Penguin 2.0 landed on May 23rd. So far I'm not impressed with what I am seeing. Dealer sites are dropping off the rankings. Most are blissfully unaware. They see their dealership in the map results and assume everything is OK. But the actual search results had entirely different people in them than a week ago. In some cases the dealership is still in the results but with their mobile site. One I was keeping an eye on dropped 65 spots, that's a 7 page drop from the #1 position. Luckily they are relaunching their site this week and should settle back at the top with their less spammy site.
There are two frames of mind amongst search marketing professionals when it comes to major updates such as the Google Penguin update last year and the upcoming Penguin 2.0 algorithm update. Some start to panic as they’ve seen these algorithm updates force companies to make major changes. In some cases, companies have had to close down because adjusting was just too much to bare. The other perspective is that these changes bring the game of optimization more in line with quality over quantity, strategy over brute force, and perhaps most importantly, art over science.
That’s what’s expected with the upcoming update based upon a mixture of common sense and some pointed Tweets by Google’s spam czar, Matt Cutts. The pursuit of quality links instead of having a large inbound link portfolio has been the focus of Google (and Bing) for over a year now and the coming update will likely be more of the same.
The art aspect of it all comes down to getting more value out of higher-quality content that can be enjoyed by real people versus meaningless links outside of content or on sites that have no real value to the search engines. Before, it was easy to stuff links on as many sites as possible to get the juice necessary for SEO. It made it to where the science was dominant – automated platforms, bulk link submission tools, and link generating scripts once ruled the search marketing world. Today, one strong article or infographic on a high-value website can get websites more coveted link juice than literally thousands of low quality links. This is where the artistry comes into play.
As businesses and marketing agencies continue to hone their skills and progress their strategies, it’s important that they understand this dynamic. It’s no longer a good thing to have dozens of link builders hitting up websites. Today and into the future, strong content creators with the connections to get their content placed on relevant and trusted sites are the most sought after resources in the industry. Everyone else is simply spamming up the system and Penguin 2.0 will punish those who do not adapt.
Every few months, marketers around the blogosphere start the next batch of chants that search engine optimization is dying or dead. It's like clockwork; Google makes a change, their pages rank poorly, they declare that the party's over. I think I've written about the topic at least once a year since 2008.
The chants are starting again and I'm here to tell you that, as usual, they are premature. I'm not so naive as to make a statement like "SEO will never die," but the thought that the death is here is silly. It's not dead. It has changed. It changes frequently - perhaps more frequently in recent months - but it's not dead yet. In fact, those who are doing the right things are finding that their rankings are actually improving.
Why They Always Pronounce it Dead
Since the dawn of SEO, there have been tricks that work for a short period of time. We've always taken the stance that anything that smells like a "trick" will not last and should be dismissed. This concept has helped us to stay on top of our searches and the keywords of our clients.
For example, 2007 saw a major increase in the effectiveness of social news and social bookmarking links. It was almost too easy - if you submitted a piece of content to Digg, it would rank for easy keywords within a few hours and for tougher keywords in a few days. Smart marketers refused to play this game knowing that Google would catch on and instead learned to use sites like Digg and Reddit to drive real SEO juice by posting powerful content and exposing it to the social news world. This still applies today for many sites, though they are fading quickly from relevance (except Reddit, which is growing).
Any time one of these tricks stops working, the SEOpocalypse is declared.
The most recent change that has everyone up in arms is the devaluing of automated links. Footer links, sidebar links, link farms - Google and Bing both have found ways to not only discredit these links but to make them harmful when done too much. SEO is dead... for those who couldn't keep up with these changes.
Why SEO isn't Dead
Thankfully, smart marketers did not participate in the automated link-building programs. Personally, I'm shocked it took as long as it did for Google and Bing to figure it out. There was a time in late 2011 that I was starting to doubt my choice of not having our SEO team get in on the link-automation trend. I was getting questioned by some within the company because the path we chose, one of unique content and contextual link generation, was much more expensive to operate than the automated ways.
The corner was finally turned with the Penguin update and subsequent tweaks and my choices were vindicated.
Today, content is no longer a tool for SEO. It is an overarching concept that includes SEO as part of its mandate. In other words, the tool is now the goal and the goals of SEO, reputation, branding, and social media marketing all revolve around quality content.
When you're out there reading about the marketing trends of 2013, take note of those who are pulling away from social media or SEO and those who are pushing forward. This is easy for me to say since it's the direction that my company is heading, but it happens to be the truth. Quality content that people can enjoy, proper link-building and social signal practices that revolve around this content, and social media marketing that doesn't rely on funny cat pictures - these are the real trends that will drive proper marketing in 2013.
Note: this page contains paid content.
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