Did you know Google’s search algorithm changes 500 or 600 times a year? Updates to the world’s largest search engine can range from massive to minimal, but a single day rarely goes by without an update. Back in February 2011, Google introduced their Panda update, which affected around 23% of websites, devastated a number of small businesses, and changed the fact of SEO as we know it. It’s unfortunate that many marketing professionals today are a little wary of future algorithm changes, so Google’s Matt Cutts sat down a few weeks ago to reveal some insights on what we can expect this summer:

To summarize the video, if your small business strategy is centered around quality content, you probably won’t see any negative impact in the months to come. However, if you’re looking to give your website a bit of a boost, consider applying some of the following tactics to your content strategy:

Build Authority

Site authority will matter more than ever in the months to come, so it’s high time to ensure your content strategy supports your goals. Kissmetrics founder Neil Patel defines authority as “the likelihood of a single site to rank well” for a given search term. The harder you work to create high-quality content in your niche, the more likely you are to be perceived by Google as an expert, and soar to the top of search results. MozRank and Google PageRank can offer a glimpse at how your site stacks up, though the scores lack industry-specific insights. The following tactics can help Google’s perception of your company and website:

1. Identify and Fix Broken Links

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We get it, websites change, and sometimes you’re too busy to check each link on your website to ensure it still works. Keep in mind that these links are sending a clear signal to Google’s search spiders that you’ve abandoned your site or have a lazy content strategy. Block out some time to use a free online tool to identify and fix any broken links.

Image Credit: Innta Online Solutions

2. Start Using Video Content

using video content

Image Credit: Inbound Marketing Agents

Your content strategy should include some video content. It doesn’t need to be custom video. If you’re overwhelmed by the thought, starting small by curating and embedding videos is better than simply using plain text content. There’s a lot to love about the SEO benefits of video, especially given that it increases the average time spent on pages, and basically act as a magnet for backlinks from other websites.

3. Check Your Backlinks Profile

Sketchy links happen to almost everyone, especially if they’ve been creating quality content for a while. Depending on your industry’s competition and the size of your company, negative SEO attacks from competitors can happen, too. Keep a close eye on your backlinks profile, and use Google’s disavow tool to negate the effects of any “bad neighborhood websites;” which can include link farms, adult subject matter, or foreign-language websites.

4.Invest in Quality

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Image Credit: Intersection Consulting

While it’s highly unlikely that any Google updates this summer will have the same effect on your small business strategy as Panda, you’re already not doing yourself any favors if you haven’t invested in a quality content strategy. Google’s WebMaster guidelines are the closest the search giant will ever come to revealing exactly how they index content. While there’s no substitute for actually reading the guidelines in full, we’ve summarized some of the most salient points:

  • Are you building trust by clearly conveying expertise?
  • Have you covered the same topic before?
  • Are you providing significant value compared to other search results for the topic?
  • Do you provide insight that delves deeper than common sense?
  • Is the article sufficiently high-quality to appear in a print publication?
  • Would you bookmark the page, or share on social networks with your peers?
  • Do your web design, on-page advertising or call-to-actions detract from a reader’s ability to process the article?

Essentially, there’s no longer room for a content strategy that’s just “good enough” at the top of Google. Your content needs to be truly outstanding and objectively better than your competition to build authority.

Encourage Social Sharing

Over the past year, major search engines have begun paying much closer attention to social signals, a term used to describe how members of social media networks interact with the content. The logic behind this move is clear: while considering inbound links allowed website owners and bloggers to rate the authority of a website, social signals are more egalitarian, and consider input from everyone with a social presence. SearchMetrics research has found that the following factors directly impact your content strategy’s perceived authority:

ranking factors - social signals

Image Credit: SearchMetrics

It’s clear that your best bet for generating Tweets, Pins and Facebook shares is creating incredibly compelling content marketing. However, the rise of social signals is another clear indication of the value of a comprehensive inbound marketing plan to your small business strategy. Your company needs to distribute content on social channels, work to increase your following, and build an engaged audience who’s willing to share your content strategy.

Put Your Black Hat Away – Fast!

The purpose of Cutt’s department at Google, the Web Spam team, is to ensure the search engine’s customers are able to find the highest quality answers to their questions. If your small business strategy involves any black hat techniques which violate Google’s terms of service, or require even “harmless cheats,” it could be a pretty tough summer for your company.

As Cutts explained in the video, his team is “also looking at some ways to go upstream to deny the value to link spammers.” Simply put, Google’s got an unbelievable amount of data that illustrates how backlinks occur naturally, and it may start penalizing anything that appears fishy. It’s definitely a best practice at this point to stop pouring energy into mutual link exchanges, and spend that time working on smarter, more authoritative content instead.

In Short?

Google doesn’t hate your small business strategy, they’re just becoming more adept at identifying cheaters. The only way to build a content strategy that’s waterproof enough to survive any upcoming algorithm updates is to simply avoid cutting corners. Adopt the following action items to ensure you won’t have anything to worry about in the months to come:

  1. Build a quality content strategy that your competitors can’t touch.
  2. Invest in a stellar social media presence, and increase your following for better social signals.
  3. Network with other bloggers for social signals, exposure, guest posts, and other forms of naturally-occurring SEO.

How have you adapted your content marketing strategy to survive the new rules of SEO?