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The SEO Panda Prescription: Think Like Google

Mark Jackson
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For the past several weeks, just about everyone that I know has written a column about Google's Panda update. Yes, it was/is a big deal. Yes, some sites that shouldn't have been affected are being affected. Yes, some sites that are affected should have been affected. And, I'm quite certain that "on the whole," the update has been a success.

People are so busy reading all of these columns that my friends are writing that they may not be keeping their heads where they should have been, all along.

"If I Were Google"

People who have followed my columns for any amount of time know that I'm not one of those guys who reads what everyone else has to say and then writes my own version of the latest hot topic. I've pretty much maintained my same frame of mind when it comes to writing for Search Engine Watch, or overseeing search engine optimization (SEO) initiatives for my company.

That same philosophy? I try to put myself in the position of Google.

Google is not the enemy. No. Google is your friend, if you let them be.

They don't have to rank you. We're lucky to have a resource such as Google, and you're very lucky to get any amount of traffic from them.

So, would you lie to your friends? Would you pretend to be anything other than what you are? Would you try, in any way, to con them or trick them?

I hope your answer, "no, that's not how friends should be." That's exactly the point. Friends should be true to themselves and a true friend should allow you to be true to yourself.

Now, that's not to say that people don't grow to become "better." If I'm a success at all, today, it's only because I put in a lot of effort in years past to earn the right to be successful.

It didn't happen quickly. It didn't happen overnight. I didn't win the lottery.

True, some people (and businesses) win the lottery. They manage to somehow cut short some things that have taken the rest of us years to earn. For the rest of us, we must focus on what it means to "make ourselves better."

Be True To Yourself: Make Yourself (Your Web Presence) Better

While there are areas of SEO that can get quite complicated, the high level stuff really isn't that complicated.

The foundation of "who you are" (who your business is) is your website. Make it deep and meaningful.

One way of doing this is by maintaining a blog on your domain or otherwise finding ways to position yourself/your company as a thought leader within your Industry. More often than not, your blog becomes the foundation of your thought leadership.

You can also find an Industry publication and do some "off-page" SEO by writing resourceful/helpful content and earning links in your by-line.

Rules of engagement:

  • Write meaningful posts.
  • Help people.
  • Solve problems.
  • Promote these posts, socially and otherwise.

Guess what? Even if you're not writing for an industry publication, but instead writing on your own blog, you will earn links. They didn't come easy, but — in life, and in business — it's not supposed to work that way. Google wouldn't want it to be easy, either.

No trickery involved. There certainly is strategy involved. You can't just blindly go out there and start writing a bunch of crap.

Do You Completely Ignore Algorithm Updates?

No.

To be a successful SEO, we all must do a ton of reading, research, and testing. When a major change comes around, we must be prudent.

Let's look at the definition of the word "prudent":

  • Discreet or cautious in managing one's activities; circumspect
  • Practical and careful in providing for the future
  • Exercising good judgment or common sense
  • Careful about one's conduct; circumspect.

When the Panda update had a material negative impact on one of our clients, I didn't go into "freak out" mode. I thought about what this new algorithm may be having a problem with and what we could do to provide a better user experience while also addressing the core issue. My team didn't jump to any immediate conclusions.

Our advice to our client who was, legitimately, concerned about a dip in natural search traffic? We need to wait. We need to see if Google corrects some things with this Panda update (which they did), and then — after collecting more information, reading about other's experience/participating in forums/chatting with other trusted Industry friends, we were able to make an intelligent decision on a recommendation.

It was a prudent recommendation that was based mostly on understanding that what we were putting into place was something that benefitted the user and, in this manner, we believed would also benefit their presence in Google, and other search engines.

The recommendation wasn't something built entirely on "what we need to do to address this algorithm change." If you constantly chase algorithms, you'll always be reactive to changes.

If you can be a bit more prudent, and think "if I were Google," you might actually get in front of the many changes that the search engines make each year, and build a presence that should stand the test of time.


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