“Knowledge is Power” – and Google certainly have both to use..
Everybody who knows the cliche “knowledge is power” and works in the SEO field knows how true that is in this job, for without an accurate picture we are effectively working blind.
For a long time now, various elements of the webmaster and SEO communities have been espousing their views that the days of Google’s “Do no evil” motto are long-gone, replaced with the inevitable corporate over-ride settings of:
“Do whatever is required to earn maximum returns for the shareholder”
..and that these two objectives are impossible to stick to concurrently.
In the past Google have had an uneasy alliance with SEO, however over the past 6 months or so we are seeing what looks like an increasing trend of reducing access to “SEO Useful” information we used to be able to see.
When considered individually the changes are understandable, but when looked at as a sum of the parts, now begins to look like possibly the start of a concerted effort to pull the rug out from under SEO in general by muddying or even removing the information available directly from “the horse’s mouth”. Google’s sheer speed of implementation of changes and live testing seems to be increasing exponentially, to the point where it is almost impossible to keep up with new features, even blogging them, never mind attempting to adjust your SEO strategy to react to them..
Lets be clear, this is not another “SEO is dead” post, however we do think that Google SEO has already, and looks set to continue to become ever more difficult moving forwards, lets look at the changes over the last few months to get a view of the bigger picture.
SERP & Organic Rankings Changes
Caffeine live (April-May 2010)
New super-fast infrastructure implemented with Ajax front page, now “anything is possible”
Mayday update (01 May 2010)
Layout changes (06 May 2010)
Changes to the Google SERP layout affect organic traffic & clickthrough significantly, and of course Adwords data and performance.
SERP Indentation and grouping changes (Aug 2010)
One site can now hold the top 3 or even 4 positions if Google deems it to be “the” answer to the query.
Google Instant (08 Sept 2010)
Further attempts to drives search towards medium to short tail phrases, and of course Adwords?
More layout tweaks (Oct 2010)
Testing of Adwords positioning, at top and bottom of results page.
Merging organic & Google Places local results (28 Oct 2010)
This latest development is possibly the biggest shake up to “localized” SERPs we have seen for may years. Although they are obviously still testing it as almost every time you search it looks different, this is likely going to hit huge amounts of genuine small businesses. In some cases the SERP shows the previous #1 & #2 results as #9 & #10 at the bottom of the page, replaced by a whole page of Google places results. Again, more negative effects seen on Adwords campaigns
Adwords Keyword Tool
As highlighted in a fascinating series of posts on Dave Naylor’s blog (read them all, including comments) the new Adwords tool is now out of beta, and far from upgrading the tool however, the new tool‘s data is entirely different and no longer shows all the keywords, only short & medium tail “commercially viable” phrases. In effect this tool has now been made virtually useless for organic SEO.
Toolbar PR – “Circumstantial” evidence?
Google haven’t updated the toolbar Pagerank properly now for more than 8 months. We’ve all known it can’t be trusted for several years now, but could this now be an attempt to slowly wean the Toolbar Pagerank community off their addiction with a “just let it die” strategy, along with gradual removal of the other data that SEOs might deem useful for organic results ?
Of course, “SEO is not dead” as the basics of building and promoting good sites still applies, but it would now seem to us that under the guise of “user experience” Google are taking concerted steps to hit organic SEO with such a flurry of moving targets that it is almost impossible to accurately assess cause / effect / results, because nothing is ever the same any two times you check.
Of course SEOs are used to seeing the SERP results in permanent flux, but now we seem to have the same situation with the Google interface too, and from a company that actually made it so big by sticking doggedly to the simplicity of their homepage, this has to get you wondering about their intended direction and motives.
What do you think?