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algorithms
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Must an SEO Campaign Change to Keep Up with Search Algorithms?

June 10, 2021

It often happens that when a client company finds out about changes to the Google search algorithm, it feels the need to interrogate its web services provider over prospective changes to their SEO campaign. But this line of inquiry usually isn’t necessary, as algorithm updates are unlikely to have a serious impact on the efficacy of an SEO campaign, provided it was being run well in the first place.

I think we’ve made it clear through this blog that we believe clear and unobstructed communication is key to a successful client-contractor relationship. Thus, we would never discourage anyone from reaching out to their web services provider if they have new questions about an SEO campaign or anything else. But blog posts like this one can head off some of those questions, or at least prevent them from taking on a panicked tone, and I think that’s an important objective when it comes to questions about search algorithms.

Many people still cling to the mistaken impression that updates to those algorithms might erase the earlier progress of an SEO campaign by suddenly changing all the rules and requiring marketing companies to go back to square one. If that was what we had to do, we’d bite the bullet. But fortunately that isn’t the case, and the science behind SEO campaigns is not as arbitrary as simply doing whatever Google tells us to do in any given year. If someone thinks of the industry in those terms, they probably have an extremely outmoded view of SEO campaigns as a process of gaming the system, rather than a feature of positive online experiences.

As we’ve also made clear, the central aim of search engine optimization these days is to prove to Google et al that one’s site is authoritative, well-structured, and relevant to the search terms that its marketing team is trying to promote. Algorithm updates, by and large, are devoted to refining the means by which that assessment is made. Unless something goes seriously awry in such an update, it should ultimately be beneficial to sites that have objectively developed and added content that makes them both informative and pleasant to visit for their audience.

By the same token, if a given website genuinely does see a downturn in its traffic following an update, the most plausible conclusion its owners can draw is that there were pre-existing flaws which went unnoticed by the prior algorithm. This sort of outcome is harmful to an SEO campaign online in the most basic sense of the word. A good site owner or a good web services provider would view such a downturn as an opportunity rather than a source of resentment. After all, even if flaws had no impact on a prior algorithm, that doesn’t mean they had no negative impact on the site visitors who were exposed to them.

This is one reason why it might actually be worthwhile for a site owner to ask pointed questions of a web marketing company in the wake of a new Google update. As long as they understand that the point isn’t to change a bunch of things around and make an SEO campaign comply with the search engine’s new rulebook, these sorts of conversations can help to determine whether contractors are consistently doing their job by analyzing a client site’s performance and figuring out the contributing factors behind its successes and its failings.

A good SEO company shouldn’t have to be informed of the fact that there has been a new algorithm update. It shouldn’t have to be instructed to get a picture of a site’s performance before and after that update, either. It should be able to clearly communicate with clients about how those pictures differ and what they say about future adjustments to an SEO campaign.

Those adjustments will often be subtle – perhaps more so that would seem comfortable to site owners who don’t have a clear understanding of thy typical impact of algorithm updates. That impact may actually include downturns in audience impressions which don’t actually reflect diminished engagement at all. To the untrained eye, these data point may seem more or less the same, but the reality is that a decline in impressions can actually be a good sign if it doesn’t correspond to a decline in the click-through rate for the site.

Those sorts of changes actually tend to mean that the algorithm update has reaffirmed the health of your SEO campaign and has actually increased its efficiency. A high ratio of click-through to overall impressions is a sign that the efforts of a site owner or its web services provider are not being wasted on trying to attract visitors who ultimately have no interest in the site. The goal of every SEO campaign and every algorithm update should be the same: to guarantee the largest possible overlap between the types of content people want to see and the types of content they actual see.

That said, there is a chance of this personalization going too far in the wake of any given algorithm update. If you ask certain YouTubers, you may hear that this is exactly what happened with the video sharing site a few years ago, when it began showing users what the algorithm determined they were most likely to click on, rather that the content they’d signaled they wanted to see through subscriptions and likes. Various channels that had been successful prior to the change were suddenly left with a fraction of the views they were used to, and some abandoned the site as a result.

Defenders of the algorithm might argue that the views they lost were generally not legitimate engagements, and that the resulting numbers offered a more accurate picture of the channels’ performance. But this was surely little comfort, and similar explanations would fall equally flat for any site owners who saw a real decline in the performance of their SEO campaign on Google itself.

Still, most algorithm updates are examples of routine housekeeping and don’t come anywhere close to having such a profound impact on a search engine’s relationships with ranked sites. For site owners, those minor updates need not be much more than an opportunity to assess whether their SEO company is paying attention. If this consistently proves to be the case, then there’s a good chance that company is the right one to have on hand in the unlikely event that a major update makes it necessary for websites to reassess their prior performance, as well as their strategy for improving that performance in the future.

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