When Google silently rolled out Penguin last year, everyone was caught off-guard. A lot of websites and blogs were given the death sentence by Google. Some suffered through lower rankings and some even disappeared in search queries, as if they didn’t even exist. Search engine optimizers everywhere thought that Penguin brought about Armageddon to punish everyone. We all thought SEO was dead then and there.
After the dust settled, we collectively learned that was Penguin just the death knell for black hat SEO. It was a death of some sorts as some of the foundations of old school search engine optimization is banned and those who are caught will be punished severely. Keyword stuffing and link building, two of the oldest foundations of SEO were already labeled criminal and those who still continue these tactics will taste the silent fury of Google.
Panda and Penguin laid new foundations for a stricter and tighter search engine optimization through a scorched earth policy. As 2014 started, the SEO industry was reborn. However, it was reborn according to Matt Cutt’s vision of white hat SEO where:
A site is crawlable and communicates clearly with Google for proper interpretation of content
Appropriate keywords are used so that content is primarily understandable to human readers
Optimized usability and interface of the site are given importance
Faster page loading time is key
According to Joe Goldstein of Navolutions, businesses will either “double down or fold on their SEO efforts.” Since keyword data is already extinct, ROI became harder to measure, and the industry became a less dependable solution for small businesses. Big businesses on the other hand, will take advantage of Google’s premium data analytics and continue investing on their search engine optimization operations.
A scenario where only the biggest players can afford SEO seems scary but there is still hope for the little guys. The SEO industry is still an important factor for online and digital marketing, perhaps more than ever. There are still free and affordable tools to measure SEO data, such as MOZ, Open Site Explorer, Semrush, and the like, though they’re not as well-rounded as Google’s data analytics. Still, a good and capable SEO agent can use a mixture of these tools to his advantage.
The times for questionable tactics is over. It’s time to go back to the basics: great content for the users. Honest and well-written original content will be the main focus of SEO agencies everywhere. With the free capabilities of multiple and interconnected social media platforms, such content can be easily marketed and shared. Though there will still be mavericks who will come up with new techniques and tactics that will test Google’s patience until they release a new update that will kill these off in an instant. From now on, great content is the way to go. We must create user-friendly content to preserve our place in this volatile yet challenging industry.