Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes! Nothing Stays the Same. Especially Not Google.
Earlier this year I posted about Google+ and how you could take advantage of its Google’s-home-turf status to give your business’s SEO a boost. One of the suggestions I made was that anyone who blogs regularly should set up Google Authorship, which would allow a byline – and sometimes even your headshot – to appear when one of your posts was displayed in Google search results.
It was an interesting idea, connecting content more directly to the author directly from the search results. Apparently it didn’t make as much of an impression on searchers as Google had anticipated, though, because low impact on user behavior is one of the reasons Google gives for axing the idea. Yep, Google authorship is no more. Google tried it, they weren’t sufficiently wowed by the results, and so they put it on the chopping block.
Getting attached to lesser known Google services is a bit like getting attached to characters in a George R. R. Martin book.
If this comes as a surprise to you, then it’s time to brush up a bit on your Google history. Take a look at this infographic detailing the headstones in the Google Graveyard. It’s a bit out of date – the most recent listing is Google Reader, which was killed off in the summer of 2013. This slideshow of the 2014 Google Graveyard so far will get you up to speed.
Part of the purpose of this post was to inform you about the cancellation of Google Authorship, since it’s a feature that I’d previously recommended taking advantage of, but there’s a larger point to be made here. Google changes constantly. Google is a company that isn’t afraid to experiment – and when one of their experiments fails, they’re certainly not afraid to pull the plug on it, even if it makes a substantial amount of people unhappy. Notably, last year they did away with Google Reader, an RSS reader that may not have had enough users to make it worth keeping to Google, but with enough of a following that its demise certainly caused a bit of a stir across the internet.
Google has proven, however, that it has no interest in devoting resources to a project that it does not feel is enough of a success, even if the people (maybe not a lot by Google standards, but that is certainly relative!) who are using the service are highly devoted to it. Google moves forward, Google looks for the next avenue to pursue.
You may not care about the fate of Google’s smaller services, but let’s extrapolate a little.
How does this affect you? Maybe you could care less about Google authorship – maybe you’d never even heard of it until reading this post. But if you take what this teaches us about Google and apply it to what you know about SEO, it might start to make more sense why SEO is so complex. Google is known for constantly tweaking their algorithms – you may have heard the nicknames for some of the more substantial updates: Pigeon, Penguin, Panda, etc. Since Google is extremely secretive about their algorithms to begin with, the fact that they change constantly makes optimization an ever-shifting task. This, of course, leads us to a few important questions.
If you’re going the DIY SEO route, are you doing your best to keep up with the changes? If SEO isn’t your full-time profession, then you may not keep your finger on the pulse constantly, but it’s a good idea to be aware of the major shifts. For example, if you still think that the meta keywords tag is the ticket to strong rankings (and a surprising number of people do), you may want to do a bit of catching up. If an SEO professional isn’t in your budget, then you want to make sure that the time you dedicate to optimizing your own site gains you as much benefit as possible. Spending a little time poking through sites like Search Engine Land will go a long way towards keeping your knowledge current.
If you are working with an SEO professional, do you trust that they’re keeping up with the times? SEO is a mystery to many non-professionals, which makes it especially important that you trust the person you hire to manage it for you. What to expect from an SEO professional may be a post all in itself, but for now just keep in mind that a trustworthy SEO pro should always be willing to communicate with you about what they’re doing. Being open to chatting with you about recent developments in the world of SEO is no guarantee, but is certainly a good sign.