SEO has been in the targeting sights of online businesses for quite a while now. Staying on top of search engine optimization and always maintaining the highest possible rankings in search results is the name of the game for any online venture.
Yet, understanding SEO, staying on top of all the new developments, and creating applicable strategies takes dedication. SEO experts themselves can barely keep up with all that’s going on in the search engine world. Recently, new tool (e.g. SERPMaster) to help dedicated experts have arrived but a few of these have slipped under the radar.
SEO basics and Google changes
Search engine optimization is the process of employing web development and content strategies to gain the best possible rankings in, mostly Google, SERPs (search engine result pages). These strategies have been developed over time by closely following the changes that have been implemented in search engines.
The most popular target for SEO is, of course, Google. Over the years since its inception, Google has gone over many important changes that have flipped SEO practices. A few of these include:
The Hummingbird Update –
Introduced semantic searching into the engine. It completely overhauled the way pages are ranked to focus less on keywords and more on the meaning and keywords.
The Panda update –
Panda made the algorithm focus on quality content and reduce the rankings of websites known as “content farms”. Content farms would basically print low quality content en-masse in order to gain rankings in as many search engine result pages as possible.
The Penguin update –
reworked how incoming links were evaluated. The primary goal was to reduce the impact of sheer volume of incoming links as some websites were using spam to gain rankings.
The Medic update –
Google hasn’t made clear what this update did exactly but there are a few theories floating around. First, it’s clear that Your Money or Your Life pages (that is, websites that share impactful and important life-changing information such as health, law, civics etc) have been impacted. Google seems to now rank Trustworthiness differently. The second theory is “queries and content” as websites with more in-depth content started to rank a lot better. Some SEO experts think that Google started to prefer pages that can answer user queries better in a single landing page than others.
Each of these updates flipped the way SEO has to be performed. While a decade ago it might have been possible to rank for search results by spamming keywords and links, nowadays this is significantly more difficult. Content has to be high-quality, well-linked, and connected to the entire idea of the website.
As we have seen, Google has revealed more details about certain updates and remarkably little about others. For the former, adapting websites to the algorithm changes is quite simple. For the latter, how does anyone even figure out what to do? Google can be extremely vague on the changes done to the algorithm.
Figuring out the changes
Clearly, nowadays there are way too many pages and search engine results to keep track of them all manually. Therefore, after Google rolls out an update, finding out what pages were impacted and figuring out the possible changes manually is impossible.
Many SEO experts rely on closed-source tools that provide insights into search engine rankings. For example, one of the most popular SEO tools out there, Ahrefs, provides many features in their tool such as backlink profiles, ranking keywords etc, for any website. Professionals might use these features to gather lots of data and attempt to reverse engineer the possible algorithm changes.
Yet, relying on third party tools that are not intended for research purposes is bound to run into issues. Often, these tools are not very cheap and running massive scale tests to attempt to reverse engineer Google algorithms might cost a fortune. Ahrefs, Mangools, and other tools are intended to perform audits and research on single websites or projects.
Additionally, without an understanding on how these tools run their data analysis processes, it’s very easy to derive shaky conclusions. Therefore, using the well-known SEO tools for custom data analysis is not an option.
SEO newcomers: SERP scrapers
There has been relatively a new, accessible development in the SEO sphere: custom SERP scrapers. These scrapers have been widely used by tools such as Ahrefs and others but were largely inaccessible due to pricing to smaller businesses or teams.
Nowadays Google (such as Google search api) and SERP scrapers are becoming cheaper and easier to use. These tools accept parameters from users, send the requested query and parameters to Google, and then deliver back the data acquired from a search engine result page back to the user. Often these will arrive parsed, meaning they are quite easy to read and understand for humans.
Setting up these tools can be a little difficult for someone that has absolutely no development experience but even that has been mostly solved. These tools offer extensive guides on how to set them up or even provide very simple integration methods such as copying and pasting a URL into a browser.
Often, these services will be accessible in price, putting the cost of 1000 result pages somewhere between $4 and $2. With so much data, all an SEO expert needs is the will to analyze his results.
There are plenty of ways to utilize such large amounts of data. SEO experts in more niche fields such as localized or time-sensitive results can scrape Google results to gain insights into less known optimization areas. Larger digital marketing teams can look for opportunities to gain better rankings, find content ideas, and many other cases. Finally, reverse engineering Google algorithm changes becomes significantly easier as the access to relevant data increases.
By staying up to date in the SERP scraping industry, digital marketing teams and SEO experts can glean insights previously overlooked or unavailable. These insights can be retrieved by using services that provide large scale Google data to users at low prices. By adding SERP scrapers to their toolbox, the ability to reverse engineer Google algorithm changes has become significantly easier.