Google is probably the single greatest company and invention of our era. I know that’s a huge statement, but really, how many times does an invention actually make it to the dictionary as a usable verb?! (Google it, guys, it’s true.) Google has single-handedly connected the far-flung dots of the internet into a single tangible, and extremely helpful tool for everyone to use.
Google helps us find websites that fit our search queries; however, it has become a little more complicated than just that. Over the years, as internet use has increased exponentially, in order for websites to appear in a certain order or rank on the Google search results page, certain criteria were put forth by Google. Websites that adhered to these specific criterions were given the higher ranking and better visibility on Google’s SERP. Over time this “criteria-seeking” has become an industry on its own – SEO, search engine optimisation.
Always keeping itself ahead of the game, Google decided to release search quality guidelines, video tutorials and a webmaster’s blog to help website builders, or business owners, anyone who uses SEO to help them gain an upper-hand in SEO, and rankings on their search pages.
Although Google’s advice about SEO and website ranking can indeed be helpful, you simply can’t consider it as gospel. Here are a few reasons why Google’s SEO advice should never be taken as gospel.
1. Google is Always Testing & Changing
One of the most prominent examples of Google going back on its word is with the mishap of the authorship feature. On multiple occasions, Google endorsed and seemed promised a prolonged commitment to a feature in which authors' display pictures would appear on the SERPs. This was implemented to achieve a higher CTR for websites which were 'authorities' in their respective fields. This was in 2011, by 2014 Google had dropped the feature entirely resulting in mass disappointment in marketers who were heavily invested in the feature.
Objectively, any decision Google takes is fine as it has the freedom and capacity to do so. However, it simply underlines how users shouldn’t follow Google’s every advice. There are multiple other features that have ended over the years, despite Google’s continuous endorsement of them.
While this isn't necessarily a bad thing, it does remind us that all things will always either change, evolve or disappear entirely. The main takeaway here is to absorb any of Google’s advice with a grain of salt; be prepared.
2. Google is Giving Preference to Paid Ads
The entire Google company is built on their ability to have business' pay in for ad time. In essence, businesses who bid the highest will appear the highest. Paid ads are always at the top, but now they are gaining more and more valuable SERP real estate. The latest ad update has changed from a solid green 'ad' label to now just a thin green outline - further blending in with organic search results.
What does this mean?
Searching for something on Google, and finding a website that Google is organically provided (without a paid bias) is becoming less and less common.
3. Google is Another Business, Not a Social Service
This brings us to the last reason. Google, at the end of the day, is a private company that needs to look out for itself and its shareholders. Although a lot of the information they release is quite useful to people starting out in SEO for the first time, advanced marketers will grow to understand otherwise.
Google has grown from a small garage startup to now earning a little under 26 billion dollars in revenue in their last quarter (2016). A large majority of their revenue from paid ads. We need to remember that while Google's primary function is to serve the most relevant websites on their search listings the company however does not work for free – they are a for-profit company. And as such their core interests will reflect that.
What Can You Do for Better SEO Rankings?
Always remember that Google will think of its own benefits before anything else – don’t blindly follow their guidelines without critical thinking and testing to back up your processes. Remember that SEO is intricate and complex, perhaps now more so than ever before. With the massive influx of online content, it can be hard to stand out and make yourself noticed. Use SEO smartly, and contending with the competition won’t be hard.
Primarily, you should focus your SEO on two important things; the first one is “quality” and the second one is “relevance”. Make sure that your website content and backlinks are of top quality to avoid any Google ranking loss. When you build backlinks, choose only relevant websites that are highly reputed. Avoid building cheap backlinks and utilising spammy SEO techniques because they can easily get you penalised.
Google is the largest search engine by far; stick to SEO strategies that will provide genuine value to all parties involved. Google isn’t the enemy per se, but continue to take their advice with a healthy dose of skepticism and do your own research and testing.
Have a clear understanding about your SEO goals, competition within your industry and your target audiences. If you are just starting out, you can seek the help of an experienced SEO consultant. Don’t be disappointed by digital marketing, it is competitive, but rewarding once you find the correct working components that bring in the most results.