Keep Your Friends Close and Enemies Closer – Especially Google!

How the Search Engine Has Changed its Ranking Factors Over the Years

I will warn you now this is likely to be a long blog. But well worth it if you are like most of the people I speak to every day:

  • Owner of a small to medium size business
  • Confused on how to get on the first page of Google
  • Upset that your competitors keep showing up there

First a little blurb about terminology – today we are talking about ‘Search Engine Optimization’, also known as:

  • SEO
  • Website Optimized
  • 1st page of Google
  • Organic Rankings

We are talking about what shows up in this yellow box:


One thing to make very clear – you can NOT pay Google to show up in the organic search results (the yellow box). You only pay Google when someone clicks on your Ads (the shaded area at the top and the column down the right – that is a topic for another day).

Who is Google’s Customer?

The companies that pay for pay-per-click ads pay the majority of Google’s bills.

But when it comes to deciding which website goes where in the search results – Google’s entire motivation is serving the searcher – provide the most relevant information possible when someone is searching (so that they keep using Google and Google can continue to achieve world domination) ;).

 How Does Google Decide Who is #1?

  • It is based on an algorithm, a mathematical equation
  • Human beings do not look at each website on the internet and score it
  • Google sends spiders / robots out to read all of the information online
  • All of that information gets put through the equation to determine which website is most relevant for that search

2 Critical Components to Being Relevant

So how does Google know if you are relevant?

  1. Content
  2. People talking about your Content

You have to know what you are talking about! Google reads all of the words published online (and the more often you change or add words to your website, the more reason the spiders and robots have to keep visiting you, which is a good thing).

Google has a huge database of information and know if you are a subject matter expert, there is certain verbiage you will be using. So keyword research has always been, and it still a cornerstone of optimizing your website properly.

What has increased dramatically over the years is the amount of weight put on the ‘sharing’ of the content. If you know what you are talking about, people will talk about you and tell over people to visit you, they will link to your website. Now of course social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus, etc) are an obvious way to measure if people are talking about you.

So why is Google the enemy?

The reason why it sometimes seems like you’re constantly fighting with Google is because of the consistent changes to its algorithm. There are over 200 components in the equation, and it changes over 400 times a year – lots of little constant tweaks.

In addition to that there are occasional large scale changes.

Why the changes? Because people figure out how to ‘game the system’ and Google needs to adjust accordingly. Here is a bit of walk through to help understand where we are today:


  • AdWords (paying each time someone clicks on your ad) started in 2000
  • The Florida Update received the nickname because it was like feeling the effects of a hurricane – any of these big updates shuffle things around so that websites who were comfortably #1 in the search results end up dropping off the face of the earth
  • The Florida Update was when links to your site started being considered
  • If someone else’s website was linking to yours, that gave you a bonus point that you were more credible
  • By 2005 you had to watch which websites were linking to you, because some of them were ‘no follow’, meaning that it was like the site was linking to you at all, and no bonus points were to be had for that link
  • Universal Search simply means that all media (videos, images, press releases, news items) were all included on the first page of search results, not just websites
  • That’s when Video Optimization started to become another strategy to be seen more prominently (that’s a story for another day)
  • Vince (a staff person at Google) got the glory for the next update, which seemed to favour Brand Names, but it really focused on looking at the quality of websites that were linking to you. Big Brands by default had more higher quality links vs. companies who had bought or created many low quality links
  • Some sites were screaming “MayDay” in May 2010 when their sites sunk – the algorithm focused on making sure all of the SEO standards were applied to ‘long tail’ searches. A search term with more than one or two words eg. best modern kitchen renovations Oakville Ontario is ‘long tail’ and people could ‘game’ the system a bit for these types of search terms until this update
  • Social Signals started playing a larger role in 2010 and has only increased since
  • That brings us to just before ‘Panda’ and ‘Penguin’ – which have been the interesting zoo of animals in our SEO world the last couple of years

That’s enough to make your head spin for one day, to be concluded in Part 2 on our next blog.

If you want to learn more about getting your business to the top of Google’s results, we hold monthly free seminars for business owners and presidents in Hamilton & Milton. Click the banner below to learn more & to claim your spot.