CHICAGO (TheStreet) -- Google makes hundreds of algorithm updates each year. Many go unnoticed by website owners, but the big ones -- Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird -- have had a noticeable impact on page ranks and get the most buzz. Baffled by these changes and unaware when the next update will strike, small-business owners have been forced to reevaluate their SEO strategy.
To understand the interworkings of Google updates, it's important to review the history of SEO. Until the past few years, high search results could be achieved through relatively simple -- though ethically questionable -- means, such as buying backlinks or creating formulaic, keyword-dense copy.
Certain site owners learned quickly that it was easy to "game" the system and get higher search results more quickly than they would letting the site build authority and rank through honest means. But the head honchos running Google are no fools, and the search engine has been redefined through a series of algorithms to penalize "black hat" SEO -- meaning ethically questionable tactics -- and reward quality, white-hat practices.
Now that Google has revolutionized SEO, what does that mean for webmasters and SEO professionals?
Relevant and valuable content wins
Content is now the driving force in SEO. Content strategy was big before these updates, but previously it was dependent on keyword research. As of Sept. 23, Google Analytics no longer provides keyword data to gain insights to customers' search habits. This change may have been a blow to those who still practiced keyword stuffing, but for those who already have strong content strategies in place, it should be no big deal.