A long term SEO strategy? Knowing what Google wants is the key

The reasoning behind Google search changes

Just like any other website, Google has something to offer. Its core product is Google search; its goal is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. Not only that, they also put a strong focus on providing great experiences for their users. So the big “secret” behind its ranking algorithm is this: Google wants to connect its users with the best pages and websites that deliver what they’re searching for. There’s not really anything else to it.

What kind of changes does Google make?

Since the Panda update in 2011, SEO has changed a lot. Google has tried to do two main things with all these changes: firstly, to prevent poor quality websites from ‘tricking’ its algorithm to achieve high ranking SERP positions, and secondly, to create a better search experience for their users.

Google's algorithm updates 2011-2020
The biggest Google algorithm changes and updates since 2011
The evolution of Google search features, from ‘Google search results: the evolution of the SERPs’ at Ionos.com

What does Google want then, if they keep changing things?

Does Google expect you to jump into action every time there’s an update or a new feature? No — and you should rarely (if ever) need to make significant changes to your website just because of Google updates. (If you do find yourself needing to make big changes, it’s probably because you already had a low quality website and Google figured out how to identify that). Having a well-made website, quality content, and a suitable keyword strategy are probably all you need to worry about for long term SEO. Why are these things enough? It’s simple: if your users love your site and your content, chances are high that Google will love it too.

A long term SEO strategy to get ahead of algorithm updates

We can’t guarantee that this strategy is foolproof. (We can’t see the future, after all). Nevertheless, we believe looking at things from a holistic, user-centric perspective provides a strong foundation for any long term SEO strategy. Here are three principles that should continue to serve you well as time goes on:

Rule #1: always put users first!

Putting users first doesn’t mean you can just forget about SEO. You should still maintain your website, optimize your pages and monitor performance — but do these things with real users in mind.

Search engines are just middle-men — aim to please your users instead!

Rule #2: keep up with competitor benchmarks

Good SEO is not about jumping whenever Google claps. But you do need to keep up with changes in web development and digital trends. You don’t want to be stuck in the dark ages of the internet while everyone else is zooming ahead, do you? Even if you’re not keeping an eye on how your competitors are improving, you can be sure that many of your users are noticing things like that.

Rule #3: keep your research and evaluation cycle going

There are two core parts of SEO that are definitely here to stay: search intention and keyword research. It’s tempting to think you can do your keyword and audience research once, and then leave it that way forever. In some situations that might work, but in many cases it won’t. The fact is that people’s behavior changes over time, and the words that people use in their searches can change over time too.

So, stop pleasing Google!

Start focusing on your visitors, on the people that want to buy your product or services. All the developments Google has made focus on one thing: quality websites that really help users. That goes for Panda, but also for UX, responsiveness, speed optimization, etc. Mobile-first? Yes. And equally important user-first as well. It’s no surprise at all that Google recently announced page experience as a new ranking factor. So, it’s time to stop trying to please Google and think about your users instead!

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