Google’s Battle for Survival
Over the years, Google has had to change and adapt to survive. It has been in a constant battle with webmasters who are eager to manipulate its SERPs. Since the algorithm is based on real factors and properties of a website, site owners have been trying to identify those factors and manipulate them for better rankings. Whenever webmasters find a competitive advantage (sometimes called a loophole), Google tries to quickly plug it.
Let’s look at a real example of this struggle.
Over a decade ago, webmasters found out that Google used the Meta Keywords tag as a major ranking factor. What did they do? They began stuffing this tag with keywords to rank well for those terms. What did Google do? It started to ignore the Meta Keyword tag, effectively closing that loophole.
I would like to point out that I do believe Google still looks at the Meta Keyword tag, but not as you might think. I think the company uses it to help identify spammers. Any page that has a Meta keyword tag stuffed with dozens, or even hundreds, of keywords is clearly doing something underhand or at least trying to.
Here is another example of a loophole being closed.
A few years ago, webmasters found out that by using a domain name that was the keyword phrase they wanted to rank for, the site would get a massive ranking boost in the SERPs. This type of domain is called an Exact Match Domain (EMD). In September 2012, Google released the “EMD Update,” which removed that unfair ranking advantage. Hundreds of thousands of EMD sites dropped out of the Google top 10 overnight, which saw an end to a large industry that had profited in buying and selling EMDs.
Today, EMD sites are rarely seen in Google.
The battle between spammer and search engine continues to rage on to this day. Spammers find loopholes, and Google plugs them.
In September 2011, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said that Google had tested over 13,000 possible algorithm updates in 2010, approving just 516 of them. Although 516 may sound a lot (it’s more than one update a day), it certainly wasn’t an unusual year. Google probably updates the algorithm at least 500-600 times every year. Most of these updates will be minor, but Google does roll out major changes every now and again. We’ll look at the most important ones in the next chapter.
The one thing all Google updates have in common is that they are designed to improve the search results for the people that use the search engine – your potential visitors.