It's no secret that 2016 saw its fair share of newsworthy drama. But one story you might have missed was a relatively under-the-radar brush up between Google and a research company, e-ventures Worldwide.
Google argued that e-ventures' claims violated the First Amendment. E-ventures had allegedly exploited loopholes in Google's algorithm, thus enabling the company to propel low-quality and irrelevant content higher in the rankings. Google, which ensures its users can easily find high-quality, relevant content, responded by manually removing e-ventures from search results.
E-ventures took legal action, despite lawsuits like this having been determined unfounded numerous times in the past. "Google's site, Google's rules" would be an apt (albeit informal) paraphrase of the standard legal decision.
A Florida judge decided that e-ventures' case was, in part, valid. After all, Google holds a great deal of control over the web, which is a public space for discourse; therefore it should be held to a high standard.
The case between Google and e-ventures offers plenty of valuable insight into how you can optimize your own company's online presence. In this article, I plan to share how business owners can develop a long-term SEO strategy that insulates them from the volatility that instances like this can present.
How does this case impact your SEO efforts?
Manually removing e-ventures was viewed by some as a rather troubling decision. That's because "search engine manipulation" could describe pretty much any SEO activity, whether you're redesigning your website to be more user-friendly, or are writing new website copy, integrating new forms of media, or building a solid collection of backlinks.
SEO is a highly integral part of many companies' marketing strategies. A growing number of businesses now invest heavily in improving their rankings: a project that often entails hiring web designers, writers, video crews and other content generators. So whenever the "rules" that search engines use to determine rankings change, it's a big deal for businesses.
That's why, in the face of such changes, I highly recommend that business owners make an effort to adapt in order to stay competitive.
Take the rise of mobile-friendly design, for example: When Google decided to prioritize mobile-friendly design, thousands upon thousands of businesses responded virtually overnight by investing in mobile-friendly development. Those that did saw their rankings skyrocket. Those that failed to respond to these changes saw their rankings fall. This was known as "Mobilegeddon" to those of us in the SEO industry.
So, how should your business respond?
As an SEO expert, I find the notion that "Google is trying to kill SEO" to be exaggerated. Over the years, I've seen search algorithms change and evolve countless times, and every change inevitably inspires a few self-proclaimed industry experts to state that SEO will "never be the same."
The truth is, search algorithms are always going to be updated and remodeled, and SEO must adapt to these changes in order to remain successful. The best way for you as a business owner to react is to understand that, despite such changes, the basic principle of SEO is always going to remain the same: Google and other search engines want to provide their users with the highest quality content.
This is a concept that I always stress to my clients, especially when they worry about changes in SEO. The details of SEO, though relevant, will never be as important simply providing a good user experience.
To stay ahead of the curve, Google actually created a website optimization mini-course, Google Webmaster, that includes tips for how website administrators can rank better among other helpful topics covered. The SEO section of this course makes a clear distinction between what is known as "white hat" and "black hat" SEO, and notes that dishonest attempts to improve search rankings are likely to be counterproductive.
Google also has a page on what are considered to be "good" SEO techniques. To put it in the broadest of terms, good SEO strives to connect content with the audience that will most sincerely be interested in it. It uses creative yet concise language, along with a diversity of media formats and user-friendly design to give visitors an optimal experience. It also enables savvy companies to promote themselves to relevant audiences effectively and efficiently.
The best long-term strategy you can take as a business owner is to provide excellent content. Offering a quality experience to your users should always take priority over the minutia of SEO, because quality is the one characteristic that we know all search engines promote. By focusing on website quality, you will be setting your company up for online success both now and in the future, regardless of whatever court cases, algorithm changes or technological advances the future may hold.