After Google Panda: Why “SEO” Is Not Good Enough Any More

Google Panda is a game changer for SEO’s – it’s time to up your game or go home. The days of publishing “unique” content and throwing a few links at it are coming to an end. And I, personally, can’t say I’m sad to see them go.

SEO is getting much harder. Not more complicated technically, but in fact, it is getting more complex from a strategy standpoint. To quote SEOmoz’s Rand Fishkin from a recent white board Friday:

It is almost like the job of SEO has been upgraded from SEO to web strategist.

And this is actually good news for everyone as a whole. Since their inception, search engines have been able to be tricked into showing “SEO’d” content. This means that instead of searcher’s finding the best and most useful information, they’re being presented with content that’s been manipulated to rank. The fact that search engine robots/machines are becoming more “intelligent” based upon user behavior theoretically means higher quality search engine results for you and me. This also means that companies need to start thinking about “why” they deserve to show in search engine results vs. “how” to rank.

After Google’s Panda update, SEO means that we as search engine optimizers need to consider far more than just the standard “rules” we’ve always knows to be true:

  1. Create unique content
  2. Optimize page titles and words on page
  3. Build links

Today’s “search engine optimizer” needs to think beyond those rules (which do still apply) and ask themselves:

  • Will this content be seen as interesting? useful? trustworthy?
  • Will people want to click on this page as it shows in the search engine results?
  • Will people want to read beyond the first page of content?
  • Would people share this page with their friends?

Google panda gives spam the axe

Each and every piece of content needs to have a goal and an underlying strategy that answers those questions in a positive way. Having a few pages of useful content and 500 shallow, poorly re-written product pages can and will hurt the website as a whole.

Design matters!

Okay, sort of. When I say design, I don’t just mean how “pretty” a website looks on the outside – I mean everything from the structural to the visual. Good design means:

  • When a user gets to your website, they aren’t bombarded with ads and flashy things
  • Users are able to quickly figure out where they are and what they can do on the page
  • Users can easily navigate to other areas of your website
  • The website’s design is appealing (doesn’t look like it came from a time capsule circa 1991)

SEO is moving away from tactics and more towards strategy. It’s imperative that website strategy focus on the bigger picture and how each piece of content will be seen by people and not search engine robots. Developing a content strategy is a very important step, but moving forward we will find that good design will play a role in ranking as well, as a good design works towards useability and trustworthiness.

If you’ve been “pandalized” (in other words, you’ve found your website to have been axed from search results in recent weeks), you should take this as a hint towards things to come. It’s not going to get easier to rank. At present, Panda is not an ongoing algorithm adjustment; rather it is an algorithm all its own, designed to be run every so often (right now there are weeks in between updates) to clean up search engine results. So, you are not likely to recover quickly from being “pandalized”,  as your adjustments won’t be accounted for until the next time a panda update is applied.

The writing is on the wall (or in the algorithm).

SEO is cha cha changin’ … which is no surprise; this is an ever-evolving field of study. But Google’s Panda update is the largest change we’ve seen in a while and the implications suggest that if you are using old school SEO techniques – those just are no longer “good enough”.

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