I have found that, for the most part, Google only makes changes when it believes change can improve the customer experience […] If we take to heart the notion of building for users and not search engines, we’ve then essentially adapted a proactive mindset.
One thing search engine marketers know for sure is that search engine algorithms, processes and features will continue to evolve as the needs and expectations of its users do. Over time, search engines have optimized their own performance – they have become smarter, faster, more robust, and continue to offer new options for users searching for information. Given the dynamic nature of search engines, how successful we are in our search marketing strategies and sustaining client relationships is largely dependent on how we approach our craft.
The Reactive Approach (Avoid as much as possible.)
Often times search marketers approach an organic search strategy like we would a human maze at the state fair. We enter through the starting gate and follow a path until we run into a dead end. Once we hit a dead end—we stand still for a minute—scratch our heads and attempt to figure out a different path to help us successfully exit. While this reactive approach can work—it’s clunky, it doesn’t always sit right with clients, and it’s not indicative of subject matter expertise.
Our clients (internally and externally), who invest significant time and resources into developing an organic search strategy, expect us to not only follow search engine best practices, but to be ahead of them.
The Proactive Approach (Pick me, pick me!)
While it’s impossible to always be ahead of every search engine change, we can position ourselves in such a way that mitigates their impact to our strategy and clients. Let’s return to the human maze analogy. What if, upon entrance to the maze, we received a map that showed us the way forward? What if search engines gave us a map to help us navigate their maze? Believe it or not, they have.
When I switched careers from Web designer to search engine marketer, I knew nothing about organic search. I thought I did, but in reality I had no clue. To get my feet wet, I read through Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. All these years later, while so much has changed, two of Google’s most important quality guidelines have stayed the same:
1. Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines
2. Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings
I have found that, for the most part, Google only makes changes when it believes change can improve the customer experience. While some may argue how successful Google has been in some of its “improvement” hypotheses, I believe Google’s intent has remained consistent. If search marketers take to heart the notion of building for users and not for search engines, we’ve then essentially adapted a proactive mindset.
What This Means:
In a blog post by Rand Fishkin of SEOMoz, “How Google’s Panda Update Changed SEO Best Practices Forever – Whiteboard Friday,” Rand shares his thoughts on the term SEO becoming obsolete because SEO has evolved into so much more than just traditional organic search. And in order to be successful in search results, we have to adapt the mindset of a web strategist or inbound/performance marketer. This means that we have to evolve past the mental paradigm of SEO and broaden our skill set to include a meaningful understanding of:
• User Experience Design
• Information Architecture
• Creative Concepts
• Creative Copywriting
• A/B and Multivariate Testing
• Accessibility Guidelines
• Web Analytics
• Social Media Integration
• Consumer Linguistics
The bottom line is that Google generates revenue when its search results are high quality and useful to its users. That doesn’t mean just the search result on the search results page is quality and useful, but the entire customer journey is successful as well. If you are building your Web experiences and digital assets with overall quality and utility in mind, then you are already on the right path.