When most of the SEOs I have spoken to think of a Google algorithm update it is about lost positions, angry clients and disavow files. “One minute you have a happy client who is showing up for all their converting terms and suddenly… BOOM”. Typically this will happen on a Friday at 4.30pm just before you are due to go to the pub, then have to spend the following days chatting to a guy called ‘Link Daemon’ who lives in Boston and just happens to know someone on G+ who inturn just happens to be dating the cousin or someone who used to work at Google.
I have watched all of this horror from the sidelines, peering around a corner from the social media department or hearing the banshee screams from the safety of the content marketing office. I have always been fascinated by the power that Google wields over Search and how the ripples impact all facets of the industry, from social media and content marketing to even P.R. This interest in the negative effects of Google updates combined with a passion for stories lead me to put together an interactive looking at how Google Updates have personally affected SEOs. But as I began to get the data together I quickly found out that I was wrong and that updates were as much a positive force to some, as negative and that many firms had found themselves winning clients because of them.
Chris Dyson (Columnist at Searchenginewatch) made a good point that with each update, a change in practice has driven the creation of useful pages targeting visitors. He commented on the Vince update saying, “In terms of setting out Google’s direction of things to come Vince showed us that Google loved to reward brands”. I myself remember the Vince update whilst I was working at Freshegg and recall that a number of clients were hit and Brand sites were dominating their positions in the SERPS, in fact it was the first time that brand began to be seriously discussed as part of a client’s SEO strategy.
Nichola Stott (founder of Mediaflow) has memories of Vince that are also positive, saying that her company Mediaflow’s culture of getting clients genuine editorial coverage to gain momentum was enhanced by the Vince update saying “Vince came at exactly the right time for us and our clients”.
So it really depended on what type of strategy you were using as to whether the updates were negative or positive, it was not just those who were running black hat campaigns that lost out to Google Updates, many firms that were playing it safe came out on the wrong side of the algorithms. SEOs were quickly taught a new direction as Ade Lewis (founder of Teapot Creative) pointed out, Ade describes himself as picking up new clients as a result of their rankings being damaged by an update and said that it made him really look at SEO in a new light and admit that some of what he had been doing was wrong. The thing is, even those SEOs toeing the party line were not 100% safe, Mat Bennett (MD of OKO Digital) said “Later Panda updates proved that even the conservative line we had been taking (by the standards of the day) were not as bombproof as we had hoped, but we thankfully avoided the dramatic hits that we witnessed elsewhere”.
Penguin was another one that was overshadowed with negative press but as Stott pointed out, they won a lot of new business after this update with first link audits and then campaign driven link attraction strategies. Paul Shapiro said that the 2013 Penguin update was a “massive win for one of his clients who saw his traffic double on the day of its release” and Chad Pollitt (co-founder of Relevance) added that the 2012 Penguin update reaffirmed the content-centric approach and that since he switched to this content-centric/digital P.R. approach he has not been negatively affected by any update since.
So are Google updates the SEOs friend after all and are they misunderstood by the industry for just trying to promote true content?
Shapiro pauses another idea saying that “Google updates are like drugs for an SEO. We moan and groan about them, others claim that updates don’t change anything for them (it’s not true). We love them. We crave them! Algorithm updates make SEO exciting, a game, makes us keep up-to-date and is integral to what SEO is today”.
Well for those of you who loathe, love or are addicted to updates you can see more quotes from SEOs like the lovely Paul Shapiro who has helped me with this project from the start, Chad, Ade and Nichola on this interactive put together by Visualsoft. Google update interactive.
I wanted to add Pigeon and the latest Panda but if I was to wait and change it for every current update it would never be finished so here is one of my favourite pigeon images.