Google Has No Clothes – Part Two

This entry is part 2 of 6 in the series Google Changes And What They Mean To You

Keywords and the search for meaning

I’ve written an eBook about keywords, so you would think I have a vested interest in their central role as a determinant of search engine ranking. I don’t. In fact I hate them. Have you tried to write an article or a blog post or content for your website with one eye on the volume and placement of particular words? It may be a relevant skill, bit it certainly kills the creativity of writing.

The change, which represents a new approach to search for Google, required the biggest changes to the company’s search algorithm since 2000. Now, Google, the world’s most popular search engine, will focus more on trying to understand the meanings of and relationships among things, as opposed to its original strategy of matching keywords (New York Times)

You can spend forever looking for the best keywords. You can use them, test them, drill down into them, change the syntax and form. You can research what keywords your opponent uses. You can slice, dice and bake with them, but there will come that morning when you discover that the Google ground rules have changed yet again. If you are a smaller professional firm that has relied on keywords to attract eyes to your site, there is bad news, because the way Google brings that traffic has shifted. According to Google, the result for consumers will be a more precise search result. But if your search engine optimisation (SEO) has relied on keywords, for you it means a major hassle.

Even if the place of keywords had not been downgraded, Google has made sure they are not easy to find unless you are part of paid search. If you just want to rely on organic search (where you don’t pay to be ranked higher) then the most prominent tool for this, the Google Keyword Tool, is no longer available.

Bye bye to backlinks

So keywords are no longer as relevant nor as accessible. Now here’s the kicker for mature professionals and smaller Australian professional firms, which represent the largest group of professionals, who cannot afford the big dollars for commercial SEO. If you are going to spend money on SEO, then be prepared to spend more. Apart from keyword research, in the past a cheapie way of getting a better Google rank was to “buy” backlinks – the links from other websites to your own that are so prized by Google. This was originally the backbone of the Google experiment, which looked at how many sites linked to you in order to establish your site’s credibility. This was somewhat based on the idea that the authority of academic papers is established in part by the number of other academic papers that cite it. With Google, substitute “other academic papers” with “links back to your site”. At the time of Google’s launch this was a revolutionary idea in website search.

One of the results was the inevitability of “gaming the system”. This meant that so-called “link farms” created artificial authority for websites, pushing up their rankings. Link spam (spamdexing) was also popular. Whether paid blog networks, reusing unique content by changing certain words, and automatic blog (and forum) posting, all are cheap methods to create links back to your site.

In Part Three I’ll explain how this too has come to an end.

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