It’s interesting how a few tweets can spread panic and fear. Matt Cutts, the face of Google spam has announced via Twitter that Penguin 2.0 will be unleashed in “a few weeks”, resulting in a lot of SEOs going bats$%!t crazy with fear and anticipation.
Matt Cutts Penguin Tweet
Without being over dramatic, last year’s Penguin update sent shockwaves through the SEO industry globally. Industry forums were over-run for months with webmasters, SEOers and marketers who rely on Google to deliver revenue for their businesses desperately seeking advice on how to recover from this latest update. Overnight some websites went from hero to zero; many of them are still zero.
The Penguin update was effective, although some might argue (including me) that some very large brands escaped without harm despite having questionable and obvious backlink profiles. However the update in itself was enough to show that Google meant business and that they are actively going to do something about it.
The stuff of SEO nightmares
Why did so many sites see the wrath of Google and choose to ignore the warnings?
- I need quick wins?
- Good/Proper/Best-practice SEO takes too long?
- Competitors are doing it?
- My SEO agency told me to?
- Linkbuilding IS SEO?
Why? There are plenty of reasons people went down the link scheme, paid link, content network routes, but mainly this was simply because it had worked for so long!
Some companies are still willing to roll the dice with paid for links (among other things). I’m not sure why – everyone’s reasoning will be different – but I think it is mainly down to misinformation and lack of education.
Google says to have a successful website in search create a great website with a great user experience and great content. Gee thanks Google, that was helpful! So where to start? What makes a good SEO strategy?
A good SEO strategy will be exactly that, a strategy. Successful SEO is not an art, or even a dark art. SEO is not a one size fits all approach. Good search engine optimisation recognises what steps are required to make gains while working alongside other channels and using data to make strategic decisions.
Adapting to new techniques and technology is required consistently with SEO; the landscape changes so regularly that we need to react quickly and with logic. Take for example a few of the changes Google has made to the SERPs in the last 12 months. Knowledge graph, more personalisation, PPC vs. SEO real estate – it’s an adventure. Everything needs to be considered and factored in when defining KPIs and creating a plan. That’s why there are SEO specialists: because it is our job to understand what is required today and in the future to make a brand succeed in natural search. What worked five years ago, won’t have the same effect today.
And if I am honest, SEO is hard work. Results in SEO are not instantaneous; the rewards of a good strategy take time to reflect the effort that has been put in and of course there are no guarantees. We need to consider the longevity of any activity that we do. Quick wins might seem great, but what is the potential long term impact? We also need to think about where Google is going, what could happen tomorrow. Am I doing anything to gain artificial rankings that could be taken away overnight? Or am I rather focusing on my brand and the assets at my disposal, how I can make them work harder and reach people when they are searching? What data can I get from other activity to help me make informed decisions?
Ultimately, there should be no need to worry about Google’s penalty type updates if you are always doing what is best for the user, if you have a strategy and a well thought-out plan and if you adapt and react to changes in the landscape quickly.
There is no doubt that Google Penguin will hit hard, and for those who were hit there is no use saying “I told you so”, because all is not lost, the key is education. Unless you have been really bad….