Many saw this move by Google through the simple and narrow lens of “No more gaming the system”. And that is a fair vision of Google’s intent. The fact is, Google still gets almost 90% of its $50 billion in yearly revenue from Adwords revenue, and the key driver of Adwords revenue comes from the belief that Google provides the best organic results. Nobody goes to Google with the express intention of clicking on a paid search advertisement. Luckily for Google, they often do.
Therefore, Google must protect the integrity of their organic results. If those results can be obtained through deceiving tactics, the confidence in Google organic results wanes. Individuals will choose to search on other search engines, thus fewer people click on paid ads, and Google’s revenue slumps. Not good for Google.
The SEO world changed dramatically and overnight. Many of those involved in black hat SEO tactics were penalized, sometimes causing a drastic decline to rankings and traffic. Many firms who were not involved in black hat tactics but with thin content or who were over-optimized lost rankings, traffic, conversions, and ultimately revenue. Google had successfully achieved their primary objective. SEO was going legitimate or going away altogether.
Long Term Impact
SEO did not go away. There are over 100 billion searches being performed each month.The intent of the searcher did not change and therefore the value of being front and center to those that search is still just as valuable. Searchers are individuals who - on their own time, with their own motives, in the moment they choose - enter specific keywords into a search engine that “pulls” the desired information, and they interact with it. In the search world, ranking does matter, but the rankings game has changed. The manner in which the game changed made all of the difference.
The principles of SEO did not change either. Onsite, offsite, and content still matter. They will always matter. But now other things matter as well. Lets look at a few examples:
Offsite optimization, otherwise known as obtaining backlinks. Since the algorithm updates, firms may no longer simply obtain a volume of low quality links. They must attract quality organic links, and there is no better way to get them than to create a piece of quality content that others read, share and like. Google’s search algorithm rewards sites who attract organic links in this manner. But how do we get this content distributed so that others will read and ultimately link back? Social Media was built for this function, and while it seems to have nothing to do with SEO, it has become an important facet.
The level of analytics needed to perform SEO has entered a whole new stratosphere as a result of Google’s algorithm updates. Before the start of the updates, the best in the SEO business were not simply attracting organic links, they were looking at the common backlinks of all those ranking on the first page of results.
Today, this is not enough. We must analyze types, ratios, anchor texts . . . and we must simultaneously and preemptively eliminate low quality, irrelevant and non-authoritative links. Content creation itself is no simple matter.
We must analyze what content has been created by competition, understand the traction it has gained and use that data to complete our editorial calendars. Two years ago, this type of analytic work was sold as a separate package, a separate line item to compliment SEO. Today, that level of analysis is an everyday component of SEO.
Conversion Rate Optimization
CRO also took it’s place as a primary service due to algorithm changes. As the world began to wrongfully believe that “SEO was dead,” firms began to stress making the most out of the traffic already visiting your website.
Then came the thought that the primary goal of SEO was never rankings, it was conversions, and had been all along. Therefore, conversion rates needed to be increased to really maximize the ROI. Of course, other than paid traffic (which can typically be driven to landing pages), website visitors may enter the site from virtually any page. Which means each page of the website needs to be optimized.