Why Google Might be Both Friend and Foe to the Digital Marketing Community

Jul 3, 2014

google algorthm updatesThere is no debating the power and influence of Google when it comes to Internet marketing; it’s already the largest advertising company in history. With a 68 percent share of the search engine market, sales revenue approaching $60 billion annually, and a war chest of $59 billion in cash and marketable securities, Google is well positioned to control not only its own destiny but that of untold thousands of digital marketers.

When you factor in the influence it exerts on millions of consumers by controlling the results that are returned for search queries, one can only hope that Google will continue to hold fast to the spirit of its unofficial company motto set out so many years ago: “do no evil.”

Your Marketing Decisions Largely Determines How Google Treats You

Just keeping up with the ongoing evolution of Google’s search ranking algorithm is a full-time job in itself; an average of 500 algorithmic changes are made every year. While most of these changes are relatively minor and affect only a very small percentage of websites, a handful are super-sized in nature and have turned the SEO community upside down. Major updates include:

  • The Hummingbird Update of August 20, 2013. This was a major revamping of the entire ranking algorithm, and introduced a semantic approach to search queries that examines the intent behind the queried keywords.
  • The Penguin Update, which rolled out on April 24, 2012. This update addressed a number of spam-related issues, including keyword-stuffing.
  • The Panda/Farmer Update of February 23, 2011 tackled a number of issues including sites with thin content, content farms, and those sites with high ad-to-content ratios.

Marketers seeking free organic-driven traffic to their websites have the option to adapt to the evolving Google algorithm or face a loss of ranking. For those unwilling to dance to Google’s tune, there are a number of alternatives including

  • Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising. The humble text ad accounts for 97 percent of Google’s revenue. Relevant ads are presented that match keywords being searched; advertisers pay only when a user clicks on their ad. Some have speculated that Google is intentionally driving marketers away from free organic traffic in order to boost PPC revenue; Google has no official comment.
  • Email marketing to a company’s own list of potential customers.
  • Facebook marketing. Despite the fact that Facebook is a social media channel, it is entirely possible to offer a sales message to this audience as long as it is properly presented; the key to success is to dial down the hard-sell approach.

humming bird update

Meeting the Hummingbird Update Challenge

The Hummingbird is the latest big update from Google, and represents a major overhaul of its entire ranking algorithm. Google has moved beyond matching search results to a few basic keywords, and is looking at the entire search phrase in an attempt to decipher the intent of the user’s query. The idea is to be able to provide better results for queries that may not have simple solutions. Savvy marketers can benefit from Hummingbird by

  • Using schema.org and Google Authorship markup on their website to allow Google to better match website content to the search queries.
  • Making sure that content matches the Hummingbird emphasis on providing more detailed “how-to” matches for search queries; this might mean expanding the use of long-tail targeted keywords.
  • Ensuring that sites are optimized across all mobile devices and platforms.