Petting the Soft Nice Dancing Panda

Petting the Soft Nice Dancing Panda

On July 18th, Google confirmed the rollout of the 26th update to its Panda algorithm, which Matt Cutts confirmed occurs monthly. Many webmasters are claiming recovery from previous Panda rank drops. This Panda seems to be the softer, gentler Panda.

Where updates in the past have been a cudgel, this update is a finely honed surgeon’s scalpel. Google has stated it will no longer confirm Panda refreshes. The last Panda update was back in March. Over at Search Engine Land, they are calling this the “Panda Dance”, alluding to the old “Google Dance” days where ranking fluctuations were experienced during monthly update rollouts.

Why do we care?

Web marketers and SEO folk can be a little obsessive about all things Google. It’s interesting that after a major algorithm update people start writing about how content should have value and backlinks profiles should not only appear natural but be natural, and “No! No! No!” don’t keyword stuff  and for the love of God watch your exact-match anchors etc, etc, etc. In essence, many articles are common sense and seem to say “Just write good content and grow your web presence naturally and all will be well”.

If so many are writing articles and so many are consuming them could it mean that the many SEOs in one way or another were trying to game the system prior to Penguin and Panda? Why else would they be so concerned? I’d guess that many including me, were in small ways trying the manipulate ranking. Back when I first began my career as a sometime Vancouver BC SEO and web designer — a pure-as-snow, blue-eyed web innocent — I thought that playing by the rules would win the day in the long run. I thought that black hats might win short-term but they risked a lot long term. They didn’t risk much it seems. They were rewarded thus the pressure on all to get in the game even if only in a small way. The black hats made hay while the sun shone and their days were bright for a long, long time.

Nice guys finished last…for awhile

I, like many, noticed so many low quality spam sites or Adsense sites visible in the top of the SERPs. Wait a sec! This is unfair…we played fairly! Waaaaah! Nice, innocent, rules abiding web marketers caved in to the harsh realities of life in the ranking wars. Google was letting nice guys finish last. Okay, that’s an overstatement, but playing by the rules wasn’t working as it should.

It became much like being a track and field competitor.  If you are running in a race where many competitors are juicing and you aren’t, do you really hope to win? That is what got us where we are. Crap sites, scraped content, ad-driven sites, and people effectively gaming the system with impunity for quite some time.

The new rule for otherwise honest people became, “I’ll play by the rules…most of the time”. Many SEOs became “off-white hats”. They had bills to pay, bosses or clients to please. Frequently, I’ve seen the following type of description in an employment ad for an SEO or web marketing position: “Your job? Achieve page 1 ranking in the SERPs in 6 months.”  Easy peasy, right? Let me at it!  That is part of the problem. People using SEO often see it as an add-on, when it should be, to keep with the sports metaphor, a marathon not a sprint. Companies looking for a “guru” may as well advertise for a magician who can conjure ranking.

Getting ranking and traffic is hard work, achieved by rolling up sleeves and getting down to it. Anyone who guarantees ranking is basically lying. Unless you pay for Google Ads, there is no guarantee. Only one thing is certain: websites generally perform much better with good on-page SEO, good content, content marketing, and a strong social media presence.

After Panda and Penguin were rolled out there was fear for many, but for me there was also a sense of relief. It would be a great day when playing by the rules put you out front and put the black hats in the “also ran” category where they belong. That vision is still somewhat distant but it is there on the horizon if you squint and shield your eyes from the sun.

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