Search engine optimization (SEO) can be MORE than tricky these days. Not only is it sometimes difficult to understand for the average Joe, to make matters more complicated, Google frequently updates their algorithm, tweaking and sometimes dramatically changing the way the SEO industry works (many times these changes are for the better, but that doesn’t mean they’re not hard to understand).

Today, we’re here to talk about what could happen when Google does decide to make a dramatic shift. Are you prepared for it? Do you have a good back-up plan in place in case (gasp) the WORST happens?

If you don’t have a good back-up plan in place for your website’s SEO, what are you going to do when that next big algorithm update occurs?

Worry not! We’ve got some great tips to get you started working on a fall-back method that might just save your small business from getting lost in the internet shuffle.

Last, But Not Least

The last major algorithm update that Google rolled out was Hummingbird. What did Hummingbird do? A couple of things. First off, Hummingbird made Google’s algorithm better at deciphering long sentences and turning them into relevant search results. Which is great, and I’ll tell you why.

Now, when I ask Google “What is the weather like tomorrow?”, they return search results that actually tell me the answer, without me having to specify where I live or what date it is. Pretty nifty!

Of course, the search results returned are high quality and right on the mark because I’m using Google Chrome to search via Google while logged into my Gmail account that’s connected to Google+. So, Google already knows where I live and what day tomorrow is.

(Get used to that, Google knows where most people live now-a-days.)

But what did Hummingbird change with respect to SEO? Not a whole heck of a lot. As long as you were ALREADY employing smart and reputable SEO practices, your website ranking shouldn’t have changed much, if at all.

However, if you were using poor SEO strategies, your website’s ranking may have plummeted. NOT GOOD!

So, how do we avoid taking a dive in search engine rankings? We come up with a solid back-up plan.

The Story of the Vanishing Search Ranking

According to a recent contributor at Moz, “Smart SEOs expect to lose their rankings.” How is that possible? Well, because smart SEOs know that someday, something is likely to happen, whether that’s a competitor who pulls ahead of you or another Google update, someday you’ll lose that coveted spot.

Smart SEOs keep in mind that the internet is not a static place with a manual. Rather, the internet is a fluid and constantly-changing landscape. So, even if you ARE No. 1 at the moment, you can’t rely on being No. 1 forever, unless you strategize and come up with a good back-up plan.

Here’s a word of advice: don’t wait until the last minute, and DON’T WAIT until your website has been penalized by Google. As the previously-referenced article states, “A Google penalty is worse than a layoff,” and that’s because it doesn’t come with any severance pay or unemployment benefits (however limited those may be, they are still better than nothing).

Start by implementing quality control standards when it comes to links. Make sure your website’s design is as user-friendly as it can possibly be. Good web design will garner organic links, helping you with the first step as well.

Know the difference between on-page and off-page SEO, and do your homework on the recent changes to keyword tools like AdWords.

Most importantly, make sure your small business is doing OTHER things right too, like maintaining top-notch customer service, keeping up a reputable social media presence, delivering high quality products and services, and, of course, producing great content.

So, what are you waiting for?

Start putting together your back-up plan TODAY, before it’s too late.