SEO or Search Engine Optimization is the process of making strategic efforts to improve search engine rankings by implementing more relevant content, creating a positive user experience, and ensuring that your page will be visible to Google.

Think of Google as a factory manager who has a list of every product in the factory and it’s exact location. For example, when you search for the nearest petrol station to you, Google crawls it’s own factory list (index) to find the results that are likely to be the most relevant to your search.

The Google Algorithm At Work

Google uses an algorithm that examines sites based on a wide range of different criteria. Depending on how your site matches up with these criteria in relation to a specific search, Google will assign your site a ranking for it’s relevance to that search.

Google uses more than 200 different criteria in order to make this determination, including how many links point to your website, how old your domain is, how well aligned your content is with the intent of the searcher, how fast your site loads, and many more, few of which are confirmed public knowledge.

So What Makes SEO Unpredictable?

One major factor in SEO’s unpredictability is the fact that the ranking algorithm is frequently changing with little or no warning.

It’s been proved that the algorithm changes at least 300-400 times a year, (which is up to twice a day), and the changes make it hard to pinpoint an exact SEO formula.

Despite these constant changes, factors such as well built link structures, putting original content on your page, optimized meta page titles, improving audience responsiveness to your page and having a content quality landing page do remain constant.

Another major factor is all the competition surrounding SEO. There are a lot of sites out there trying to rank for the same queries as your site, and if there’s a page that’s more popular, has more authority and has been around longer than yours, there’s a good chance it will perform better.

Finally, the latest great SEO challenge is the increasing personalisation of search. In Google’s unending quest to understand user intent, use their location as a factor, and just generally be able to provide them with the information they need before they even know they need it, we’re increasingly seeing different results for different people, even when they search the same thing.

That is going to make SEO really difficult.

No Short-Cuts

People have been trying to cheat the rankings ever since search engines were first developed. And search engines have become progressively better at noticing when you do. Things like misleading title tags, paid links, and computer generated content might have worked once, or they might work for a while, but in the end, Google notices, and the penalties can be severe.

As much as we’d like there to be, there’s no shortcut that will let you successfully cheat your way to a better rank in the long run.

With all the frequent changes Google implements on their algorithm, SEO isn’t going get any easier. The only way to rank higher is by investing in good quality content on your site, and making your site  as relevant and as user friendly as possible.