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Are you thinking clearly about the search ranking algorithm?

Last week was an interesting week in search marketing, with Google rolling out what pundits cheekily describe as “mobilegeddon”–Google’s update to their search ranking algorithm that boosts mobile-friendly sites while lowering the rankings for sites that don’t display well on small screens. The way that you have responded to this news says a lot about how successful you are as search marketer.

I’ve seen a few different reactions:

  • The sky is falling! Our rankings plummeted and we must change this now! First off, Google communicated this weeks ago, so I’m not sure why they’re so surprised. But that isn’t even the real problem. The real problem is that until Google makes a change, it’s not important. That’s wrong. Google is not a leading indicator–it is a trailing one. By the time Google gets around changing the ranking algorithm, mobile has been important to the average business for a year or more. I remember a similar panic when Google started showing social media results, as if this is the moment when companies are forced to invest in social. If you are waiting for Google to force you to respond to changed in digital marketing, you’re waiting way too long.
  • This is no big deal. We adopted responsive design a year ago. This is the right approach, in general. There’s nothing you need to do, but maybe this will help you. If you are lucky, you will see your investment pay off in a new way as your site is now grabbing traffic from search that it was not getting two weeks ago. Regardless, you’ve made your investments at the right time and now can avoid the panic gripping others.
  • I guess your book is out of date now. Most of you know that Bill Hunt and I published the third edition of Search Engine Marketing, Inc. in December. We already advised readers to use responsive design to attract mobile searchers because it was the smart thing to do. We didn’t need to wait for Google to force it. But this shows the wrong approach–our book isn’t the place to go for every little algorithm change. You shouldn’t be following every little algorithm change anyway. You should make your investments when the time is right, not wait until after Google upends the laggards.

So, yes, this is an interesting story, but if you are doing it right, it should not have affected you. And if you regularly read this space, I suspect that you were ready for it.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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