How To Survive Any Google Update (3 SEO Survival Tips)

how to survive any Google SEO update

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the SEO landscape has gone crazy.

What with names flying around such as penguin, panda, hummingbird and payday loan, one may think that Google has had a bit too much to drink.

Well at least someone that works for Google may have been slightly intoxicated because these are the names given to various Google algorithm updates over the past few years.

No. I can assure you alcohol was not involved (at least I don’t think so).

Google is constantly updating its algorithm to improve the quality of its search results. This means if you or I are searching for something using Google, Google wants to ensure that only the best quality answers and content is provided to us in the search results.

Think about it from Google’s perspective for a moment. If people stop using Google as their search engine of choice, Google doesn’t make any money. Pure and simple.

Google has a vested interest to ensure that only the best content exists on the Internet and that they’re the search engine dishing it up.

Many people get frustrated when they learn that Google has, yet again, come out with another update. Or they’re scared they will lose their rankings and all the beautiful link juice they’ve earned and that their sites will be affected.

Here’s the thing. As long as you do right by Google, Google will do right with you. If you comply with Google’s SEO guidelines, then you have nothing to worry about.

So what exactly is Google looking for? A better question to ask is what is Google NOT looking for?

Google will penalise websites that indulge in:

  • Excessive link building with no regard for quality
  • Deceptive doorway pages
  • Lots of keyword stuffing
  • Publishing lots of meaningless content just to get traffic from search engines
    (source: Content Marketing Institute.)

If that’s all double-dutch to you, basically any website that produces really crappy content.

Google updates are good. It’s good for legitimate entrepreneurs and business owners that try to get good rankings without competing against those websites deliberately gaming the system. Think of all the updates as a detox – it cleans out the crap and toxins that exist on the interwebs.

The good news is as long as you produce fantastic quality content, you can survive any Google SEO update. In fact, I don’t even keep up to date with all the latest updates and changes because the fundamentals, which I teach in my SEO coaching program, will always remain. They have and will continue to stand the test of time.

Let’s look at three ways how you can survive any Google update and not be scared of them in future.

SEO Survival Tip #1: Your content has to serve a purpose

In fact, go and tweet that right now:

Your content has to serve a purpose.

….In other words, why should people listen to you?

It’s not enough to create content just to try and get a ranking. There’s nothing wrong with trying to improve your rankings, but creating content for rankings alone will not cut it.

Effective content provides true value. Every time you write a blog post, record a video or create a new web page, ask yourself what purpose is it serving? Who is this for? What value am I providing to my reader? Is it me-too focussed? Am I writing something that has already been written about 50,000 times before?

This is a key point. The other day I was reading an article in Search Engine Journal about some permanent SEO strategies that can be used from some of the top SEO experts from around the world.

Eric Enge from Stone Temple Consulting says it’s important to create a unique site experience that is focussed on providing a high quality user experience.

What does that mean exactly?

There’s so much content online that’s been written about on almost every topic. As Eric says, “..there is SO much competition for each search term, and so much competition for links and content marketing ideas and placements that the awesome site experience is now a critical differentiator.”

I see this time and time again in my one-to-one SEO clients and keyword reports. A lot of them are coaches that blog about the same thing as everyone else. How are you going to stand out and be different if you continue to write about the same stuff as everyone else in your niche?

Eric demonstrated this point with an excellent analogy about french toast.

creating exceptional SEO content
Is your mouth watering yet because mine is.

After performing a search for “how to make french toast,” there are over 33,000 results. There’s no need for more than 5 articles on how to make French toast because it’s so easy.

As Eric says, “you can’t win by writing a new article on something that has already been covered many times before. So, the question you have to ask yourself today is – what are you going to do that stands out? What are you going to do that’s exceptional? Learning how to answer this question well may take practice.”

Excellent food for thought (excuse the pun).

SEO Survival Tip #2: Don’t have THIN content

Ok so ecommerce websites are usually guilty of this more than anyone else but anyone with a blog or website should also take notice.

Thin content exists when web pages don’t have a lot of text on them, or sites with lots of pages that are not that different from one another (even if they’re not considered duplicates).

It’s also not having enough content on your site to effectively communicate your message.

Many product pages on ecommerce websites are guilty for having thin content because they might show some product images without any text. For example, one sentence plus a picture it not enough content to adequately describe the product or service. Thin content can also be product descriptions that are taken from a feed that can be found on other sites. Google has come down hard on sites like this because it interprets that these sites are of poor quality.

You need to make sure each page you create is unique and adds value. You simply can’t create web pages for different topics just to attract more traffic. Remember survival tip #1 – your content has to serve a real purpose. It can’t just exist to get quick rankings.

When it comes to blog posts, thin content can be defined as “me too” blog posts, which means non-original posts that have either been copied or duplicated or it’s been read many times before. In other words, content that may already exist online.

To get around this, you need to curate content and use your own ideas and add your own thoughts. If you’re writing on a topic that has been written about many times before (do we really need to read another blog post about self love?), then synthesise your own thoughts, ideas and create a unique angle on a subject.

Let me tell you of some entrepreneurs that do this really well.

James ClearJames Clear from In an age where every man, woman and dog is blogging about health, personal development, mindset and life in general, James knocks them all out of the park. He shares ideas for using behaviour science to improve your performance and transform your habits. With headlines such as “Haters and Critics: How to Deal with People Judging You and Your Work,” “The Beginner’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting,” and “How to Stop Procrastinating by Using the Seinfeld Strategy,” it’s no wonder there are 65,000 people following James on Twitter and 3000 Facebook followers. James writes articles that no one could replicate.

Alexis GrantAlexis Grant from I’ve been following Alexis since 2010 (my pre B School days, which is nice) and I love the way she writes. Alexis talks about making your own luck in life and in your career and the new world of (online) work. But she doesn’t just write about this topic; she also lives it. She’s completely transparent about how she makes her living on her own terms, how she worked full time as a journalist and is now writing her own travel memoir about backpacking solo through Africa. She blogs on a range of topics from social media to taking a career break. She has a knack for getting you to tag along her journey.

Denise Duffield ThomasDenise Duffield-Thomas from Who else out there talks about   overcoming their money and success blocks in the way Denise does? Not many. Sure there are plenty of others that blog about money and mindset stuff but Denise wraps up these topics with a blend of non-wanky Law of Attraction concepts, personality marketing and a good dose of reality. What I mean is she relates to so many different people at all levels – from seasoned 6-figure entrepreneurs to people just starting their own business. And she has you believe that anyone can become abundantly rich and wealthy and not feel guilty about it.

SEO Survival Tip #3: Give Google what it wants

I’ll be honest. I really hate it when I hear phrases such as that on the interwebs and also “just create quality, engaging content,” because quality content can mean different things to different people.

What I mean is when you give Google what it wants, you’re really giving people what they want. Search engines are only the medium for you to get access to your ideal client.

Google doesn’t want you over-optimizing your content with keywords and building all these spammy back links to your website. They want you to create content that is unique, different and extremely reader-friendly – all the things I mentioned above.

So to really give people what they want, find out what they want. You do that by finding out what words and phrases they’re actually using on Google to find the information they’re looking for.

Keyword research cannot be under-estimated. It won’t be the last time I mention this either. This is what my SEO model is based on.

If you want to do your own then get started using the free Keyword Planner toolType in some keywords that relate to your post, click ‘get ideas’ and then look through the results. Pick the keywords that are most relevant to your post.

Here’s my results for “eating organic food.”

SEO keyword research

If I had a blog about organic food then I could write a post about why people should eat organic food or the 10 different health benefits of eating organic food. This research tells me that people want to know about these topics. Not only that, the keyword planner tool is telling me what permutation people are searching for this information online. GOLD!

Give people (and Google) what they want. You can’t get anymore proof than that.

To find out if you have received a warning from Google….

The best way to see if you’ve received a warning or penalty from Google is to sign up to Google Webmaster Tools. Go into your site messages to see if you have received any warnings about the performance of your website.

The message is clear. Take a good hard look at the type of content you plan to publish online. Is it unique? Is it better? Has it already been said a thousand times before?

In the end, surviving any Google update comes down to this (courtesy of Bruce Clay):

“If you can’t do better than the results that are already there, why bother?” – Ammon Johns

Do you think your website can survive any Google update?

Let me know in the comments below.


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  1. Loved the article Shae.

    Along with “give Google what it wants” I’d also add “Give your readers what they want” because that’s the content that Google wants to help them find.

  2. SEO is something I kind of hide from, except the Yoast plug-in keeps me in check. And I agree, it all comes down to giving away something useful to our audience. But to keep afloat as a business, it is also helpful to revisit the Keyword Tool, so thank you for that reminder, Shae!

  3. Hello Shae, this is a great resource! I have been trying to understand this SEO stuff and I’ve been doing a lot of reading on it lately but I must say that you describe it in such a way that it is easy to understand. Thank you for this resource and for keeping me on my toes.. because… the universe knows I am barely learning SEO, now catching up to firefly and frog and panda and whatever those updates are called is no easy task.
    victoria m. recently posted…Dealing With Stress: How you Can Do it NowMy Profile


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