Like many people, I have spent the last couple of years furiously trying to figure out what Google is up to.
Over that period, some of my websites have seen an increase in search engine traffic while others have seen a decline. And no, I haven’t always been able to figure out exactly why each increase or decrease has taken place.
It used to be relatively easy to figure out what Google was looking for. Not any more.
The Panda and Penguin updates in particular had a huge impact on people who thought they knew what Google wanted.
Yes, many sites that deserved to be impacted saw their listings drop off page one.
But there were many false-positives too. People who had worked hard to play by Google’s rules suddenly saw their traffic drop significantly. It was toughest of all on those people who really couldn’t see where they might have gone wrong.
Some obvious fixes, like increasing the quality of the content on the site, attracting more high-quality inbound links, and making sure you didn’t over-optimize your pages didn’t always do the trick. Then there were other issues to consider, like the Venice update, the impact of Google+ and the ongoing introduction of Google Author Rank.
Confusing stuff for all but the most technical SEO experts.
And, if you did see some recovery after spending dozens or even hundreds of hours improving your site, your anxiety level remained high because of a nasty little question in your mind.
“What might Google do next? What if I invest all this time on improving my site today, but then get hammered by a whole different update in 3 months?”
Here is what I’m doing… And, let me qualify all this by saying that while I have a firm grasp of SEO, it’s not my core expertise.
First of all, I pay close attention to all the updates and changes coming from Google, and I make changes as and when I can. In other words, I don’t ignore what’s happening out there. But nor do I stress about it too much.
And I reduce my stress levels most of all by no longer freaking out over getting my top pages listed on page one of the Google search results.
That may sound odd. After all, if you have optimized your home page and second level pages for some strong keywords, why wouldn’t you want them listed on page one? Well, you would, of course.
But if those pages are no longer appearing on page one, and you are in a competitive subject area – which most of us are – then these are the keywords and pages that will stress you the most.
While Panda was going through its various revisions, I watched some of my most important pages disappear, appear and then disappear again from page one. Meanwhile, I would see totally awful sites and pages appearing in the spots that had previously been mine.
When you can’t quite figure out what’s going on, or why, and horrible pages are appearing in the number one, two and three positions, it’s time to step back, stop chewing your fingernails and regroup.
As soon as I realized I no longer knew how to get those site pages listed on page one, and no longer understood why crappy pages stuffed full of ads seemed to be doing so well, I stopped struggling. If I know how to fix something I’ll fix it. If I don’t, then tinkering around without a clue as to what might work is a waste of time and a source of stress.
Now what I do is make sure my most important pages are of high quality, well optimized, with strong inbound links, and not breaking any rules…and then leave them be.
Next, I use the time saved to create more long-tail pages. In other words, pages which are of interest to people, albeit fewer people, and which are a great deal less competitive.
For example, in the world of coffee information websites, of which I have one, the term “how to make coffee” is hugely competitive. I have a page optimized for that term, and it used to float around within the first 5 results on Google. Not anymore. And I have stopped stressing over that. However, long-tail terms like “organic coffee pods” are less competitive, so I can still rank highly for them.
Whatever Google has been up to, it seems that it is still pretty easy to get a long-tail page listed on the first page of search results. And then, of course, I add links to those pages which move people forward to my most important pages.
By creating more and more long-tail pages which do well in the search results, I have found that I can more than make up for when some of my more important and competitive pages fall off page one.
Best of all, I can still keep building search engine traffic to my site without all the stress that comes from fighting a battle in which it’s hard to figure out the rules.
For me, stress-free SEO now comes from creating as many long-tail content pages as I can.
About the author: Nick Usborne is an online writer, copywriter, author and coach. Read more…