The thing is, it is effortless for me to figure out where they’re going to go next. One such of my prediction is the link building popularity. I predicted the artificial intelligence too, which is where we are now. And yes, there’s a lot of little changes along the way. But really, in the entire span of my career, I’ve only seen three major shifts in Google algorithms.
Let’s start with the first – Content.
Really, the first shift wasn’t actually a shift. It was just where it all began – content. I mean, everything all started on-page; this was like the only thing one had to work with. This, however, was great because it was quite easy.
And I remember that I was among the first guys to create cloaking. You know, back then, to build a website, you had to do so in two different ways, so it would work in the various browsers – Yahoo and Google. However, to tackle this, Yahoo created the system that we called cloaking. This way, you could have a good user experience on their site irrespective of what browser you use so it would detect the browser.
Basically, cloaking is more like looking at a factor and based on that factor, giving a result just like a search engine kind of. So, what Yahoo used it for was looking at what browser you’re using, and they would serve up the proper edition of their website so you could view it. And that was exactly what I did.
I mean, I looked it up and was like “I can use that, and even to my benefit”. And what I did was I looked at the IP address that was coming in, and I would serve up the appropriate dish based on who was sitting at the table. This way, I got a database of every search engine on the planet, such that I know who they all were when they were calling, and also when they came to the site.
However, typically, it soon got crowded. I, too, had so much fun during these times, and together with other SEO experts, we pushed that to the limit, thereby causing search engines, specifically Google, to turn it into a popularity contest as the system has just been gamed. And this exactly was how we came by the second big shift.
The second shift – off-page optimization.
This features inbound links and putting anchor text in your lengths and, and you know, we also pushed that system till everybody overdid it. Everybody over-optimized anchor texts. I think we pushed and pushed till Google released the Penguin update, which was kind of a massacre for the SEO world.
When that penguin hit, the first thing that I did was that I looked at what happened, what went up, what went down, and why the rest of the SEO community seems just to complain and speculate. I went right to the “what” and the “why.” This was simply because I wanted to know how to fix it real-quick.
From my research, what I noticed was about all the sites that went to the top, was that most of them had brand recognition and also had very natural anchor text portfolios. Consequently, I developed a new program at that time called cat. The cat was a conversational anchor text generator, which would unravel the penguin penalty, worked perfectly, and undid all the evil that we had all done.
And again, we succeeded in putting Google back in check because yet again, we were able to game the system. And you know, we did this over a long stretch of time. You know, the whole popularity scheme. Nonetheless, Google did all it could, and this landed us in the third big shift. I can recall mentioning it for the first time ever on the Glazer Kennedy stage.
The third shift – User Behavior
Back then, I called it the “final frontier,” and really, I think it is, and that’s where we are now.
The third shift is Google actually looking at user signals, and now as it’s evolved, they’ve gotten better and better at it. For me, as well, I think this was by far, Google’s most brilliant move. And of course, I knew they were going to do it. It was just a matter of time.
If you ask me why it’s so brilliant and why I love it so much, I will say it’s because it took the trash out for me. I mean, it literally wiped everybody out. And I remember when they released what was called RankBrain and that whole SEO world was just upside down. Everybody was speculating on what RankBrain was, but none of them got it right. They all thought it was; you know the stuff they were looking at their on-page optimization. They were looking at their linking, but they weren’t looking where the ball really was, and it’s artificial intelligence, it’s user experience.