As a blogger who can't tell a Panda from a Penguin, at least the ones prowling on the web, I decided to investigate when I noticed changes in the Google search results of my posts and was told I might be the victim of the pair of these lovely creatures. Happily, I also noticed significant increase in visits to my blog from Google.
As they were intended to maul the mal-practitioners of SEO badly enough to ensure a cleanup of the ecosystem of the Web, Google must have chosen, names like Panda and Penguin for its ferocious algorithms, with a purpose.
If Google counted on lovable creatures like Panda and Penguin to assuage the mayhem it intended to unleash on its own support network, albeit with a good purpose to weed away the undesired, it seems to have created only bad blood.
Surely, Google intended only to cleanup SEO, not banish it or set off a turf war on who got the millions of Dollars thrown away by business in the name of SEO.
The truth and Irony is, if SEO will eventually die, it will not be because of these poor creatures who take the blame but on account of Google's own measures to personalize search for each of us.
Like all ethical rules Google play to, personalized search may be what we want and even be the best thing for us but it takes away all other definitions of natural selection of what is most relevant.
The Great SEO Turf War Of 2012
The trouble started when influencers like Forbes magazine declared "Google is in the process of making the SEO industry obsolete, SEO will be dead in two years." and appeared to advice the Industry "not to waste any more money on SEO".
An Article by Ken Krogue titled "The Death Of SEO: The Rise of Social, PR and Real Content" appeared to lead to a turf war between SEO Heavy weights who were miffed by the advice being given to business to save millions of dollars spent on SEO and the evangelists of PR eager to be rehabilitated together with the new breed of Social Media Gurus, who will love a piece of the cake.
"By definition SEO "games" the system with Google to get your content artificially ranked higher than it should be. Sure there is "white hat" SEO practices and "black hat" SEO practices. Black Hat is very obvious gaming of the system, and White Hat is just more subtle. The bottom line is that all SEO is counterfeit."
It was blanket statements like these which rattled the cage and infuriated ardent SEO practitioners who came up with stinging attack of Ken's assertions with comments and arguments justifying SEO like the ones below.
"SEO is not dead... SEO is evolving... it is shifting towards target based marketing.. instead of just practicing few things for getting first page or getting more customers."
"I just don't see how SEO can die if search engines still exist. SEO is the practice of optimizing your website so that it ranks well in search engines. In the end the practice of SEO will be around as long as there is search engines. It's really that simple."
Ken Krouge's grouse appeared to be that strong research, great copy writing, compelling video, interested social communities, publicity, intriguing design, journalism, etc., is content that originated from other disciplines, yet the SEO industry is adopting them all for their own and then saying they are "SEO" and that good "SEO" covers everything.
The point Ken appeared to miss is if all of the above are part of the great and real content he insists what websites must put in front of Google's search spiders, how can there be SEO which doesn't just deal with all of those but capable of fine tuning for best results?
He also compromised his assertion that SEO will be dead by stating that eventually all agreed that onsite, internal, or technical SEO is more important than ever (the practice of making your content adhere to best practices so Google ranks you high).
Ken concluded his dig on SEO by saying when the end of summer of 2014 comes around, he will eagerly look to see that SEO as we knew it is dead, and something new and better has taken its place.
I was curious to find out if Ken's prediction is on its way to happen and how much the SEO has transformed to take on the New Google.
As no one is likely to admit anything, I set out surveying the aftermath of Google's mayhem searching for new and upcoming practitioners oriented to meet the new challenges which came out of the great war of 2012.
Has Google's Penguin Bitten?
No one (except Google perhaps?) really knows exactly how the Panda and Penguin and their various updates have worked and caused and how much irrevocable damage to the SEO fraternity.
Naturally, the SEO specialists who have been affected and consequently lost their contracts and revenues do not come forward, at least in public. However a new generation of real marketers seem to know how to repair the damage and take corrective actions as part of the service they offer.
Google has zeroed in on duplicate content and now shows only the authority sites where I have recently published in the search results and ignore numerous syndications and reposting on my own blog. On the other hand It looks like Google is showing my own blog posts more prominently, sending more visitors for the search terms I have used.
What is not clear is how Penguin has affected big content providers like NewsCred who engage in generating in-house content by big corporations and its distribution through syndication. NewsCred has recently blogged assurances about how Google does not object to legitimate syndication.
How Google Will Rule the Roost Over Search and Our Lives?
What is not noticed in the battlefield of SEO is how Google is implementing its own scheme of total control of search and your life by it, making any form of SEO less relevant.
It is already clear that as long as people continue to use Google as the default engine & Google continues to push organic results further down the page or below the fold then any form of SEO will effectively be obsolete before long.
Recent changes and consolidation of Google's own products including Google+ have significant influence on how search will be personalized and how results can be presented. This is what one expert had to say:
"I think we can all agree that how we used to define SEO has changed forever.
I took note of six major changes by Google over the past year that really dented the traditional SEO process. But perhaps most profound is the personalization of search rankings with the "Search + your world" change earlier this year.
Now, you and I can search for the same term and get wildly different results, and even more so if we are logged into our Google account (remember, it's just one account now, so that is Gmail, analytics, YouTube, G+, doesn't matter).
Purists simply say, "just log out of Google and you will see the non-personalized rankings." But when roughly 30% of surfers appear to be logged in (and rising) just who is seeing the "natural" rankings? As a result, the notion of tracking Page 1 rankings is probably dead."
Did Google Really Kill SEO With Panda and Penguin After All?
So having reached the halfway mark of lifetime predicted by Ken Krogue, which was two years, Is SEO still alive?
At least one former SEO is known to have folded up and gone in to Pickle business. That's about it.
"The reality is that after the Penguin update and Google's 500 changes a year and more, search engine optimization doesn't make sense anymore. It's more a gamble than a business. With SEO in 2012, search engines are pretty much 100% in control of your destiny. They change algorithms like underwear."
There are no official data of any sort readily available on the state of the SEO Industry except a biennial report produced by MOZ.com.
According to their report for 2012, nearly a year in to Ken's prediction, and after Google's Penguin, the SEO industry is well and thriving despite a lingering doom on industry in general.
"While I admit that I'm biased, the one thing I see the most in our industry is optimism, even in a struggling economy. Companies are hiring and building new offices, new tools are exploding on the scene, and niche conferences are popping up every week. It should be an exciting two years, and we look forward to checking back in with you in 2014."
At least one report say the SEO market in the UK alone was worth £ 500 Million last year.
So by all reckoning, SEO is not dead yet even though what the Industry is doing may be totally different.
Better luck Ken, for 2014.
SEO Will Never Die But Will Evolve
Many who articulated their objection to Ken Krouge's assertions were emphatic about their belief that SEO will never die as long as Search Engines were around because they needed them.
Here is an interesting infographic on how the myth of "SEO Is Dead" survives like a zombie after each attack.
As per some experts apart from treating Content with great expertise, an evolved SEO will be called up on for:
An SEO today (or in the future) must encompass a variety of skills and they include:
1) Social media marketing
2) Information architecture
3) An understanding of interface design and how a site can be designed with the user in mind
4) User experience. With great user experience comes popularity and better qualified traffic that actually converts. What is an SEO without actually measuring conversions and generating leads?
5) An SEO MUST analyze, measure and reform their efforts through Google analytics or other measurement tools. These numbers are essential and will be more so in the future.
The future is engagement (even though it has started, but not there yet) and if an SEO can apply all of the above, they should be fine.
Why Small Businesses Need Savvy Marketing Companies Now More Than Ever?
The impact of Google's measures have warranted an evolution of not only the SEO but the whole range of services rendered to business and individuals as 'Internet Marketing.'
However the pace of change is so fast and dynamic, it is not clear who is keeping up and who is lagging behind.
As content in any form is the centerpiece of the new ecosystem of the Web, it actually becomes incumbent on any provider, big or small of such services to be not only fully aware of the exigencies laid down by Google but also have mastery of content creation and its dispersion in the system.
A growing number of experts have argued that business should gear up to do this in house and many big corporations are already doing it and even monetizing on it.
However this is not a feasible proposition for small business which will need to depend on specialist providers.
It's clear that the marketing industry is turning toward original content to deliver value, but for small businesses and agencies, the time and costs involved can make it seem like a tactic reserved for those with the biggest budgets. There's a definite race to meet these demands, and I feel that technology will continue to the equalizer that allows smaller companies to compete.
With that in mind, I decided to find if there are such providers around, for a start in Utah, which appeared to be the capital of SEO from the discussions on the SEO war.
Rather than established names like SEOBOOK and SEARCHENGINEJOURNAL or DISTILLED.NET, etc, I did look out for relatively unknown start-ups in Utah.
What caught my attention of this start-up called TOFU marketing is a rare blog post by its owner Chris Kilbourn on how to recover from a Penguin attack. So I decided to throw a few questions at him to see how much awareness there is about the need for a reformed SEO.
Here are the answers.
The name TOFU Marketing is a little unusual for what you do, Is there any particular reason?
TOFU is a loose acronym for Top of the Funnel. It's a common term in the internet marketing industry for marketing used to pull traffic into your sales funnel.
We chose it because we do Top of the Funnel marketing for our clients, tofu is a healthy food and "healthy marketing" is our motto, and it's easy to spell, say and remember.
What has been your company's biggest achievement so far?
We doubled the traffic of 75% of our clients, such as Haymore Endodontics, within 30 days.
In the light of Panda and Penguin, what is your approach to SEO?
Keep it healthy. We oppose all forms of spam and unethical means of SEO. It's given our clients a distinct advantage, especially in light of Google's recent release of Penguin 2.0.
Writing great content that people love and becoming active in the industry is extremely important.
How do you intend to tackle Google's monopolizing search functionality?
We adapt. There's always best practices that Google encourages business to pursue, and we follow them to a T.
Google will evolve and we will evolve with it, but companies that create products and content that their users love will always prevail.
They say genuine content is the way forward, how do you intend to get your clients this?
Our clients have access to excellent writers that they can utilize or they can delegate the responsibility to an employee.
For example, we utilize the employees of Underwater Audio, to write blog content to become leaders in the swimming industry.
Do you think engaging good content providers in your team is inevitable in the future?
The Internet is comprised of content. Eventually, the best content will be pushed to the top and the companies providing that content will win in their space.
Because of this, I believe that it's essential to provide great content.
Semantic Web Technology?
Semantic Web Technology -- The Next Big Hurdle for SEO?
The new potential challenge for any SEO evolved out of the current revolution is likely to be the addition of Social Semantic Web Technology.
The Semantic Web is a system that enables machines to "understand" and respond to complex human requests based on their meaning. Such an "understanding" requires that the relevant information sources be semantically structured
This will impose new requirement on coding of the website and the way it is built and organized for the search engines to read it. This will be the new way that Google decides search rank. The easier it is for your site to be crawled, the easier it is for your content to be properly indexed, the faster your position will increase.
Those who are aware and building their strategy to deal with Semantic Web will be the ones which will survive the mayhem unleashed by Panda and Penguin on the web.