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Jennifer Kyrnin

Why Google has become less relevant to me—It's a Love/Hate relationship at best

By April 11, 2012

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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.

April 11, 2012 at 1:06 pm
(1) Tim says:

“I feel like I have knowledge about how to create sites that are both readable, useful to customers, and optimized for search engines.”

I know what you mean. It seems it’s suddenly “wrong” to do all three. It’s like Google is rewarding those ignorant to SEO, simply because they’re ignorant to SEO.

April 11, 2012 at 3:09 pm
(2) David Brooks says:

I once heard it said that Google’s optimal business model is to make it’s organic results just mediocre enough that people click on ads. There’s a lot of truth in that.

April 11, 2012 at 5:54 pm
(3) Jennifer Kyrnin says:

@David: it sure seems that way! G claims to penalize sites that have too many ads above the fold. I guess it’s lucky for them that they don’t judge their results that way. :-)

@Tim: that’s sort of what Danny Sullivan said in his shark-jumping article (referenced in the above post), that Google is doing this more to appease claims from non-SEOers that SEO is gaming than they are to really make results better.

I honestly don’t mind when I’m out ranked by sites that really are better than mine. But I get tired of seeing mediocre sites and outright copies get better ranking. That’s why I use Bing. :-)

April 11, 2012 at 7:16 pm
(4) Beth Peterson says:

I thoroughly agree with you, Jennifer!! Well said! :D

April 17, 2012 at 7:22 am
(5) Lyn says:

I think there may be some over-reaction to Matt Cutts’ comments. Reading the “over-optimization” piece a little more, it seems you would really have to go over the top in using a given keyword phrase repeatedly to incur a penalty like that. I’m not changing anything I do, because I’ve never gone into, for instance, duplicating a target phrase in the TITLE element. Keep producing good content, write in natural language, and you won’t appear to be ‘gaming’ the SEO.

April 17, 2012 at 12:49 pm
(6) Ronnie says:

You can bet Google’s reason is money.

Half of my friends use adblock on firefox, we never even see the ads. In a class we were polled for using paid ads. One student explained it as “Never, because anyone can pay to get better placement, the best site in organic search is really the best.”

Google is trying to stir up that pot, to keep people jumping. Maybe they think the bad sites not filtered from organic search will up results for paid ads. Not me, I agree, go to Bing.

April 19, 2012 at 4:10 am
(7) Mick Lehr says:

Actually; the Panda algorithm changeover is to get companies to use PPC. PPC is how Google profits.

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