With Google’s recent announcement of taking “another step to reward high quality sites”, it appears they’ve done…a bit more than that. As most of my friends and colleagues come from the darker side of the hat rack, the last two days have been filled with horror stories about how sites ranging from terrible little made for adsense sites up to “I promise it’s true” pure white hat sites are either bouncing around or just plain gone out of the SERPs.
Interestingly, there have been some notable appearances in the SERPs that have left us all scratching our heads wondering what Google meant exactly by rewarding “high quality sites”, but it appears Google is tweaking and fixing these heinous mistakes as I type this. A relatively humorous example (which is now gone luckily) is below:
But this leads me to my biggest point here: Google is constantly tweaking the SERPs. Yes, sometimes (like yesterday) a tweak has a much larger impact than others, but ultimately, they are, and will always be, a moving target. But that doesn’t by any means mean SEO is dead or any other extreme exclamation. As long as there are search engines, there will be SEO. Some things might work better than others in days passed (keyword stuffing used to work great but has ultimately died off…strangely Google highlighted this in their post, but we’ll get to that in a second), but ultimately, you can adapt and conquer even the most major changes the big guys make.
The best advice I can give to any of your right now is to just take a few days off of rank tracking and just let the dust settle before hitting craigslist looking for a 9-5. I can guarantee there will be some bounce backs and reverting of changes Google made this week. They’re a split testing machine, as soon as they deploy something they start tracking the effects on the live traffic in the SERPs.
Now, the thing I found odd about their post to announce these updates, is that they actually provided real examples of things they’ll be targeting. That seems extremely counter to the goal they’re trying to attain: by showing us what they’re penalizing, we can adapt and do new things. The two examples they provide are listed in their post, and the actual page they show that links to pharma sites is here http://profitmonarchs.com/get-fit-using-these-simple-and-easy-methods/.
Now, if you’re going to attack the enemy, you don’t tell them ahead of time. So why would they show us examples? To scare SEOs. The verbiage in their post is relatively unclear, but what they seem to be saying is they’ll be going after obvious examples of spun content and links that have no contextual relevancy to the content they’re in or where they’re coming from. So now the entire Grey Hat SEO world is in a panic and unwilling to do any link building at all for fear of killing their entire site portfolio. Don’t you think that Google might be happy about that?
Most people are interpreting their ranking drops as a “penalty”. I’m willing to bet though, that what they’ve done is devalued low quality links (such as those produced with the default settings of something like senuke, for example), causing a significant drop in link juice to sites who were heavily relying on those low quality links in their backlink profile. This would trigger a cascading effect where dozens of sites are plummeting out of the SERPs, which is why some people are reporting awesome jumps up to the top, probably because they have a good backlink profile.
Negative SEO FTW!
When the announcement came out, some people took it as basically a proclamation that negative SEO was here to stay. But if you look at it from the angle of devaluing links rather than penalizing them, you realize that in reality, what they did is just drop a lot of sites out of the SERPs that arguably didn’t belong there in the first place because they used crappy links to rank in the first place. That’s why all of a sudden big brands are ranking well. They have a ton of links that are usually from big, authoritative sources. When all of the competition drops off, they’re some of the only sites left standing. And if the links are being devalued, that means their effects are nullified, which means something very different than negative SEO (I’m not saying neg SEO isn’t possible, just that Google’s latest announcement isn’t opening that door further).
So in closing: let things settle down before changing up your entire strategy. I have sites that dropped and I have sites that actually went up in the rankings. Give Google some time to figure out what they just did and test in the wild, and then we can all figure out what works best now.
PS: Another fun SERP example “python hosting”:
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