Google can be accused of many things, but the one accusation that can never be levelled at it is that it has a habit of sitting on its laurels.
Yes it’s the planet’s favourite search engine and dominates the world of search, but it is always looking for ways to improve its service and improve its market share. So it shouldn’t really come as a great surprise to hear that the search giant is looking at its Panda algorithm, and plans to release yet another update in the next few weeks which will hopefully sort the wheat from the chaff. Should businesses be worried? Well, as ever, that depends. If your business website is overly-laden with obvious SEO strategies and lacks quality content, then yes, you probably should. Google intends to penalise those sites that overuse SEO techniques and buy dubious links to improve search engine ranking.
Now, you might think that Google is already doing that, so nothing much will change.
However, some industry insiders think this new emphasis is much more significant than the headline suggests, and are arguing that what the search giant is trying to do is strangle the search market. They suggest that what Google ultimately wants is to transform itself from a service that gives users relevant links into a one-stop service that gives users answers using its embedded semantic search technology.
Speaking at a conference last week, Matt Cutts, Google head of the search quality group explained the philosophy behind the latest changes:
“We are trying to level the playing field a bit – (targeting) all those people doing, for lack of a better word, over optimisation or overly SEO – versus those making great content and great site. We are trying to make GoogleBot smarter, make our relevance better, and we are also looking for those who abuse it, like using too many keywords on a page, or exchanging way too many links that go well beyond what you’d normally expect. We have several engineers on my team working on this right now.”
But what will that mean for businesses? Should you be worried about the new changes? Well, if your websites contains quality content that is regularly updated, then probably not. According to Jim Stewart, chief executive of StewArt Media, Google is targeting a certain demographic, so normal businesses shouldn’t overly worry: any business that is using established SEO techniques reasonably will be fine.
“What Google is talking about here is those sites that work on formulas, using metrics like the percentage of keyword density rather than just focusing on how relevant they can be.”
He also believes businesses with a significant number of poor quality backlinks should also be looking over their shoulder:
“Originally having a link to your site was a ‘vote’ for your page, but if you’re buying backlinks and putting them on less relevant sites, then Google is going to have to crack down. I’ve come across plenty of pages on a site that have backlinks, and yet have no relevant content. What Matt Cutts is saying is that they’re aware of what’s happening there and there will be some changes.”
So what can business do if they are worried by Google’s latest statement? Are there any changes they can make to their websites that might protect them from Google’s roving eye? Well, according to Dan Pedden, head of SEO at digital agency Ephiphany:
However, some experts are questioning the motives that lie behind Google’s new initiative. Paul Fabretti, head of digital at the Brazen agency, believes that Google is attempting to extend its dominance over the search platform:
“It brings into question the whole issue of what role Google has to play in search. Traditionally it has largely played the wayfinder, helping guide us to the answer, but this latest move suggests that it will use the pages of content it indexes to determine the answer itself. So what need for websites anymore?”