since Penguin is shifting to more continuous updates. The idea is to keep optimizing as we go now.”
If you missed it, Penguin was the change that weeded out over-enthusiastic seo tactics. It was a huge change when Matt Cutts announced it in April 2012, and when it rolled out, the SEO world shuddered. Like with the Panda update, some sites just disappeared.
This isn’t a good thing for Google.
Whenever there’s a big change to how the search works, someone pops up to take advantage of it. There are announcements of “Panda-proof SEO services” and “100% Penguin safe backlinks” and people start cashing in. Also, by giving the bad SEOs a target, if you like, telling them what doesn’t work anymore, Google is leaving the door open to have other methods exploited.
It’s as if people think “Google hasn’t stopped this technique, it must be OK”. They market their new trick as safe, sell it, people buy it. And then Google stops it. This simply means Google is feeding the bad guys and giving them more ways to scam others.
Private Blog Networks
Here’s a good example. It’s sometimes useful to have niche websites for your products. For example, you create a new piece of engineering genius, a widget that saves people thousands of pounds, and you want to market it. So, you create a mini-site that is focussed on promoting this new marvel.
That’s fine. But some realised that if you create multiple websites like this, you could effect the rankings of your main site. By creating dozens of websites which you control, you can build your own links from your own network. This then becomes your own private blog network.
Of course, if you can do this for your site, you can do it for others. Quick to latch on to this, some marketing types decided to create lots of these networks and sell links from them.
Now, none of the updates Google has previously released has mentioned them taking action on such networks, so to many, it’s a legitimate SEO tactic. But if that’s the case, why are the sellers of such services at such pains to keep them private?
There’s no doubt in my mind that eventually, Google will crack down on such tactics. However, based on their recent track record, it seems updates will now be stealthier. You probably won’t even notice you’ve been hit until your sales drop.
Can we protect ourselves from any updates?
We know now that Google won’t tell us when updates are coming, so how can we make sure we’re protected? It’s easy.
If someone promises you a service to “rocket your rankings” using a technique or system they’re not fully transparent about, walk away.
There are no secrets anymore. You don’t need to be a hacker to make Google bend to your will and rank your sites. You just need good old fashioned marketing. Create great content, tell people about it and reap the rewards.