Google has rolled out Panda update 2.2, and webmasters around the world are staring in awe as their sites dance around the rankings like uncontrollable drunks. The sense of confusion is growing, and incredibly mixed results are being reported.
I’ve had affiliates telling me their sites have surged to the top of Google for ultra competitive terms. Others seem to be drowning their sorrows at the prospect of a long-term stay in the dreaded Sandbox.
It’s rare that I post about SEO. There are two reasons for this:
- SEO requires more management than my paid traffic campaigns (which earn a lot more money)
- I believe SEO to be rapidly heading towards extinction.
For those who, like me, rarely stick their heads out of the rabbit hole to see what’s new with the world of SEO, let’s take a look at the disputed intentions of the Panda update.
- Google wants to reward websites that offer engaging content and a rewarding user experience.
- Google wants to punish websites that scrape content and leverage thousands of weak backlinks.
- Google wants to place the responsibility in the user’s hands to determine whether a website deserves to rank well.
Google has always publicly encouraged engaging content, but the algorithm has struggled to match the stated objectives. Panda seems to be changing the game, or at the very least, taking a sincere hack at it.
Naturally this is going to rip a new one for many affiliates, especially those who use SEO as their primary means of driving traffic.
SEOMoz has an excellent article explaining the likely repercussions of Panda. The overwhelming message is that SEO…isn’t really SEO anymore. The easiest way to game the system is to actually play along with the system.
If ranking well becomes a question of designing engaging websites where the user is left with a positive feeling, a sense that he hasn’t been shafted by Johnny Rogue Affiliate on a commission crusade, then surely the SEO professionals of the future will be forced to prioritise their work around the shit that truly matters – satisfaction in the eye of the end user, rather than an algorithm and it’s thousand loopholes.
I have long seen SEO as an inefficient middleman between excellent content and the interested readers who would want to find it. My own sites have generally responded well to the Panda updates, which is encouraging given that I spend about 2.4% of my working day giving a damn about SEO.
If the most important factors for high rankings finally shift towards user-engagement measurements, then isn’t it time SEOs changed their job titles? Wouldn’t it be ironic if after optimising for local SEO terms, they had to rebuild from scratch as UEOs? I can see a growing demand for User Engagement Optimisers…get the domains ordered, guys!
Likewise, if Google wants to reward brand-driven websites where little thought is given to keyword phrase density and second tier backlinks, then I’d happily invite the Panda in to my home for tea and biscuits. Fuck it, I’d even scrub up nice for the occasion.
I am as clueless on the next move as everybody else, but I would guess that Google will be using engagement metrics such as bounce rate, time on site, return visits and a whole host of social sharing monitors to weigh up relevance. It wouldn’t surprise me in the future if Google took one look at your Analytics, smelt the bullshit, and didn’t even bother to count the backlinks.
Ultimately, nobody can say for sure what the true scale of the Panda changes are. It’s too early to measure the ranking fluctuations with any conviction. But what matters is the intention. Google is clearly taking a stand against the webmasters who blast thousands of blog comments and 500 word articles in their attempt to fake relevance.
It would be very rich of an anti-SEO blogger such as myself to hand out SEO advice to those who have based their professional careers around the craft, but I’m going to do it anyway.
DIVERSIFY YOUR BUSINESS!
Assume that Google had a blackout and no longer existed, how would you get customers to your site? If the answer is “By shifting my focus towards Bing and Yahoo”, you’re doing it wrong!
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