I have never liked rules very much. So I have to come clean and admit it. I was wrong, and Google was right all along. I tried to beat them at SEO, I tried to get to the top of the rankings using every form of link building tactic I could get my hands on. But I was wrong and I have learned my Lesson.
Since December the rankings of 50% of my sites have crashed. Naturally, this was upsetting at first. I railed against Google and blamed them for everything. Then I sat back and reflected on the whole process of SEO, internet marketing and online business. After a few hours, it struck me that I had been wrong and Google was right all along.
As Friedrich Nietzsche said “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” Nowhere has this been more true than my recent experience with Google. I have lost a lot of income and my ego has taken a bit of a hammering, yet the experience has made me a lot stronger. This is not Pollyanna-like thinking or false optimism. I see the latest turbulence as an invaluable lesson and a welcome wake up call. Now, I have abandoned almost all of the SEO strategies I did last year and am focusing on more solid, durable and effective strategies instead.
I never felt entirely comfortable doing SEO. On the one hand it was a fascinating and addictive game,on the other it seemed artificial and incongruent. All the time, I was writing and editing content for the primary purpose of link building I was not playing to my strengths as a writer, academic and long-time entrepreneur. In many ways, I lost my bearings and became swept away by the rush of getting high rankings at the expense of lower quality.
Aside from the thrill of the sport, I liked SEO as it challenged Google. Like many entrepreneurs, I rebelled against authority and this included the big G. I did not listen to them, I did not believe them and I was more concerned in finding my way around their rules and principles than operating by them.
My Principles for Success in a Post-SEO World
Now, I have decided to change because I have to and I want to. Now, I am going to follow a new set of editorial guidelines, and these are the principles I want to base all our content on in the future:
- We will write detailed, substantial articles and not settle for “shallow” or “thin” content
- We will write about topics that we are experts in, and which we are enthusiastic about.
- We will build a trustworthy site where visitors feel comfortable using their credit cards
- We will do our best to avoid all spelling, stylistic, or factual errors
- We will write about the genuine interests of our readers
- We will create original content, original reporting, original research and/or original analysis
- We will provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results
- We will be a recognized authority on our chosen topics
- We will try to deliver insightful analysis and interesting information beyond the obvious
- We want to produce content that our readers would want to bookmark or share with a friend
- We want to provide a quality of writing that would be found in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book
So what do you think? Does it make sense? Well, I would like to claim ownership but I would be misleading you. All of these guidelines are direct from Google’s official website. They are telling us in black and white what they are looking for, and offer an invaluable series of questions they ask about a site when assessing its quality. The questions are used by manual reviewers and will ultimately be incorporated in the Google algorithm so that all sites will be judged the same way.
So, even if you think these guidelines are nonsense you had better sit up and take note. This is how your site will be judged in the future, and if you are serious about building a long-term business online you had better start following these principles.
Learning to Accept Google
Our personal growth depends on learning to see things differently or reframing our perceptions and beliefs. When we are teenagers, we believe that pretty much everything our parents say is wrong and we ignore or challenge their advice. Then, when we become parents ourselves, we begin to recognize that maybe they had a point after all. I believe the same applies to how we view Google.
Yes, there is an argument that Google are trying to push businesses away from search towards Adwords where they make their money. Yes, there are good websites that have been penalized by the recent Panda and Penguin update. Yet, irrespective of the rights and wrongs, the question we need to ask ourselves is this – what are we going to do about it? Perhaps we should accept it is time to stop berating Google as a monopoly or as a harsh parent or dictator. Why not make it a whole lot easier for ourselves and consider that Google might just be trying to serve the best interests of its search engine users.
Of course, deep down, you know this is probably true. When you take off your internet marketing hat everything becomes clearer. You have just watched House and you want to know all about Hugh Laurie. So you go to Wikipedia and get everything you need. You do not go to a site that has a 300 word article that repeats the name “Hugh Laurie” 20 times and has 10 banner ads trying to get you to buy the new House DVD series. So, why are your users any different?
Why not try some serious role reversal and look at your site from the perspective of your visitors? Are you giving them what they want and need? If you came to your site for the first time what would be your impression?
Now, when I read these and thought about what they actually meant, it reframed my perception of Google. I have always disliked big corporations, but maybe it was time for reconsideration. Maybe they, were not the evil Big Brother committed to destroying my online business. Maybe, they had a genuine interest in promoting high quality information and satisfying their users.
Let’s look at the evidence. What if we were to take what Google says literally and build a website around their declared principles? This is nothing new. The clues as to what Google want are all there. We just thought we could take short cuts and ignore the need for quality and substance. Well, it worked for a while as I well know. The problem is that this is no way to build a website, and certainly no way to build a long-term business.
If you are just creating content as a means to an end, if your only purpose is to get search traffic by manipulating the rankings then you, and I, deserve to fail. What made this all the worse is that I have ignored my own gut feelings, and abandoned my training as a writer and academic. So, now it is time to stop playing this futile game called SEO and start getting down to the real business of giving our users and also Google what they want. When you accept that they are one and the same thing, you can move on and build a great website on solid foundations.
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