As expected, I’m seeing lots of “2011 in review” and “predictions for 2012” posts in my reader and inbox. One topic that’s showing up again and again is Panda. If you’ve not heard of Google Panda, here is a quick overview straight from the horse’s mouth…

“Our goal is simple: to give people the most relevant answers to their queries as quickly as possible. This requires constant tuning of our algorithms, as new content—both good and bad—comes online all the time.” – Google Webmaster Blog, from the Panda Announcement

In an effort to eliminate spam and irrelevant search results, Google has spent the past year making major updates as well as minor tweaks to their search algorithm (code-named Panda). Basically, Google is working to improve the user experience of the people using their search tool by eliminating the junk from the listings.

We are often asked about different “tricks” for showing up higher in the search results. Our clients are inundated with conflicting information about the best ways to rank in Google. But, look back at what Google says about its own updates…

“…give people the most relevant answers to their queries as quickly as possible.”

What’s the secret? Produce a quality website that offers quality information, correctly and effectively. Think about the user and stop trying to game the system. Instead focus on the user experience. What does the user want or need? How will they find it and what will they do with it once they have?

Instead of trying to implement SEO tactics trying to fool the search engines into listing your site higher than your competition, focus on writing useful content that is rich with keywords. This means your site has a content strategy focusing on targeting a specific user with information they want.

And when you’ve produced this content, share it. Use your social channels and affiliates to promote and share this content with your target audience. These social signals and back-links to your site will help Google’s spiders find your content and rank it appropriately.

I am not saying that all SEO consists of tricks. It is important to optimize a site for search engine visibility (H1 tags, page titles, meta descriptions, ALT attributes) and make sure you are creating links back to that site. Just keep in mind that if something seems too easy or a little shady, there might be something to that.

The problem with tactics is that they rely on the idea that you know something Google doesn’t. You can try and fool Google by using duplicate content, useless landing pages outside of your site, keyword stuffing, and other “black hat” tactics. But do you really want to go toe to toe with Google? You will lose.

Isn’t it better to focus on delivering value to those that matter most, your clients? Isn’t it a better strategy to be a resource for clients, potential clients and referral sources? Of course it is. And judging by the way things are going with Panda this is going to matter more and more in the future.

So, our advice? Stop gaming the system. The only proven SEO “tactic” is hard work, research and providing value to the targeted user.

Do you agree? Let us know your thoughts on SEO tactics.

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Jon-Mikel Bailey - Before co-founding Wood Street in 2002, Jon worked in sales, marketing and business development for technology and marketing firms. A popular speaker, he gives seminars on marketing, internet marketing, branding and web design to chambers of commerce, trade associations and colleges. He has a BFA in Photography from Frostburg State University and still shoots photos for Wood Street clients.

5 Responses to “Stop Trying to Game the System
  • Message
    Sound and practical advice, Jon! Let’s face it, gaming the system is simply a practice that lazy people use. They need to either suck it up and develop great content themselves, or ante up the money to pay someone to develop great content for them.

  • Finally, an SEO article that doesn’t make me want to shoot myself! It’s totally obvious when website content is created for “SEO” … for a user, it’s maddening. It’s so much easier and more effective to create websites for humans, not Google robots. Thanks for being a voice of reason.

  • Great article. I think it’s pretty clear now that Google is going to continue to weed out bad results and content that tries to trick their crawlers. I believe in the long term creating content that’s appealing to humans is going to beat out the stuff made for crawlers. You can only fool the mighty Google for so long!

  • YES!! Couldn’t agree with your more Jon! …

    I’ll give you a PERFECT example ::
    (is number 1 for that?)

    That article was NOT written to “game the system” .. instead I did my best to make a USEFUL “how to” article.

    Now, that page draws a bunch of comments and backlinks, which feed their “SEO juices” up to our other pages (helping them rank).

    In short, it’s all about users & their behavior. You think Google doesn’t look at analytics metrics when it’s determining ranking? (I haven’t read the entire EULA, but they have all the data.. so they COULD use it anytime they wanted).

    Buried in one of Google’s patents you’ll find documentation that alludes to Google using user engagement of the SERPs as a ranking factor… .

    Imagine you do a search, click on the first result, then press back to return to the SERP.. now you click on the third result which brings you to a beautiful page that answers your question.. so you close your browser and go make a cup of tea (that part is clearly irrelevant 🙂

    What did Google see? Search, click #1, return in 2.1 seconds, click on #3, never return.

    That gives a little “SEO Juice” to the website that was in position #3.. all because their content/site was a better USER EXPERIENCE.

    So yeah Jon, great article.. thanks for putting it together and staying white hat my friend 🙂

    • Great example Arsham. That spells it out perfectly. User experience and SEO go hand in hand.

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