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Keeping up with Google

March 18, 2011

As a content writer for a website, SEO is the closest thing I have to a religion. Needless to say, Google is god. Google makes the rules, and if you work hard and follow them correctly, you’ll be rewarded with a place on the first page. The frustrating thing, as with some religions I could mention, is that the rules are always changing.

With each new update, Panda, Farmer, Platypus (I may have made that last one up) you find yourself scrambling to check that all your existing content complies with the latest changes, lest the powers that be decided to punish you and send you tumbling down the page rankings.

I completely understand why Google do this; from their perspective, each new update is an improvement to the user experience. Google don’t want people manipulating the search results; they want writers to create unique, relevant and well-written content. Believe me, as a writer, that’s what I want too.

Whilst I admire the efforts that Google make to eliminate keyword stuffing and link farming, the trouble is that unique, relevant and well-written content alone is not enough to get you to that number one spot. When you’re selling a product, you need to know at the very least what terms your customers are using to search, and make sure those terms appear in your content. At least once every 300 words.

But even something as basic as keywords is not that straightforward. What is strong in one location may be weak in another. People in the UK might search for ‘piglets wearing wellies’, while people in the US might search for ‘pigs in gumboots’ – which do you optimise for? The next week, it could all change anyway. And people don’t search in full sentences which could fit neatly and helpfully into well-written sentences; they don’t even search with correct spelling. I’m a writer, and even my apostrophes and hyphens go amiss when I’m Googling.

Yesterday I met an accountant, and suddenly, despite detesting maths when I was at school, I couldn’t imagine a more satisfying job. You may have to deal with learning how to use new software or new systems, as with any job, but one plus one will always make two, and there’s nothing Google can do about that.