Are algorithmic updates created solely to force webmasters to buy ads and increase Google's bottom line?
It's no conspiracy that Google wants to make profits, but Google's Distinguished Engineer Matt Cutts has come out swinging against an often repeated "conspiracy theory," arguing that all Google updates are designed only to improve the user experience.
In a new video, Cutts also addressed the difference between a data refresh and an algorithm update, and where he believes SEO professionals are spending too much time and energy.
Algorithm Update vs. Data Refresh
Many webmasters are confusing what is an algorithm update and what is simply a data refresh.
"When you’re changing your algorithm, the signals that you’re using and how you weight those signals are fundamentally changing," he said. "When you are doing just a data refresh then the way that you run the computer program stays the same, but you might have different incoming data, you might refresh the data that the algorithm is using. That’s something that a lot of people just don’t seem to necessarily get."
Cutts has previously explained the difference between updates and data refreshes on his blog.
Google Conspiracy Theory: More Updates = More Revenue
Cutts also tackled the persistent rumor that the reason Google does updates like Panda and Penguin isn’t to reduce spam but is to actually increase revenue. But Matt points out that if you look at Google’s quarterly statements, Panda actually caused revenue to drop.
I have seen a lot of accusations after Panda and Penguin that Google is just trying to increase its revenue, and let me just confront that head on. Panda, if you go back and look at Google’s quarterly statements, they actually mention that Panda decreased our revenue. So a lot of people have this conspiracy theory that Google is making these changes to make more money. And not only do we not think that way in the search quality team, we’re more than happy to make changes which are better for the long term loyalty of our users, the user experience, and all that sort of stuff. And if that’s a short term revenue hit, then that might be okay, right, because people are going to be coming back to Google long term.
So a lot of people, it’s a regular conspiracy theory… Google did this ranking change because they want people to buy more ads and that is certainly not the case with Panda, it’s certainly not the case with Penguin, and so it’s kind of funny to see that as a meme within the industry, and it’s just something that I wanted to debunk that misconception. Panda and Penguin we just went ahead and made those changes and we aren’t going to worry if we lose money or make money or whatever, we just want to return the best user’s results we can.
Pay Attention to Marketing & Make Something Compelling
Next, he tackled what he thought was where SEOs are spending too much time. He thinks people are spending too much time on links and perhaps not enough time on social media. He also thinks people are missing out on the user experience they could be working on instead.
A lot of people think about “How do I build more links?” and they don’t think about the grander, global picture of “How do I make something compelling, and then how do I make sure that I market it well?” You know, you get too focused on search engines, and then you, for example, would entirely miss social media and social media marketing. And that’s a great way to get out in front of people.
So specifically I would think, just like Google does, about the user experience of your site. What makes it compelling? What makes it interesting? What makes it fun? Because if you look at the history of sites that have done relatively well or businesses that are doing well now, you can take anywhere from Instagram to Path, even Twitter, there’s a cool app called YardSale, and what those guys try to do is they make design a fundamental piece of why their site is advantageous to go to. It’s a great experience. People enjoy that.
So you could not just pay attention to design you could pay attention to speed or other parts of the user experience. But if you really get that sweet spot of something compelling where the design is really good or the user experience just flows, you’d be amazed how much growth and traffic and traction you can get as a result.
He also brings up that webmasters should continue to improve, because if you do not evolve, others will come along, think about how they could do it better, and then jump in and surprise you.