The Inexact Science of Search Optimization

Posted on Friday, December 4, 2015 by Rare Earth staff
Stylized illustration: chemistry of SEO w/objects surrounding desktop computer

SEO is a term that every web marketer knows, but even top bloggers stress over the constantly changing landscape of search engine guidelines bought on by algorithmic updates. The truth is that outside of Google's Panda update in 2011 and perhaps Mobilegeddon in 2015, the updates haven't been that shocking in the big picture. Here are points to remember about how the future of SEO is both predictable and unpredictable, making it an inexact science.

Predictable Updates

Most of Google's updates since Panda have been predictable refinements of the same concept, not the wild radical changes that many hysterical bloggers have implied. If you stay focused on developing quality content while establishing yourself as an authority in your niche, you won't likely be affected much by search engine updates.

The sites that have seen the most adverse effects from updates tend to rely either on techniques designed to fool search engine robots, thin content or farmed articles that closely duplicate existing web content. Furthermore, if you still believe that quantity of links is more important than quality of links or content itself, then your site could be in trouble on a regular basis.

The Unpredictable Side of SEO

Despite the consistent direction in which search rank criteria has been moving, no web company can guarantee high search rankings on any time frame. Search engines simply do not reveal to the public the entire list of factors that determine search rankings, making it impossible to guarantee a first page ranking. The best a marketing firm can promise is that they will create the conditions that increase the probability of high search rankings.

The odds of achieving high rankings do increase the more you follow search engine guidelines. Staying up to date with the latest advice from Google's Matt Cutts is one of the best ways to increase those odds. But even Cutts usually keeps his advice general, which once again is to focus on developing quality content. Google has over 200 factors that determine search rankings and does not publish this list. Another reason why search rankings cannot be guaranteed by anyone is that part of the equation involves the variables of keywords and how much competition there is for those keywords.

Preparing for the Future 

One thing you can bet on is that search engines aren't about to go back to the days when search rankings could be easily manipulated by marketers who sidestepped their responsibility of crafting useful content. The reason content farms have been punished frequently is that they invade search engine territory by posing as the blanket solution to mass inquiries. 

Google, Bing and Yahoo are more friendly to sites that specialize in their own niches. Building your authority as a thought leader with both your audience and search engines should be a top priority. Trying to cover too much broad territory on one site usually results in too much fluff, which search engines penalize. Focus on being the expert in your genuine corner of the market.



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