The other way to interpret this headline might be – Three Google changes that will punish those who fail to embrace change. Sounds a bit harsh, but the reality is that search and being “found” online is all about relevance. If you can’t be found online quickly, your relevance is going to be severely diminished.

But the rules of how sites get found are changing, and Google is applying new tools to help everyday users find what’s relevant to them. Obviously nobody wants to be on the wrong side of this coin, so let’s take a closer look at what these Google changes mean for your website – and your business.

Blocking undesirable websites

Everyone comes across bad websites while searching. Inappropriate, ineffective, unprofessional, or just not to your liking, there are many ways to define the “undesirable” website. It’s a universal truth that Google wants to improve by allowing people to block websites they don’t find appealing, much like you would “hide” the excessively chatty friend on Facebook or colleague on LinkedIn.
Blocking search results is currently available to individuals with Google accounts, but it’s not likely to end there. Google’s mission is to “organize the world‘s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – not just useful to people with Google accounts.

Ultimately, this has real potential to negatively impact individuals and companies that are too aggressive with keywords for SEO purposes. Up until now, casting a wide net was an acceptable yet frowned-upon practice to driving traffic to your site. Now it’s about using only the right keywords to attract only the right people who are actually seeking out your company goods and services. Failure to do so could get you blocked from a lot of potential traffic. As Google gathers data on what sites get blocked a lot, it will certainly become a relevance factor at some point that will impact your search engine ranking.

What’s the takeaway?

- Ensure your website is an accurate, value-added destination for your desired customer base.

- Use keywords appropriately and accurately.

- Ranking for keywords that aren’t super relevant to your company is a “red flag” that, in time, could backfire and actually hurt your search engine rankings

- Candidly ask yourself – could my site be an undesirable website?

“A pretty big algorithmic improvement to our ranking”

Words like these from Google should catch your attention. While Google openly admits tinkering with its algorithms to adjust for new content coming online, an algorithm tweak that impacts nearly 12 of all English language web queries is significant.

So what exactly is Google saying?

Translation: when it comes to ranking websites, good content is rewarded, bad content is not.

And that begs another question: “what is good content?” Thankfully it is relatively simple answer.

Good content doesn’t imply the content on one site is superior to that from another. Instead it means the content is original – created and frequently updated by site owners. It has the end user in mind. It is less about you and more about your customer and the value (by way of content) that you provide.

Gone are the days when you could convert your static company brochure into a neatly minted website or conveniently recycle the ideas or opinions of others and pass it off as original content.

Through its algorithms, Google is making a conscious effort to reward websites that contain original content – such as research, in-depth reports and thoughtful analysis – with higher rankings. As a result, web users should see more robust content on the web and amenable web managers will be duly rewarded with quality traffic. Whether or not a site’s content is truly good and valuable will remain a visitor’s subjective and personal call.

What’s the takeaway?

Don’t get outranked by your competition. Reassess your web content and determine if it is:

- original and frequently updated; avoid being static

- relying too much on reposting of someone else’s content without original commentary

- thoughtful and relevant regarding your visitors’ needs and questions

- more robust than a promotional piece about who and how great you are

With +1, search gets social and applies

Just like applying a “like” to a friend’s status update on Facebook, now you can get the equivalent of a “like” with +1 approval from people you trust right in your Google search results. It’s this level of simplicity – a simple click of the +1 button if you like the search result – coupled with the recommendations of people both within and outside your social network that makes this relevant with a high potential for success.

As Google suggests in its rollout of +1, this is about relevance. Much like the blocking feature, people need a Google account to take advantage of +1… at least for now. In time, it’s conceivable that +1 data will factor its way into search rankings. In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised to see +1 supplement the current value of “links” in determining your search ranking.

All of this is to say that “social relevance” has jumped the tracks to “business relevance” in a new way, and the practices honed in the social forum will have greater impact regarding the visibility of your business website going forward. It also echoes with the consistent message heard in the blocking tool and ranking algorithm: provide meaningful, relevant content to visitors, or else…

What’s the takeaway?

Revisit your website and scrutinize it like a customer would and ask:

- How relevant are you in comparison to your competition?

- Are you talking to yourself and about yourself, or are you providing meaningful, relevant information to your visitors?

- What would make anyone want to +1 your site?

Final Thoughts

To state the obvious, the web continues to evolve. But recent changes initiated by Google also signal that the website model we’ve all known and embraced is changing.

Staying informed is critical to remaining ahead of the curve. If you want to avoid being blocked, poorly ranked and without the +1s that soon everyone will be seeking to score in the months ahead, heed our advice in the takeaway sections. And if you need our help, remember that we live and breathe this stuff.