I'm noticing a disturbing pattern among some SEO marketers. Anytime their search rankings fluctuate, they blame it on "the Panda update" that Google made to its search ranking algorithm. Now, lots of pixels have been spilled on Panda, with most angles addressing the crackdown on content farming and other low-quality content that has been increasingly populating the top results. And a lot of the changes in search results can be directly attributable to this algorithm change. But not everything.
I've spoken to two savvy SEO marketers in the past week that swore to me that their sites have plummeted in the rankings since Panda, but more than that is going on in both cases.
In the first case, a quick check of Google Webmaster tools revealed several warnings on spam violations. While it is possible that somehow the Panda update toughened up spam checking, this particular violation normally has nothing to do with duplicate or low-quality content.
The second company bewailed their fates after Panda, but some questioning quickly showed that the rankings had dipped in Bing also. They still are not sure what is happening, but it's clear that it is more than just Google's Panda update.
Image via CrunchBase
Both of these examples point out something that we often overlook in our horse-race reporting of every time Google sneezes. Search algorithms change all the time, and not just big changes. But even when the algorithms aren't changing, many other things are, especially with your competitors for those precious search rankings.
Sometimes, just because someone has held a certain search ranking for the last three years, we treat as some kind of divine right, when it might be far more ephemeral than we'd like to admit. We convince ourselves that we've had the ranking for so long that it will just stay that way.
And if a big change does occur, it's extremely important that we take actions based on the facts, and based on long-term best practices, rather than throwing up our hands and moaning about the anger of the Google gods. There is no fool-proof way to guarantee that your search rankings will hold fast. Instead, accept that it is a difficult game that has no surefire way to win. Winning isn't about holding a particular ranking--it is about constantly striving to provide searchers with the best information you can, so that they will find and (more importantly) buy from you.
Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, text analytics, and web metrics, who regularly makes speaking appearances.
Mike's previous appearances include Text Analytics World, Rutgers Business School, SEMRush webinar, ClickZ Live.
Mike also founded and writes for Biznology, is the co-author of Outside-In Marketing (with James Mathewson) and the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (now in its 3rd edition, and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.
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