Blogs. Facebook. LinkedIn. Twitter. YouTube. The list goes on when talking about marketing your small business online. However, there’s little doubt that of all the online channels, Google is still arguably the biggest. With its suite of products like AdWords, Gmail, Chrome, YouTube, and Google+ (among others), Google’s footprint on the web is huge. So when Google makes an algorithm change, your website will most likely be affected in some way.
Last week, Google announced its latest algorithm change (sometimes called Google “Fresh”), which shines the spotlight directly on fresh information and new web content. According to Google, this update focuses on three key areas:
1. Recent events and hot topics. Searchers typically want to find the latest information instantly, so Google will now show what it deems to be high-quality pages, including those that may be just a few minutes or hours old.
2. Recurring events. Lots of events take place on a regular basis, like the Superbowl or political conventions. Google wants to make sure users are getting the freshest information possible, and has provided this example:
“If I search for [olympics], I probably want information about next summer’s upcoming Olympics, not the 1900 Summer Olympics. Google Search uses a freshness algorithm, designed to give you the most up-to-date results, so even when I just type [olympics] without specifying 2012, I still find what I’m looking for.”
3. Frequent updates. This is the feature that will probably matter most to small business websites, unless your site already relies on current events. For searches that are not recurring events or hot topics (items 1 and 2), Google will now look for sites that add fresh information frequently and list those results first, above stale sites that have not been updated in a while.
So what does this mean for your small business website? It means that if you don’t add fresh content and information regularly, don’t expect to show up in Google’s search results. In addition to all the other facets of optimizing a site to rank well, you now must get serious about keeping it updated, fresh, and relevant.
The good news is that there are some things you can do right now to help your site survive the update and rank higher than your competitors:
• Obviously, update your website and add new content regularly. Adding articles, new pages, or updating existing page content will signal Google that you are serious about your business and deserve to be listed in their results.
• Make sure you have correct and up-to-date timestamps in your XML sitemap. Many SEO experts already agree that timestamps will become a significant ranking signal, so make sure your XML sitemap is correct and working properly.
• If you haven’t already optimized your website, you need to do so right away. The basics of SEO are more important than ever, especially since Google continues to evolve and add new ranking signals. Make sure you have the basics firmly in place.
• If you have already optimized your website, recheck your keywords to make sure they are still valid terms. There’s no sense in optimizing for keywords that searchers never type into the search box. You may need to re-optimize some pages with better, more relevant keywords.
• Have your SEO firm run a report to check what your competitors are doing. If you want to outrank them, you need to know how they are performing so you can take the appropriate action.
You may be wondering “how often should I be updating my website?” The answer, of course, is “more often than your competitors.” But one big takeaway to remember is that if you want to rank well in the search engine results, it’s all about producing relevant content and doing it regularly. With all other SEO elements in place, this latest Google update could significantly improve how Google views and ranks your site in its search engine results.