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Google doesn’t change the rules for SEO

There are a lot of misconceptions in this world. Should you shake a Polaroid picture to make it develop more quickly? No. Is the “getting millions for spilling hot coffee on yourself” lawsuit an example of our legal system gone crazy? Our legal system may be a mess, but in that case I think she deserved even more.

Another one we hear a lot is that “Google is always changing the rules”, which isn’t true. Google very rarely changes the rules, but they’re simply becoming better at enforcing the rules. Google has always maintained that everything you do should be for the benefit of the user, and that hasn’t changed. The difference is that shady practices (cloaked text, buying spammy links, etc) used to work fairly well, but Google is getting better and better at detecting and penalizing those techniques. Click here to check.

If you look at the list of Google Algorithm Changes compiled by Moz, you’ll see that virtually all of them simply do a better job of sniffing out spam. Here are some highlights:

  • Apr, 2003 – Cracked down on massive linking from co-owned domains.
  • Nov, 2003 – Major impact on sites that used keyword stuffing and other low-value techniques.
  • Jan, 2004 – Cracked down on invisible text and META tag stuffing.
  • Jan, 2005 – “Nofollow” introduced, largely to help stop spammy blog comments from affecting rankings.
  • May, 2005 – Changed how duplicate content was handled.
  • Oct, 2005 – Targeted low-quality links, link farms, paid links, etc.
  • May, 2010 – Sites with large-scale thin content (lots of pages with very little content on them) were affected.
  • Feb 23, 2011 – The first “Panda” update, which cracked down on thin content, content farms, and various other quality issues.
  • Apr 24, 2012 – The first “Penguin” update, which cracked down on keyword stuffing and other spam factors.
  • Sep 27, 2012 – The EMD (Exact Match Domain) update, which greatly devalued how important keywords in your domain name are (thus increasing the importance of your actual content).

In all there were dozens of other major updates, many of which contained hundreds of small updates from Google. As you can see though, virtually every update was focused on tightening up the rules, not “changing” them.

Here’s the great news about these updates; it’s a zero-sum game. If spammers are losing ranking, someone must be going up — that should be you! Here’s an example of one client of ours; the red arrow is the Panda update that caused many sites to plummet in the rankings.


The key, which hasn’t changed, is to have a solid technical base for your site, produce frequent high-quality content, and don’t do anything shady. When the next big update comes along, it’ll knock down a few more of the shady sites about you and earn you even more traffic. It’s a great thing!

About the Author

Mickey Mellen

Co-Founder and Technical Director

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