Every time that Google makes a change to their algorithms or Matt Cutts announces a new set of policies, it’s unsurprisingly very big news in the SEO industry and across the web in general. Of course understanding how Google works and getting official word on the processes behind it means that we can better optimise our sites to take advantage of that system and to improve our search engine ranking and our numbers of visitors.
However if you are just waiting for these announcements then you aren’t being very active. Sure, when Google announces a change to their algorithm you can say with certainty that some changes to your site will be able to benefit from particular strategies – but so can every other webmaster on the net and all your competition. If you want to get ahead of the pack then you need to think logically about the things that Google might be doing, and you need to test your own theories. In other words, rather than waiting for Google to announce their next update, you should be trying to second guess what that update will entail and getting there first. This way, your site will be benefiting from every new development before your competition has even had a change to react.
Think about it – you know what Google is trying to achieve, you know the basics of how a search engine works, so shouldn’t you be able to hazard some pretty good guesses as to how the boffins at Google might improve the system in future? Or do you have to wait to be told?
Testing Your Theories
You might now be thinking that this sounds like a somewhat reckless idea, seeing as you won’t know for sure whether what you’re doing is actually benefiting your site – couldn’t it in theory even be damaging yourself?
Well really the short answer to this is probably not and the worst case scenario is going to be that your effort is wasted. If you are doing things that you genuinely suspect Google will be looking for in the future, then it’s highly unlikely that you’d get it so wrong as to damage yourself, and even if it doesn’t pay off now then it might still pay off in future.
Furthermore, by testing these theories in split tests you can quickly find out what effect your new strategies are having on your ranking and that way either stop or continue with the same kind of confidence you would have using a ‘Cutts verified’ technique.
If you’re wondering precisely what I mean by ‘second guessing’ Google then let’s look at some examples of things you might be able to ‘presume’ about the way Google works.
One example for instance is that Google is highly likely to clamp down on miss-spellings and poor grammar. Word processors show us how easy it is for an algorithm to spot bad writing and incorrect spellings, and so it’s safe to presume that Google probably knows how to do this too. More to the point though, we also know that Google wants to pair visitors with high quality, well-researched content that preferably comes from recognized brands and real corporations. It makes sense then that they would make it so that bad spellings hurt rankings because a big website with a well-researched article is unlikely to have incorrect spellings.
Likewise one could imagine Google would be likely to prefer longer articles because these would be more likely to include more detail and information and because 300-500 word articles are indicative of content farms. Indeed many webmasters have apparently tested this themselves and published the results which appear to concur.
The moral of the story is that if you want to be not just good, but great at SEO, it’s not enough to just follow orders and become a SEO ‘sheep’ – you need to second guess, to use your brain and to stay one step ahead.