Posted August 14, 2011 8:30 am by with 20 comments

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Share on FacebookBuffer this page

From time to time we will be running posts by some “friends of Marketing Pilgrim”. How do you become a friend? Just like in the real world, it’s pretty simple in that you just need to get to know us. We’re harmless :-).

“I know, it’s only SEO, but I like it.” – with apologies to The Rolling Stones

Much of the buzz in the SEO world of late has been about the recent updates to the Google Algorithm called “Panda.” A great many have reported their sites took a hit on the SERPs, while an equal, or perhaps greater number of others applauded the changes because it benefited them in some way. Although I haven’t yet studied it fully, my own observations tell me that most of the sites scraping content off the websites I’m responsible for have all but disappeared. Panda must have dried up their revenue stream because they’ve been very quiet for several months now.

As I read up on the details of the subject, I can’t help but think that this is a lot of history repeating itself. To be sure, Google has updated their software schemes many times since Larry and Sergey sent out their first spider with the goal to index the entire web. And, they will again. The chief aim of Google Search is to help those who use their service find what they are looking for quickly and easily. To that end, it’s important that they continue to improve the quality of those billions of search results. With Panda, it appears they’ve taken a huge leap forward in search quality.

There seems to be mounting evidence, too, that the Panda update is not merely a one-time thing. Barry Schwartz has been keeping a close eye on all things Panda and reported there have been five updates in the series so far. It would appear the latter few are merely adjustments to the overall effort, but they are changes Google watchers need to be aware of. Barry also reported over on Search Engine Roundtable that Panda appears to be a “rolling update.” If this is the case, we’ll be seeing some more changes before long including the international roll out of this past week.

For us in the SEO business, this means we need to keep watch, alter our methods and adopt new best practices as they are discovered. After all, our aim is the same as Google’s. Rand Fishkin summed this up quite nicely during the recent MozCon:

“People have a need… WE (SEOs) help them find what they need.”

It pays for us to keep abreast of the changing ways of Google (and Bing, too) and make sure we know how to help people who are looking for what we have to find our sites. We can wring our hands and shake our fists and blame the overarching power of The Big G; and, that will get us nowhere fast. In the end it’s up to us to help our companies, our clients, be found in whatever situation they may find themselves in algorithm-wise. Stay informed and stay alive – stay informed and stay findable.

One of the best pieces I’ve read along these lines was Joe Hall’s brilliant “How I Became A Postmodern SEO” which recently appeared in the Raven Blog. He points out quite rightly that there are many methods and pieces to the SEO puzzle. Our job as SEO professionals is to be not just a “one-trick pony,” but to understand how different methods and best practices work together to help people find our sites. Great content, consistent keyword placement in tags and on page, link building, reducing page speed – all of these things and many others are included in the SEO’s toolbox.

In the current post-Panda era, we SEOs also need to take into consideration the user interface and whether it and the content has a “wow” factor. We also need to watch site metrics such as bounce rates and browse rates. As Fishkin described in a recent “Whiteboard Friday” video, SEOs now need to be “Web Strategists.” It’s like we all got a promotion and, perhaps, didn’t realize it. In the end, though, it’s up to us to find the right combination of on- and off-page factors which will help the sites we’re responsible for rise to the top. For some more information straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, Google has offered their own advice regarding site quality and what they are looking for these days.

Are you up to the challenge? If you’re a regular reader of Marketing Pilgrim I suspect you are. Don’t let naysayers and whiners overshadow you and keep you from finding out how to do what you do as best you can. Stay positive, stay confident, and most importantly, stay informed.

SEO is not dead, it’s not even sick. It’s just growing and changing like everything else in life.

Image credit

About the author:

I’m a Marketing Technologist and have been working in web marketing for almost 15 years. My first experience was as a free-lancer doing web sites for local businesses such as car dealerships and an art gallery. Later, I ran an online rental property referral web site aimed at assisting military people find homes before they moved.

I currently work as Webmaster for Wilsonart International where I am involved in everything from social media to server administration to web development.

  • Nice post, it really feels like my own journey in SEO. The funny thing about this industry is that every 6 month when major changes occur you can hear a lot of “SEO is dead” complaints when in fact, this simply means more business for all of us since there are new guidelines, new best practices etc. If you keep yourself up to date this is heaven because your clients continuously need you.


    • Hello Gael – Thanks for your comments. This business changes on a regular basis, and SEOs will always be needed in some fashion – at least the good ones who keep up with current best practices.

  • “it’s up to us to find the right combination of on- and off-page factors which will help the sites we’re responsible for rise to the top.”

    Excellent point! We have to adapt to whatever changes the search engines make to help our clients succeed. The first step to doing so is realizing that no one thing is going to make or break a site’s SEO. It’s a combination of factors that we need to integrate.

    • Thank you, Nick. We certainly see eye-to-eye on this point.

  • If you’re talking about Panda, then you should have done your homework. People who were caught off guard by Google filtering out “low quality” websites need to reexamine why they call themselves an “SEO”. This is all about staying up to date with what is working and what isn’t, and pushing the boundaries of what Google will allow as far as scraping, duplicate content, etc.

    • Thanks for you comment, Keith. I believe you and I agree on this point. We SEOs do need to keep up to date on what works and what doesn’t.

  • I’m not surprised that so many people have said their sites have been hit hard. It’s like all those people who complain about getting kicked off Google Adsense yet they were doing things like clicking their own ads.

    • Thanks, Jerry. I appreciate your thoughts. Certainly those who spam in any fashion should be penalized for their actions.

  • Thanks for the great perspective. I think solid content always wins in the end, but it will be interesting to see how SEO continues to help or pose challenges to writing copy for internet marketing.

    • Thank you, Kasey. I’ve long believed that quality content will rise above the fold. I think those who already create good content will be able to adapt to the current SEO climate.

  • The recent updates it seems have affected many websites and blogs. Even high ranking sites like Ezine Articles seem to have lost out big time. My website too was unfortunately affected although for only a few keywords. Most of traffic comes from long tail keywords which interestingly have remained intact in not improved.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience. I wonder, have you done anything to address how the changes affected your standings? If you did, have you seen any recovery in the SERPs?

  • With Panda update, Its again taking the focus back to Content into more holistic way.
    Again, Google with the aim to provide ‘wow’ experience to the user has taken a step ahead.
    Here, content would also help getting links naturally then building them manually.
    Would this also further increase the importance of the Social Media Marketing ??

    • Manan, Thank you for your comments. I, too, am a firm believer in a holistic approach to SEO, which is one reason I enjoyed Joe Hall’s post which I referred to in this piece.

      I believe you are correct about social being an important part of a link building strategy. I would argue, though, that since reps from Google and Bing confirmed they consider links in social spaces as “votes” just as they do links on web sites that Social Media Marketing is already important.

      I wrote on this topic back in March after PubCon south:

  • The Panda Update was a good thing, even though it did hurt a lot of people in the SERPS. Although most people still don’t really understand SEO (or Google or the internet), they’ve started picking up on it enough to concoct half-baked ideas. I’ve seen webmasters use excel and there own software to just generate tons and tons of pages that are really just shells. Or they use other content, or create low quality stuff. Although there were undoubtedly some undeserved losses, it is necessary to separate the wheat from the chaff.

    Just changing and evolving, like the internet itself.

    • Change, change every day. You are certainly correct in your final point. Thank you for sharing, Chris.

  • Hi,
    I agree – thank goodness and Google that SEO is still tops. A high quality website should outrank a poor one any day. Trust rank is becoming more important than page rank these days.

    Love the Google Panda Picture by the way. Google did kick butt hey? great to see I say!


    • Yes, they apparently did. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts on the matter, Catherine.

  • Having read quite a lot about Panda and people’s reaction to it’s affect on them, I can only think the people most hurt by this are the one’s who have been in the industry for some time. They will have almost certainly found the ways round Google to help the sites they are promoting. If I was in their shoes I would probably understand their displeasure that a lot of effort has just been written off. But if its spamming it should be.
    However as a person just setting out on the SEO route and getting feedback from how people now perceive SEO I agree with you saying ‘It’s like we all got a promotion’ surely it is making the whole process ‘more involved’, better content requires more thought and time therefore Jonny in his bedroom copying and pasting is no longer a substitute to a professional sitting and writing an original piece. Whilst I dislike Google having the power I still think it will benefit, as you say, those who put more effort in to their websites.

    • Thanks for stopping by. I don’t think longevity in the industry alone is the key, but rather it’s more of an unwillingness to learn how things really work. The cheats and shortcuts used by some are no longer effective, and they are losing out. Since you’re just starting out, you are off on the right foot if you get this lesson now. Keep learning and keep evolving and you’ll do well in this business.