I’m a big fan of the WWE (formerly WWF), and I’m not afraid to admit it – even though I probably lose all credibility when I admit to occasionally live-tweeting Monday Night Raw or a WWE pay-per-view, such as Summer Slam. The reason I mention the WWE is because awhile back, one of its most colorful characters had a famous quote that seems very analogous to the current state of SEO:
“Just when you think you have all the answers, I CHANGE THE QUESTIONS!” – Rowdy Roddy Piper
I mean, seriously! Google is like the Rowdy Roddy Piper of the Internet. Remember back in 2011 when we had all the answers to SEO?
All we had to do was create content, build links, and make sure our site(s) had all the SEO basics implemented, and we got results. Those were the days, and now those days seem like a very distant memory.
Google is on a roll this year. It’s almost easier to ask: What hasn’t Google done in 2012?
This year, we’ve seen the recent over-optimization/webspam algo update (aka Penguin 1.0 & 1.1), the ongoing Panda updates (3.2, 3.3, 3.4, 3.5 & 3.6). On top of that, the all-out annihilation of private blog networks, the devaluation of exact match anchor text, Search Plus Your World, the Venice update, the Knowledge Graph.
But wait, that’s not all! We’ve also seen an increasing number of publicized updates each month via Google’s official blog (ex. April’s 52-pack), and the most recent SEO scandal: the de-listing of SEO agency iAcquire for paid link building. And that’s just the updates that come to mind off the top of my head.
As if all of that wasn’t enough, Google killed Google Places pages and re-Place’d (pun intended) them with Google+ Local pages.
It’s almost too much to keep up with. In fact, if I could have a super power, I’d want it to be the ability to stop time like Zack Morris did with his signature ‘Timeout!’ move. It would be awesome to be able to freeze time – just so I could keep up with all of Google’s changes and updates each day!
There really is no rest for the weary. As Google is making multiple updates every day across several of its properties, it’s very important to stay on top of them. At the same time, you’ve got to do work!
You could spend an entire day reading theories about a Penguin update that you ultimately have no control over in the shortrun.
The truth is that spending all your time worrying about and researching Penguin and Panda is not going to move you forward with your sites and/or clients.
The best way to move forward as an SEO is to create. Creation keeps the Internet alive and thriving, and ultimately, it keeps us all in business.
That being said, I really want to share my thoughts on a few recent SEO news items.
1. Google Delists iAcquire
This is by far the wildest event in recent SEO industry history. Google has never delisted a major SEO agency for paid link building. It sent shockwaves through our industry, and iAcquire has already announced the end of their naughty paid link building ways.
Sadly, iAcquire has been pretty beat up lately, and it’s not completely fair. It’s not like the only thing they do is buy links. Yes, that was a part of their toolset, but to reduce that agency to just a bunch of blackhat link builders…well, that is simply not fair. And it is definitely not a precise description of their agency.
On one hand, the outing of iAcquire taught us all a great lesson. It showed us just how far Google will go to enforce its rules. On the other hand, the outing of iAcquire was depressing because it showed me that SEO’s will come out of the woodworks to throw the first stone.
It’s also upsetting to me that we live in a world where companies will deny any wrongdoing and then throw their SEO agencies under the bus at the sign of any negative publicity. Lastly, I think it really sucks that Google would kick iAcquire while they were already down.
The writing is on the wall: Google has launched a massive attack on ALL paid links and ALL paid link building methods. Many of the link building methods that you might consider “white hat” actually fall under the umbrella of ‘paid link building’.
If you have a link builder on staff, you might want to re-evaluate their methods. Things like directory submissions, blog networks, article marketing, forum signatures, and good old-fashioned paid links are likely putting your site at risk.
For many of us, this paid link issue gets hairy when we take on a new account because we are now ultimately responsible for the client’s entire history of link building. Who knows what the previous SEO’s and link builders did. And what about the link building efforts 2, 3 or even 5 years ago? It is imperative that we get very familiar with our clients’ link profiles.
With Google targeting unnatural link profiles, I predict that 2012 will the year where more and more SEOs begin sending emails that contain the message “Please remove the link(s) from your site to my site.” It’s already happening.
2. Google Updates: Panda & Penguin
When people ask me about Panda and Penguin, I tell them the short answer is: Panda is about content; Penguin is about links. Another way to look at it is that Panda targets on-page factors, and Penguin targets off-site factors. And yet, another way to look at it is that Panda targeted low-quality content, and Penguin targets low-quality link profiles. Admittedly, these statements grossly over-simplify both updates.
I have read so much about Panda and Penguin over the past few months, I’ve probably forgotten more than I can remember. And really, a lot of the information out there is 100% speculation. However, it’s pretty clear that Panda is looking at the value of your site’s content to a search visitor.
Penguin, on the other hand, appears to be more focused on your off-site SEO and the aggressive use of optimized anchor text, internally and externally. If you were hit by Penguin, the first place you need to look is your external link profile. The second place you need to look is any internal links. If you are using super-aggressive onsite and/off-site linking methods to manipulate your search rankings, Penguin will likely notice.
Further, because Penguin is an algorithmic update (and not a penalty), you could potentially take down a lot of “bad” links, but you probably won’t recover until the next Penguin update.
If you think that you were hit by Penguin, I recommend building a few links to your site with diversified anchor text. Stay away from exact match anchor text. If you quickly recover your rankings, then you probably were not hit by Penguin. Don’t forget that Penguin was released very close to a Panda update.
Furthermore, many SEOs have noticed updates just before Penguin (April 24th) and just after Penguin. Google didn’t say anything about those other 2 updates (scary!). Also, don’t forget about April’s 52-pack of publicized changes. It really is tough to know why a site loses rankings these days.
In any case, if Penguin is about low-quality links, it could take a while to clean up and recover, especially when you take into account the years of link building before you took over an account. If you think link building takes time, just wait until you have to do a link removing campaign. If only there was an ‘Undo’ button for links!
If you think that you got hit by Panda, start investing more time and effort into your content, keeping visitors on your site longer, and doing anything and everything you can do to build, nurture and engage your community of visitors and customers.
A lot of it comes back to usability and value. For longterm success, your site needs to excel in both of those areas. And a lot of that comes back to basic marketing.
3. Google’s Knowledge Graph & Schema.org
Because this is getting to be a long-winded post, I’ll keep this part short for now and possibly come back to in a future post. You’ve probably been noticing the Knowledge Graph box in the SERPs, and the thing that I love about it is the direct links to websites located near certain pieces of information in the box.
Take this screenshot for example. I’m sure celebritynetworth.com is enjoying some additional traffic by having a direct link to their site on the search term ‘john cena’. That keyword gets 800,000+ exact match global monthly searches. Now that would be a great link to have earned the hard way!
Launched nearly a year ago, the Schema.org protocol looks like it will be very important in the future of search. Google hasn’t given any specifics of how or if it is using schema.org markup in the Knowledge Graph box, but it’s only logical that the all search engines will begin looking for this type of structured data on webpages.
If you haven’t already, I recommend planning a schema.org timeline and strategy for your site. Now, let’s get out there and mark up all of our sites!
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.