Last year Google released a change to their search ranking algorithm that devastated a lot of websites. It was called Panda after the programmer who had the most impact on the algorithm. When Panda released, many websites that had been enjoying good rankings and search referrals from Google were suddenly out in the cold. Here at About.com, we referred to this as being “Panda slapped.” Then in March of this year Google announced an over-optimization penalty that has got web content freaking out yet again. If you read my article from Tuesday (Stop Optimizing Old Content and Start Adding New Content) you know that you’re better off just continuing to write new content for your sites than you are trying to figure out whether you are over-optimized and fixing it. In fact, Danny Sullivan over at Marketing Land thnks that this may be the point at which Google has “Jumped the Shark”. And I agree with him.
Google claims that the best way to get high ranking in their search engine is by “writing high quality content,” but when asked to define what that is, their answer is generally “Google knows what high quality is.” Personally, I gave up on searching with Google about three months ago because I was tired of getting results from how to sites that seem to focus on getting just the question up and then a bunch of ads, forums where the same question I have is asked but never answered, or a site that anyone in the world can edit where the contents may be accurate or may not with no way for me to know, and PR/marketing sites for corporations to pedal their wares to me. I use Bing almost exclusively now. Bing doesn’t seem to be trying to tell me what sites are “best” according to their hidden agenda.
Don’t get me wrong. I still need to focus on and worry about Google. While this site wasn’t Panda slapped, I have seen a downturn after the over-optimization penalties were put in place. Thus when I read Matt Cutts saying:
All those people who have sort of been doing, for lack of a better word, “over optimization” or “overly” doing their SEO, compared to the people who are just making great content and trying to make a fantastic site, we want to sort of make that playing field a little bit more level.
It makes me want to hit something. I’ve been working on creating and building great content for nearly 15 years now. I am constantly striving to make this site something fantastic and amazing and useful to my readers. But apparently, I was actually “over-optimizing” it and overly doing my SEO, at least in the great G’s algorithms. I have been trying to teach people how to build and maintain websites to the best of my abilities. And yes, that includes doing SEO.
I Still Have to Focus on Google—Even if I Don’t Want To
These days I’m at a loss. I feel like I have knowledge about how to create sites that are both readable, useful to customers, and optimized for search engines. I have never advocated using spammy, black hat techniques for getting good rankings. And in fact I have several articles talking about spammy SEO and why not to use them. I have been writing about content being king since the very first year I started writing for About.com. So, to say I feel a bit picked on by Google at the moment is probably an understatement.
Hopefully, this new strategy of Google to undermine the efforts of SEO developers to create content that is relevant to their readers and provides useful signals to search engines will backfire or change to a more anti-spam, less anti-SEO stance. If they decided to start providing fewer links to obvious spammers and went back to links to actual content I might consider using them again.
e.g. Do a search for "seo" on Google right now and see if you can find companies that have just slapped some random content into a template in the first few results. I found the first one around rank #8. Really, Google? That’s a high quality site?
But until then, I’ll stick with Bing for my own research and only use Google when I want to know where sites I manage are ranking.