Googlebot: another step towards becoming human

9 Jan 2013

googlebotAll our clients want to improve their search engine rankings.  Every week we are asked ‘how?'.  Alas, there is no easy fix or magic button to raise a website to the top of Google.   There are no tricks.  There is no shortcut.  Companies offering Search Engine Optimisation services are often more interested in Manipulating than Optimising.

What then do we tell our clients?  Focus on ‘Best Practice’?  What does that actually mean?  It means focusing on people, and one of Google’s updates to their algorithm (they do about 400 – 500 a year) in 2011 perfectly illustrates this. 

This update renders the page of a website and measures the relative usage of content and advertising... and negatively ranks those websites that are 'top-heavy' with advertising.  Again, what does this really mean?  It means that Googlebot is now proficient enough in website rendering to identify what a real user can see based on the Javascript, CSS and images in use in a page.  Googlebot is taking another step towards seeing a website as a human sees a website.  It is becoming more human.

The search engines will never stop in this quest to become more human.  Their robots are trying to see a website as a person sees a website.  In the context of the change to the algorithm we mention above, this means that there are penalties for putting too much advertising at the top of your website.  This is annoying for a user, as they have to scroll and search for the content the search engine told them would be on the page.  In the same way there are penalties for over loading a page with keywords, in an attempt to trick the search robots into believing your website is more important regarding a topic than it really is (this is an old trick, long ago rumbled by the robots).  This is a poor experience for a user, having to read the same word over and over and the search engines prescribe the appropriate penalty, a drop in ranking.

The change to the algorithm we mention above is not something that affects most of our clients.  Our designs promote the page content to the greatest possible extent and we don’t encourage our clients to make extensive use of advertising banners at the top of their websites.

Why do we mention it then?  Because it illustrates what Google is saying to publishers (our clients or you) and that is to continue to focus on delivering the best possible user experience on your website and not to focus on specific algorithm tweaks or tricks.  Instead of worrying about how you can get inside the head of a robot, try getting inside the head of a person.  This is after all, what the robot is also trying to do.  The days of Google only reading the page source and page text are long gone.  Search engines are becoming more human and need to be treated as such.

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