Google recently carried out a major update on its ranking algorithm, dubbed “Jagger” by the SEO community. Many webmasters have been left scratching their heads, wondering why their websites are no longer appearing for search terms they previously ranked well for and gained traffic from. So what can you do in the aftermath of “Jagger”, and how can you safeguard yourself from future updates?
First, a little bit of history. What is a Google algorithm update?
Google, like all search engines, has an algorithm that is used to determine the order of their search engine results pages (SERPs). This algorithm is made up of over 100 factors used to determine the ranking of a page. The reason Google needs to continually update this algorithm is to combat unscrupulous search engine optimisers who figure out factors of the algorithm and then try to exploit them in order to gain high rankings. This exploitation usually results in poor quality, or “spammy” pages, which are irrelevant to the user and therefore not results that Google wants to provide.
Historically, there have been a series of code-named algorithm updates that have resulted in large drops in traffic for sites, such as Florida, Gladys, and Bourbon. These updates have seen seemingly fine websites take a hammering and Jagger has been no different. So what happened?
It’s still too early to ascertain exactly what has happened, as the update is still in progress and will take a little longer to settle. Webmasters that are feeling the pinch have complained that they are losing business specifically due to the loss of traffic from Google rankings. So remember this Google provides your search results for free and they don’t owe you anything! Relying solely on free Google traffic to keep your business afloat is a misguided strategy at best.
Think of the other search engines that can provide quality traffic. With some effort MSN and Yahoo! can both send targeted visitors to your site, with MSN in particular being easier to optimise for competitive terms and statistically proven to send converting traffic to your site. Ask Jeeves has emerged as the 4th most popular search engine and is also worth keeping an eye on.
Look for websites relevant to yours that you could advertise on. Many websites get much of their converting traffic directly from well placed links on other sites, and if your profits from these sales are larger than the cost of advertising then it will definitely be a worthwhile investment. Think of sites that complement yours rather than those that provide similar services when looking for these opportunities.
Consider a Pay-Per-Click campaign. Some people turn their nose up at having to pay for traffic, but consider the ROI of your campaign rather than the initial cost. If you can strike the right balance between your cost per click and conversion rate then this method can turn out to be highly profitable. With PPC, you’re not at the mercy of algorithm updates. And think of the manpower costs associated with optimisation for organic results before considering them “free”.
The Jagger update has been ongoing since mid-October and is still being finalised, so it is still too early to speculate about what has been targeted and why. But the lessons of Jagger are as clear as the Florida update back in November 2003. Don’t put all of your eggs in the Google basket!