Penguin, Hummingbird, Pigeon – these aren’t normally words that invoke feelings of fear or dread, but for the digital marketer, they mark yet another change to Google’s labyrinthine algorithms and yet another headache about the best way to approach SEO.

Google is search. Search as we know it. And that means everything to businesses trying to get heard on the global internet stage. Search rankings are everything – the higher you are placed, the more visitors you get for your particular space. Google has made thousands of adjustments to the way it determines who appears top of its search rankings – some of which were well-advertised, others less so, but all of which collectively brought the end of an era where simply cramming keyword phrases into your website as many times as possible was sufficient to beat the competition. There is no black art to search optimisation anymore; it is a comprehensive, no-shortcuts science.

And unfortunately, unless you represent a household brand or prolific industry name, marketers cannot afford to ignore these changes without risking a drop in visibility, which can have serious implications for lead generation and growth.

So what can marketers do to ensure their methods don’t become out-dated?

Unlock the second screen!

With an estimated 60 per cent of searches now taking place on mobile devices and the average adult spending approximately two and a half hours on mobile devices a day, it’s perhaps not surprising that Google’s latest major algorithm update, mobilegeddon, targets mobile optimisation, or the lack thereof. Now, regardless of your sector or industry, or how engaging your homepage is, if it’s not mobile-ready, it will fall down the mobile search rankings. And we know from Google’s Zineb Ait Bahajji from the Webmaster Trends team that the recently released mobile-friendly ranking algorithm that was launched on April 21st will have more of an impact on Google’s search results than the Google Panda update and the Google Penguin update did. Scary, given when the various Panda and Penguin updates dropped many businesses were screaming in response as they saw their search rankings drop dramatically as Google stepped up their efforts to ‘improve users’ search experience’.

“We will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results,” said Takaki Makino, Chaesang Jung and Doantam Phan in a blog post for Google webmasters.

Now, in 2015 being mobile-friendly can mean a number of things, but to Google your site will be deemed either mobile friendly or not, the Google mobile-friendly test will give you the answer “Awesome! This page is mobile-friendly” or “Not friendly”. Rendering, responsiveness, user experience for people on the go are all elements under scrutiny. Does your mobile site contain a lot of rich media or text? Video content is great for engaging users, but drains battery life quickly, while text-heavy websites are difficult to digest on a smaller screen or in that 8 second stop at the lights.

It’s important to note that having an app does not tick the box, a trap that brands including the British Monarchy, Nintendo, Versace, Next, Channel 4 and the Daily Mail are all thought to have fallen in to according to research from mobile marketing firm Somo.

Quality over quantity.

It’s tempting to be shamelessly self-promotional, but just as consumers have now become adept to skipping over adverts – whether through on-demand video or simply becoming ‘banner blind’ to display ads –they will also recoil from content that’s blatantly self-serving.

And Google has picked up on this, having already implemented a number of changes to its algorithms that favour and reward websites containing evergreen, long-form and high-quality content over those trying to play the system by stuffing their blogs full of keywords and links.

There’s no questioning that content is king and that the traditional marketing model is becoming increasingly obsolete, but if your blog doesn’t command a strong readership or following, it may be worth re-considering who you’re writing for – is your company offering its target audience valuable insights and relevant information, or is it being a little narcissistic?

Tune in, turn on – stay engaged.

The latest Communications Market Report from Ofcom revealed that we now spend more time on media and communications in the UK than we do on any other activity – including sleep. So while one quality piece is worth more than ten flimsy articles combined, it quickly becomes yesterday’s news as we look to quench our thirst for new knowledge.

Lo and behold, Google also offers bonus points to those publishing new content, interacting on social media channels and/ or commenting on relevant news.

That’s not to say that all social media channels will be relevant for your brand, or that you need to shoehorn topical issues into your content when they have little to do with your activities – we’ve all seen many examples of brands unsuccessfully jumping on the bandwagon only to get shot down by the public.

It does, however, mean scheduling regular communications and taking an active interest in your industry – at a minimum, that’s setting up a LinkedIn Group, being active on Twitter or simply ensuring you don’t go a month in between company blog posts.

We may dread the day we hear yet another algorithmic change has taken place under the pseudonym of a furry animal, but what’s clear is that Google is evolving its search engine to be much more ‘human’. But ultimately, if you put the needs of your target audience before the promotion of your company, whether that’s where or how often they’re consuming information, that should future-proof your Google strategy and keep you on top of the pack.

James Jameson

James Jameson


James Jameson, Vice President of Product & Marketing Strategy at B2B high-growth SaaS firm Rivo.