Why does Google keep changing its algorithm?

Why does Google keep changing its algorithm?

Google has been known to make significant changes to its algorithm each year.

Why? Why does Google keep changing its algorithm so regularly?

Google’s algorithms (as there are multiple algorithms that actually work together) ensures that search results bring up the most relevant content to a user with the amount of information available on the web. This can be difficult to sift through millions of websites in milliseconds and find exactly what you need that helps you (or me) – the end-user of Google’s main product (search engine).

Hence, Google ranking systems are made to do just that: sort through billions of web pages in its search index and present you with the best information in a fraction of a second.

As mentioned, a whole series of algorithms make up Google’s ranking system. Each search algorithm looks at a plethora of factors such as the relevance of content, the expertise of sources, location and settings as well as the words of a query to give the best possible suggestions. The importance given to each factor differs based on the nature of the query.

This is Google’s official statement on how and what it considers as part of the search experience:

Google's official definition from their site on how search works extracted in picture format for the blog - Why does Google keep changing its algorithm

Source: How Search Works

Pandu Nayak who has been with Google for the last 14 years and is now the vice president of search explains the company’s mission statement about producing great results. Nayak and many others study and incorporate machine learning and artificial intelligence and scrutinize every search to give ease to users.

The strive to perfection leads to optimization

Have you ever wondered what Google’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is? Well, simply put it is the practice of directing traffic to your website by including content on your site that will potentially improve your site’s visibility to search engines and users.

Related: Enterprise SEO, SEO Packages and Starter SEO Packages         

Most digital marketing is at the mercy of Google’s algorithms which keep on getting updated, changed or altered which results in having an indirect or even a direct impact on search traffic for many businesses and brands across the world wide web.

In fact, because of these, in the SEO community, there has been a ton of players who track these movements in search algorithms, notify and communicate findings with each other to help stay on top.  The impact of losing first page rankings of some brands can in the millions (yes in USD) – so there is a reason to stay on top of it.

Here is a sample of ranking fluctuations by various Search Engine specialty brands keeping track of algorithm updates:

Image Source: Search Engine Land – Unconfirmed Google Search Engine Ranking Update Feels Big

Image Source: Search Engine Land – Unconfirmed Google Search Engine Ranking Update Feels Big

It is important to note that Google’s core updates drastically impact search engine optimization which has led popular websites and businesses to fall to mediocre or poor ranking.

Updates have revolutionized Google Search so that it has moved from the stereotypical robot to be able to interpret subtexts and contexts through natural language processing.

Marketers have had to keep this in mind to churn out search engine optimizing content to promote their businesses which could be at stake due to a major emphasis on keywords. Researching and understanding Google Analytics tools can prove to be particularly helpful in understanding a website’s search engine trends.

Our recommendation is to study both Analytics and Search Console to find insights into what posts, pages and sources of traffic are driving movement on your brand’s online presence.

Image Source: Google Search Console Homepage

Search engine optimization is an imperfect solution to an imperfect search engine.

However, each tweak in the algorithm can result in an easy connection between customers and businesses.

That’s also not to say that at times the algorithm is going to make wrong ‘guesses’ as part of the optimization efforts.

There really is an awesome article and opinion piece by Robert Epstein (a senior research psychologist that has published 15 books) on USA News that gets into the power of Google on our daily lives, the mistakes it can and does make and how it changes can impact everything from elections to businesses crashing and burning.

It is a 5-year-old take, but its arguments hold even more true today.  Check out The New Censorship. How did Google become the internet’s censor and master manipulator, blocking access to millions of websites?

No surprise that he is a major critic of Google and some of its practices on privacy, censorship, and impact on psychology on the society from its algorithms.

Image Source: USNews.com

Don’t cheat the system

Many businesses try to trick the system by resorting to keyword stuffing in their website’s title which DOES improve their ranking but can also get their profiles suspended for months as it goes against Google’s guidelines. Keyword stuffing is the practice of cluttering as many seo keywords on a website’s page as is possible even if the keywords are irrelevant and the site contains no real content.

Look at the keyword stuffing example below:

Are you looking for cheap running shoes? If you’re looking for cheap running shoes, look no further. Our cheap running shoes website is the best place to order your new cheap running shoes. Feel free to check out our selection of cheap running shoes from our cheap running shoes selection below.

I would be annoyed when reading this (as I am sure you would be as well)…but as an SEO professional in 2021, we still get too many clients that have been suffering in their rankings because their past SEO agencies took shortcuts like the above.

This can be taken as probably one of the worst examples of keyword stuffing which leads to “over-optimization” and leads to a terrible user experience because nobody wants to see ‘cheap running shoes’ repeated a gazillion times in a sentence.

Google’s own Matt Cutts warned webmasters about keyword stuffing and how it overshadows great websites with great content.

In 2011 and 2012, the company released algorithm updates called as Google Panda and Google Penguin respectively which were aimed at combatting bad practices such as spammy content, keyword stuffing and/or hidden links in copy.

Related: Google’s History of Algorithm Changes

There is a right way to optimize to ensure your pages rank

Many businesses are using SEO to stay at the top of the first page therefore understanding how they can improve their website’s ranking in search engines is very crucial.

Apart from working on title, headings and page URL structure – marketers must ensure that they publish quality, optimized content with the relevant keyword phrases and keyword density.

So here is the kicker and the important takeaway in the last sentence.  “Quality”.

This word is so overlooked when it comes to SEO.  When is an article published – is there a comparison done to see if it answers the search queries better? 

Are the articles or web pages engaging? Is it structured well?  Does it explain the concepts in an easy-to-consume way and get the messages across?  Does it hold media, slides, videos or other visual assets to keep the users happy, aid in the explanation when they are reading?  What about linking to other research or authoritative sites or articles when building arguments or making a case?

All these things matter.  A good content writer knows this.  Great leaders know this. Great brands understand this well. They do not take short-cuts here. And guess what – so do search engine algorithms.

It is worth emphasizing here that quality takes time, effort and resources. 

There is so much content published on the world wide web daily.  To stand out and really rank, you have to produce content that is better than the folks that have “earned” the organic listing on the first few spots of the first page of search results by publishing already decent content.

Produce content regularly that is better than the first page results and over time, the content will rank.

That great piece of content will naturally attract links, increase dwell time and time on site from users.

Brands must also remember to update their content regularly as this is one of the best indicators of a website’s relevancy.

Marketers should also use relevant, descriptive links in the text which are in keywords and will improve their search engine optimization.

Given the sheer volume of content produced – quality alone is not sufficient anymore.

Your website needs to be publishing quality and quantity regularly to get on top of readers and keep having it discovered from new users to help it stay on top. 

That is why “content is king” and other such axioms are so widely used.

So, both quality and quantity are the key ingredients for the SEO formula.

A simple formula – but one that takes a dedicated team and processes in-house for any individual, brand or large-scale enterprise to execute on.

Some other tips on optimizing

Avoiding “click here” links and writing out the name of the destination can improve greatly. (I know I am guilty of this at times 😊)

Using ‘alt tags’ or alternative text descriptions to describe the video and visual media is another great way to climb up the rankings.

There are many agencies and companies that now guarantee high rankings in search engines to business owners.

However, no SEO company can control how Google ranks websites!

Since Google changes its algorithm ever so often, companies can work on understanding these changes and building strategies according to them instead of falling prey to agencies that are only a scam.

There is no guarantee that should be provided in ranking on the first page or first position.  Organic growth, leads or increased visibility is the name of the game. Keyword themes can be targeted but anyone giving a guarantee on 1st position should be taken with a hefty amount of skepticism. 

So what happens next?

Well, there are no shortcuts to rank on search engines the way they were in the late 90s (when Google was in its infancy and Yahoo, Microsoft and Ask Jeeves ruled the internet search engine world). 

Besides short-cuts that try to cheat the system end up hurting the brand more in the long term (as mentioned in our keyword stuffing example above).

There is a lot written on this, but it is worth repeating here – create content for humans and not bots. 

Understand that Google is not perfect (nothing is actually), and it will need to keep updating its algorithms regularly to match the user intent of the search query with a better answer or search result.

Play the long-term game and keep updating your content with better quality to stay on top. 

There will be times that your page rankings crash (even with the best written or relevant content for the query) – but if the content is good and there are regular updates, you will bring some and all of those rankings back over time (unless there was “cheating” happening, then be willing to part ways with your initial traffic on your pages). 

Other times there still may be content that does not rank because of Google’s own agenda (not placing content that puts their brand in a negative light or gives it bad publicity).  There is not much that brands can do about this – ultimately, Google owns its search engine and it’s in their interest to protect their reputation and they will favour their reputation and products over other search results.

Questions/Thoughts or concerns?  Drop us a comment below or reach out on our contact-us page.

Happy Optimizing!

Do Likes on Social Media Channels Matter?

Do Likes on Social Media Channels Matter?

Do Likes on Social Media Channels Matter?

What are “Likes” or “Subscribers” or “Follow”?

With over 3.6 billion users, social media is unarguably the new mega force to reckon with in the business arena. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and others have given businesses cost-effective and convenient platforms to communicate with their target audience. 

Digital marketers are working round the clock to have as many people as possible like, subscribe, and follow their social media channels and posts. So the question becomes do likes on social media channels matter?

So, what are “Likes” or “Subscribes” or “Follow”?

Every social post is accompanied by several buttons, including the like button. When someone likes a post, it means they enjoy or support the content of the post. Likes are a show of preference for a post.

On the other hand, the subscribe feature appears on YouTube and Facebook.

People know about the “Follow” or “Like” feature in Facebook, but the ability to add “subscribe” to a page feature exists as well. You can learn more about eligibility and or how to configure for your page right on Facebook’s guidelines here.

When someone clicks or taps on the subscribe button of a channel, they become subscribers. They simply show that they like your content and would like more. Therefore, they can see the channel’s content on their news feed as soon as it is published. 

Image source: Dummies
Web Worx Labs YouTube Banner showing Subscribe button as a focus for the blog "Do likes on social media channels matter?'
Our Subscribe button on YouTube

The follow button on Instagram and Twitter is almost similar to the subscribe button on YouTube and Facebook. Your Instagram or Twitter followers are people who’ve chosen to receive your tweets or Instagram posts in their profile’s news feed.

Instagram Follow Button
Twitter Follow Button

What Good Things Come from Likes?

Brands and companies are spending a fortune to market their products and services. But with that much content out there, someone could be wondering why a brand would be obsessed with increasing its social media likes.

So here are a few key reasons why “likes”, “follows”, “subscribes” are still important today!

More Communication

The more “likes”, “follows” or “subscriptions” your social media channel gets, the broader your fan base gets. Therefore, an increased number of likes on your channel will make your posts more visible on the feed section of your target audience’s profiles. 

You can use this visibility to introduce your fans to other communication platforms for improved conversion. 

Build A Fanbase On Social To Own

For instance, with email marketing cited to have a 2.5% click-through rate against 0.07% for social media marketing, a digital marketer would be interested in diverting their social media fans to their email list. Therefore, a post encouraging the fans to join your email list for a specified benefit would come in handy. 

Related: 5 Easy & Impactful Email Marketing Tips You Can Use Right Away

In such a case, more likes on the post will make the call to action and the accompanying content more visible to the right people. The approach will also be helpful when you want to increase your website’s traffic from your social media channel. 

Also, you have now converted your followers into an email list that you own outside of social media. This allows your brand to start off building awareness on social media, then nurturing them through other channels to make them eventual customers.

At the same time, having them sign up to your newsletter from first have them follow you on social will allow you to build some protection or insurance against when that social platform goes away or dips in traffic (which happens these days sooner and more often than we think).

More Clout

The internet today has pushed the slang ‘clout’ and is now adopted by everyone. It generally means power, influence or fame. Clout also makes someone or something more popular. Undoubtedly, social likes make you popular online, thus extending your fan base. 

For instance, company A’s social media page 1000 likes. Its competitor, Company B has 600 likes on the same platform. Then, there’s a high possibility that company A will be more sought after than B, thanks to clout. When company A rolls out new services or activities, the information will reach out to more people. 

In a nutshell, a high number of social media likes differentiate you from your competitors. More followers may not mean more engagement for each time you update them on social media. It should just show anyone looking to understand a brand at a high level if it has a history and following.

It is a way that many still size others up (not our recommended or preferred way to measure anyone). Likes or followers on the surface can be misleading if the engagement is non-existent on each social media update. So if you are going to use Likes/followers/subscribers to make a “judgement call” on a brand, use it in conjunction with other social media metrics to ensure you get a fuller picture.

Related: Social Media Marketing Services at Web Worx Labs

Related: Why should marketers care about TikTok?

Related: 5 Must-Have Attributes For A Killer Social Media Post

What Likes May Not Provide:

 Sales or Leads

Just because someone follows you for your content, it may not mean that they are interested in doing business with you.

Even now, when you think of success on social media, the first thought goes to having lots of likes.

However, it is important to understand that it is not necessarily true. A social media channel may have thousands of likes that don’t translate to more sales or additional quality leads. Then it leaves you with the question ‘why?’ 

The reason is that people may like your service or product but it does not mean they need it. They may have liked it just because it looked attractive or caught their eye-nothing more. 

However, over time, as you engage with your target audience in a meaningful way on social channels, there will opportunity to bring them down the buyers’ journey to an eventual conversion.  This is when leads or sales occur.

Social Media is a very top-of-funnel activity or the bottom of the funnel activity to engage existing customers.

As the chart above shows, social media usually fits in the top two sections.  Although updates on social platforms with lead generation and the ability to conduct eCommerce transactions right online have changed that.

Now, this has changed recently with advertising specifically introduced to generate leads via social media (to target the more middle of the buyer’s journey funnel) – but that comes through advertising not likes directly. 

You have to use those likes in other ways to build an audience that engages with you on other channels so they eventually become a customer.

Getting likes for the sake of likes alone is not a viable sales strategy.

Likes no longer as important

This is a fact that many people do not understand. You may have likes, but they do not necessarily mean much if they are engaging with your content and you are not able them to the buyer’s journey.

Yes, they may help you have a bigger fan base, but their importance does not go far than that on their own. In fact, algorithms on social platforms limit brands that prevent reach from going to all the followers as they want you to advertise to reach a greater portion of your following.

At the end of the day, what matters is how well you have marketed the specific product or service. It can be in various channels, not just through social media. Driving more traffic to your website and well-informed marketing campaigns can boost your social media marketing efforts in pushing your brand.

Customer feedback, referrals as well as social media sharing and comments will also bring a supplementary force to your digital marketing campaigns.  

There are many companies that have first build powerful brands that naturally attract followers. Build your brand first and that will translate into sales, more followers and growth over time.

Closing Thoughts

A huge following and many likes will bring your brand closer to the eyes of the target audience. However, you should not be comfortable with just that as far as your online marketing is concerned. Any following on social media should have harder goals tied back to these softer “vanity-based metrics”.  Are you getting calls?  Are followers coming to the site and staying there?  Create content for each of the phases in the buyers’ journey (not just the top end) and that will allow you to benefit from building a brand that the right people will be attracted to.

Questions? Thoughts? Need help. Reach out via our contact us page or comment below!

Cryptocurrency Guide (For Marketers By Marketers)

Cryptocurrency Guide (For Marketers By Marketers)

Cryptocurrency Guide (For Marketers By Marketers)

This blog post is a cryptocurrency guide for marketers, business leaders and anyone who is looking to better understand this technology without getting too technical.

Why are these terms always thrown around and making headlines?  Why should marketers care about it in today’s day and age?

This “cryptocurrency” term and others including blockchain, bitcoin, are used today by many techies, bankers, news websites, and some eccentric personalities (think Elon Musk) – but they can be and are still pretty confusing. 

This new technology has taken the world by storm and even brands are now opening up to doing business using this technology (Subway, Microsoft, Burger King, AT&T, among others come to mind).  You can find the full list of brands dabbling in this technology here.

What is cryptocurrency: the official definition:

 I like Investopedia’s definition:

Cryptocurrency guide - official definition snippet from Investopedia on what is cryptocurrency

So basically, it is a form of currency.  A virtual one – that can be used for purchasing goods and services.

It uses an online ledger with strong cryptography to secure online transactions which makes it nearly impossible to counterfeit or double-spend. (so it is deemed more secure than our traditional form of currency – “paper money”).

The word ‘cryptocurrency’ is derived from the encryption techniques which are used to secure the network.

This digital money is not regulated by any single authority such as banks or government, making it free from any manipulation and interference.

(This is pretty powerful if you think about it – money that is not centrally regulated and controlled).

It also offers the buyer and seller in a transaction more anonymity than conventional online paying methods.

So more privacy on top of security and less regulation – playing devil’s advocate – if I am a criminal – I am loving this form of currency already. (not to say that others would not be attracted to it for the very same reasons).

As mentioned, part of the appeal of this currency is its security which can be owed to blockchain technology- a decentralized technology that is spread across a large number of peer-to-peer computers that simultaneously store and update transactions online according to cryptographical rules.   

Did this just get a bit more confusing again or is it just me?

So let’s break it down. 

  1. Blockchain: an open and distributed ledger that records transactions in code.  A block is connected on a chain for every transaction done.
  2. Peer to peer: computers connected using the internet
  3. Cryptographic rules: so using codes to protect information.  This allows for the security to link one block with others (as part of the whole network), while providing encryption and better security.

Putting it together in easier to understand terms – a decentralized technology that uses cryptography (codes to product info) in peer-to-peer systems (computers connected via the internet) to store and update transactions online using the cryptography rules (code).

Hope that explains it a bit better.  If not, no worries, keep reading, more explanations and more importantly why it matters are next.

What is Bitcoin?

The first blockchain-based cryptocurrency was Bitcoin which remains the most trendy and valuable out of all cryptocurrencies (today – this is as of August 2021).

Who created Bitcoin? 

It’s still a mystery.

I know – crazy right?

The answer is not as simple because the identity of the creator is unknown and remains a mystery to most.

So far, we do know that in August of 2008, an anonymous person or entity registered the Bitcoin.org domain.

We also know that in the same year, a whitepaper was published highlighting the foundations of how Bitcoin would operate.

In 2009, the first version of Bitcoin was launched by a single person or group under the pseudonym of ‘Satoshi Nakamoto’.

Satoshi Nakamoto is rumoured to be the father of this cryptocurrency.  But no one knows for sure.  In fact, he vehemently denied it in 2014 when a story broke in Newsweek at that time.  You can read about it here

Mystic?  Believe it.  Creepy – a little maybe.  But all interesting nonetheless (to say the least).

So as expected, given the popularity of Bitcoin, there has been a surge in new currencies, which are either built from scratch or are clones of Bitcoin, each having their own functions, rules and requirements.

How are Bitcoins made?

Bitcoins simply put are mined.

Let’s step back again – if you are thinking – what is mining? – again you would not be alone here (I know I was thinking what is the relationship between “mining” and currencies when I got to this section of my learning about Bitcoin).

What Are Miners In Cryptocurrency?

Miners are people who run cryptocurrency software on their computers.  They police the system and verify every transaction to prevent fraud to ensure the legitimacy of the transactions.

Generating for and mining for one bitcoin is when new bitcoins are entered into circulation by using complex and costly machines, algorithms, servers to be allowed to enter to a blockchain ledger (again as mentioned earlier, a blockchain is a specific type of database that stores information in blocks).

Miners play an essential role in securing the Bitcoin network and the transactions.

Each time a miner successfully solves Bitcoin’s complex algorithm – a new “block” in the form of bitcoin is added to the ledger.

How Can You Get A Bitcoin By Mining?

So what is a complex algorithm in the case of Bitcoin? 

A really, really hard math problem.

Yes, you read that right.  A math question.  You solve complex math questions that require very costly and super-fast machines that leverage algorithms to work for hours, weeks, or even months to generate an answer to a math question.

To get into the specifics of the math questions and the exact rules of engagement to do it yourself, I recommend this initial read on Investopedia.  I am going to skip over this because this is not the objective of this specific blog (we are looking at it from a marketing perspective – so I am sharing the general concepts – not the detailed technicals and know-how).

Related: What Are Algorithms?

How Are New Blocks Minted?

If you can crack the target number and get the right answer, you are allowed to enter into the ledger with a Bitcoin.  When someone can successfully find the solution, they broadcast it, and are allowed to join by other miners in the blockchain. Once the target answer is met, the new coin is minted and provided to the miner. The miner that mines a block is rewarded through the block reward, a set amount of bitcoins agreed upon by the network. The bitcoins included in the block reward are all new bitcoins. This is the only way that new bitcoins are created.

This process of mining ensures that only miners can generate bitcoins by verifying and processing data preventing people from creating their own bitcoins not issued by the network. This is because Bitcoins rely on strong cryptography to verify every transaction.

In Bitcoin’s case, generally speaking – these are the rules of engagement. 

Given the math problems are hard to solve, miners are not necessarily solving the problem, but create algorithms to keep guessing it a ton of times (think millions or even trillions) until they get it correctly.  So brute force is the name of the game for gaining a Bitcoin for most miners these days.  Specialized and super-fast hardware that can guess answers at lighting fast speeds requiring cooling mechanisms and a ton of electricity – are the starting requirements for most miners.

Value of cryptocurrencies in aggregate

Today, the aggregate value of all the cryptocurrencies in existence is around $1.6 trillion—Bitcoin currently represents more than 60% of the total value.

Image & Stats Source: Coin Market Cap

As of August 2021, the value of Bitcoin is approx. $50K CAD or $40K USD.

Why Marketers Should Care?

Understanding cryptocurrency and its underlying blockchain technology are good to know for marketers.

There are no planned out scenarios right now

There is no real guarantee that cryptocurrency will change the landscape for marketing or digital marketing as we know it.

As marketers, (especially as digital marketers) – we have to be aware and continuously adapt, keep up, and stay ahead of the curve with options to find new ways to reach customers, engage with and build lasting relationships with them.

New Platforms For Advertising In The Horizon

There are new platforms up and coming that are using blockchain technology to reward users who use their platform and give control back to the users on which brands and companies can and cannot advertise to them.

So for example, if you like the Nike brand, you can allow their ads to show up on the publishers’ space and thereby Nike gets access to your online activities, preferences, gets the right to advertise their products to you, and gains insights from other behavioural data (while keeping your actual identity private – again – one of the biggest pros of blockchain technology). 

The publisher makes money or cut from the ad spend.  You get the user to use this space by providing them BAT (tokens or the digital currency) to stick around and allow themselves to be advertised on.

From a marketing perspective, this may mean that reach, impressions, and thereby potential eventual conversion numbers from advertising on these types of platforms are lower.

It may also mean that conversion rates go higher because you are preaching your latest updates, breakthroughs, and product offers to a more loyal customer base (or at least an interested one) that may be open to your brand selling to them.

It’s still too early to tell.

One of the biggest players in this space currently is Basic Attention Token.  You can learn about what this ‘exchange’ has to offer on their site and more about the rule of engagement for users, publishers, and advertisers here.

So what’s next?…

Bitcoins are complex things.

They are very technical, surrounded by mystery and hard to process.

They also come with some other things that were not covered in this article. Cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin, and its mining have been causing major sustainability concerns amongst economists and environmentalists. That’s no surprise given the amount of energy needed to mine Bitcoins as mentioned earlier.  So will “green” brands come on?  Tesla’s CEO (Elon Musk) backed out of using this currency because of this very reason (supposedly).  You can read about it more here.

There is no clear view on the horizon right now.  A ton of people, businesses, brands, and even government entities are dabbling in it.  With time and wider accessibility, cryptocurrency, bitcoin and even other types of blockchain currencies will become more mainstream.  They already are in a lot of ways.

Even with all the hype, popularity, mystery surrounding its origins and speculative investors, so far, it has major concerns for businesses due to its high volatility compared to other types of currency.

Then there is the issue of regulation and anonymity – which is one of its biggest strengths, but maybe a cause for concerns given its lure to those of the criminally inclined.

Hopefully, this article gives you a less technical and more marketing overview on the fundamentals of this new technology and why it matters in the business and marketing world. 

I have to say, I enjoyed getting deeper into this cryptocurrency world when writing for this topic for our blog.  It was not an easy one, but an important one – because this topic has made so many headlines as of late and I wanted to start understanding the concepts better as a business leader and a marketer myself. I hope the readers of this blog benefit from it as well.

Again, I know, compared to others who have been in this space for a while, I am only scratching the surface.  So if you have details to add to enlighten our readers or if I misunderstood or misrepresented anything above – mention it in our comments section and I will do my best to address it, add to it or look into it.

Questions, thoughts and or concerns?  Reach out at info@webworxlabs.com and we would be happy to connect.  You can comment below or reach us via our contact us page.