Happy birthday Google or 15 years of torment for web companies.

Google turned 15 two weeks ago. Fifteen years spent making internet users’ lives easier, inventing services no one can live without (Google Maps and Gmail, for instance) and other services no one really cares about (Google+ is a good example). We could tell the beautiful story of these two Stanford students who founded the company, but those 15 years are actually 15 years of torture for marketing companies and web agencies, for all of those who help companies find a web strategy.

Google makes the rules. It’s a gigantic algorithm which defines what’s in the first page and what sinks in the abyss of the internet. Ironically, no one knows this algorithm… maybe one or two people who made it at Google, but still. The challenge for people working in the web, people crafting websites, is to understand how this algorithm works. It is called SEO, for “search engine optimization” and it is one of the main aspects of every web marketing strategy.

Once again, Google makes the rules for SEO experts as the search engine has a monopoly. Not only is the algorithm a secret and impenetrable, but it also changes all the time. For instance, the Caffeine update that went with the 15th birthday was made to “weed out websites that tried to trick Google’s search engine into believing their content was related to common search requests” (source : abcnews).

If Google changes the rules, it’s to make SEO practices out of date. Although the battle is already lost (Google will always win), ranking better without breaking the rules is still possible thanks to some good practices.

Good, optimized, well-tagged and shared content is the answer. In fact, content should not be thought of in an SEO perspective, but rather designed for internet users. In the end, they will have the last words and they’re the ones with the tools to make this content legitimate or not. Likes on Facebook, +1 on Google+ and retweets on Twitter are a great indication for Google to see if the content is approved or not. Google succeeded in sharpening its almighty algorithm in favor of the user. It’s not only a matter of the number of keywords and good meta-tags anymore.

In the end, every update is a new challenge for companies in the web industry, but it’s also a step towards a world where good content is found on the first page before optimized content, at the cost of quality. We could see it as the teenage crisis of Google, but it is more likely one step towards the adult age of the search engine.

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