Plainly put, the life of a Professional SEO is run by Google. With a dominating portion of the market share and pay-per-click advertising, following the trends of Google is essential to staying ahead of the game.
However, the modern SEO needs to be on top of hundreds of other things at the same time. There are dozens of blogs publishing unique information about the world of SEO daily, and a handful that are completely integral to SEO success. Take a look at my RSS feeds after leaving it on for 6 months:
You are indeed reading that correctly; over the course of 6 months, it is literally impossible to completely follow those top SEO blogs. I spend about 1.5 hours every night reading up on the day’s SEO articles, and I find that even putting in 10 hours a week, I have to let some articles slide.
Google itself is much more sparse with information relevant to SEO, and if I had to add another feed to read, I would end up getting buried and would have a hard time getting anything done. I always subscribe to this principle: hands-on experience will trump knowledge. Any day.
So, how can you keep your finger on the pulse of Google to keep up with their updates, and still leave most of your time to keeping your skills sharp? The short answer: Yahoo Finance.
The Finance Factor:
Yahoo may have lost its prestige as a search engine, but its finance section is still leading the pack in usage. Understanding why I use Yahoo Finance to track Google requires a basic understanding of the stock market.
First, the stock market has little to do with the fiscal success of a company; it is run mostly on speculation. For example, on October 5th, Steve Jobs passed away. Although it had nothing to do with most companies, Google saw a stock drop on that day. The entire technology sector was affected because of speculation. It is the key to the stock market, which means that stocks essentially track public opinion.
Second, there are a lot more people interested in the stock market than SEO. For every SEO out there, there are probably 5 professional and amateur traders, analysts, and investors watching Google more closely than us. Leverage the passion and obsessive nature of these investors to get a good idea of when you should be researching changes in Google.
With that, we go back to Yahoo Finance! If you create an account, you can add Google as one of the stocks in your portfolio. From there, the link to create an alert is on your portfolio page.
When the Google stock went below $525, I got a notification via email, and I know to check the SEO blogs, and other news sources to figure out what exactly was going on. I did this for all of 2011, and I’m excited to present my results.
1 Year of Yahoo Tracking Google:
I started out this experiment as a turn of laziness. I realized quickly that it would be impossible to both do my job and be comprehensively well read, so with my notifications, I started to correlate when I received emails to events in SEO.
The first email I received worth noting was on April 14th, 2011:
Most SEO’s already know what happened around this time: Google Panda Update 2. The actual update happened around April 10th or 11th, but it took a couple of days for investors to see how it would affect the Internet. Now that link farms were effectively killed, and keyword stuffing was devalued, a lot of sites that had used those strategies were hurt.
My gamble was proven correct; I had assumed that the cost-cutting tendencies of public companies would lead them to cut corners on SEO. The real issue that surfaced were that those practices were so widespread that many public companies were affected. Sure, I wasn’t in on the ground floor of the information, but everyone was clueless at the beginning, by the time I heard and researched, there were already tests being conducted by SEOmoz and numerous other experts. Some SEO’s spent the 11th to the 15th panicking; I saw the phenomenon, and found the answer all in the same day.
The second email worth noting was July 14th, 2011:
After the stock drop from the Panda update, I noticed that the stock price was staying pretty low. Between the insider trading scandal and many businesses still hurting, it was clear that a change in criteria was necessary. So with 4 or 5 clicks, I reset my notifications for when Google jumped back over $520 and $550. I figured for the $520 notification, I’d see how Google planned to jump back, and if I saw a notification over $550, it was a big deal.
Sure enough, on July 1st, I received a notification about the creation of a controversial new social platform; something called Google+. I had a beta account and had been playing with the settings already; but it had to be seen if it would catch on. Enter my second filter, $550; on July 15th, the Google stock jumped to almost $600 a share. Later that week, on the 21st, SEOmoz would proclaim on their Whiteboard Friday that Google+ really was huge for SEO, and that their experiments started on July 5th had paid off handsomely. I had known for almost a week.
The third email in my Inbox worth noting came on August 18th, 2011:
This was the famous Adwords for Video craziness. During this time, Adwords video advertisements were having their view counts frozen, or they weren’t displaying correctly. Some businesses were more heavily hit than others, usually ones with smaller budgets.
Although the actual issue started on August 15th, 2011; there was nothing us SEO’s could do code-wise for our clients. Instead of spending hours on a problem that was ultimately solved on Google’s end, I was helping my clients get ahead by pausing video ads, and increasing the daily budgets for other campaigns, and reworking copy.
It was a huge success, with only one miss.
The only major update to Google for SEO that I missed through Yahoo was the Analytics and PPC update in early October. This caused a huge ripple in the SEO world for those who specialize in organic search by making search information for people logged into Google private through Https protocol. I realized that I had forgotten to reset my filter for stock drops, and instead received the notification on October 14th when the stock went over $550 again.
It would have been an issue, if I didn’t work PPC in tandem with SEO. With the overwhelming amount of data showing that a first page PPC placement alongside a top 5 organic display being hugely beneficial; optimizing PPC and SEO simultaneously had been a standard operating procedure for months. Furthermore, if I had remembered to reset my filter for stock drops below $520, I would have received a notification on September 29th, 2011 the very day the announcement was made.
The bottom line: I was able to navigate the rough Google seas in 2011 through timely warnings.
It’s easy to get stuck in a trap of constant research for SEO, this method allows you to do what you’re best at, optimizing, and leave a part of the research to Yahoo Finance. You can bet I have some very sophisticated filters set up this year for more companies than just Google.
(I’m talking about you, Mr. Rumored Facebook IPO)