Over the past few years Google has driven home the point that webmasters should not look after their websites just because they have to but because it will benefit both their users and potentially their rankings in the SERPs. Recently, it has been announced that Google is trying to adapt its Penguin algorithm so that it runs in real-time, constantly refreshing backlink data for thousands of websites across the globe.
There has also been news that Google will soon be sending less notifications to webmasters through Google Search Console (previously called Google Webmaster Tools). Even though critical messages such as notifications that your site has been hacked will still be delivered at the same rate, less pertinent information will soon become less visible.
The ongoing game of cat and mouse
Even though Google has admitted that it is “months and months” away from releasing the next Penguin update and even further away from making it fully automated, it’s easy to see that they are starting to move towards a new type of system. Years ago, when SEO was all about keywords and links, webmasters were forewarned that something was coming: that something was the Panda and Penguin updates.
Since then, some webmasters have been playing an ongoing game of cat and mouse with Google, trying to avoid their penalties up to the last minute or being caught out and then having to build themselves back up. This somewhat ‘lazy’ form of SEO has been on its way out for a number of years now due to its risky, and let’s face it, somewhat deluded nature; however what we are now seeing is that things are going to become even harder.
Why webmasters should focus on “housekeeping”
The term “housekeeping” has been creeping into the digital marketing discourse for a while now, but I believe that in the next twelve months it will become even bigger than, say, “quality content”. Even though most people who work in SEO now play by the rules and focus on natural growth, the truth is that some are still skewed towards the old ways of digital: plan a project, execute said project, effect Google’s rankings.
Those who focus on short term projects will therefore start to lose out to those that think about the bigger picture and spend time on their websites just because and not just to achieve better rankings. Google’s mantra over the past few years, in my opinion, is that only websites that truly deserve it will rank on the first page of the SERPs, and now they are doing everything they can to make sure this happens.
Currently, this is not the case as Google’s algorithm is always playing catch-up which means we often see websites shoot up the first page of Google and then fall just as quickly a few weeks later. To the person running these types of websites this doesn’t matter though: what they can achieve in those few weeks at the top is enough to keep them going.
The future with a real-time Penguin algorithm
In the future websites will no longer be able to give themselves a quick boost, push themselves to the top and then either fall back down or cling on by executing even more short term projects. With a real-time Penguin algorithm Google will be able to see what you are doing in the background every second of every day; and it will punish you if it thinks you are being disingenuous.
This is why housekeeping is so important. With Google monitoring your website on a constant basis you will need to make sure that you are whiter that white (hat) and that you are constantly monitoring and making improvements along the way. Backlink audits will become backlink housekeeping, no longer a project on its own but part of your day to day workload.
Even though the Penguin algorithm technically only monitors backlink profiles I believe this is only the start of Google’s real-time monitoring. Soon, Google will know straight away if your site is too slow, has too many 404s or lacks content, and it will know if you are doing something about it now and not just on a project by project basis.
The fact that they will also be sending fewer notifications in Google Search Console amplifies this message, showing that Google will no longer be holding webmasters’ hands or giving them gentle nudges when they think something is wrong with their websites. Going forward it will be expected for you to monitor your website as closely as Google does and therefore catch these issues just as quickly.
Digital marketers have always known that keeping their websites on top form is essential when it comes to SEO, however soon it won’t be something that you can do as and when you have the time. Housekeeping should therefore start to become your new buzzword, something that you commit to and implement in all your SEO campaigns. Keeping your websites tidy is something that we all know we should do (much like cleaning a house) however soon you won’t be able to just push it to one side and pretend it isn’t there (much like cleaning a house).
Now, where are my marigolds…
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