Apparently Google has implemented a new revision to the Panda update –tweak number 25. I know this because it’s bubbling up in my Twitter feed, LinkedIn groups, Google+ stream and various forums where sad people like me hang out.
How do the people feeding all this buzz know about the update? Not from Google. Google doesn’t indulge in communications about this kind of thing. It’s their algorithm and they can tweak if they want to.
In this way, Google is to online marketing what the oracle was to residents of Delphi*. And, like the oracle, it’s served by sybils and priestesses — people we call ‘SEO experts’.
When one of these notices an algorithm change, the buzz spreads across the SEO world like a Lady Gaga sighting spreads through a pack of paparazzi.
They all need to know right away:
- What is the God Google trying to tell us?
- How will it affect my rankings?
- What new tricks will I have to develop – and which old ones will I have to retire – to please the God?
It’s all kind of fun to watch and, as a principal of a B2B content marketing agency that prides itself in our search results, I really should give a shit.
Here’s why I don’t:
Google spends billions tuning its algorithm to do one thing better: serve up the content most relevant to every search.
All the SEOs in the world spend, in aggregate, a small fraction of this amount trying to glean the intent of the algorithm so they can out-smart it for a while and confer a fleeting advantage to their clients.
But what Google is getting better and better at doing is rewarding pages that best serve their intended audiences. NOT rewarding those who best figure out its algorithm.
In the arms race between Google and the SEOs who monitor its every breath and belch, my money is on Google.
That means we will continue to serve our audience without giving Panda a second thought. And we will urge our clients to do the same thing.
Yes, they need to get their SEO hygiene right – so Google spiders can find and understand their content.
Beyond that, putting 100% of our energy into making great content and helping humans discover it is our idea of SEO.
Some of this activity will overlap with the things SEOs tell us to do. Some of it may not. But it’s a strategy that will inevitably come good in the long run.
What I’m not saying is that SEOs don’t add value. They do. They show us some non-intuitive things that Google equates with user-friendliness. Without them, for example, I wouldn’t have known that page load times make a big impact on rankings. Or that telling stories in lots of different media boosts your chances of ranking well. Or that Author Rank is growing in importance.
But, given a limited amount of time, budget and energy, I’d invest somewhere between 99.5% and 100% of it thinking about making more valuable, interesting, entertaining and useful content and sharing it as widely as possible within its target universe.
If there’s any time, budget or energy left over, I might check out Google’s latest algorithm tweak.
I’m glad SEOs are there to interpret the ways of Google for the rest of us. And I’m glad that, because they exist, I don’t have to master the arcane art.
But the premise I’m trying to sell here is this: a brand that slavishly serves its audience will out-perform a brand that slavishly serves Google.
Do your job and let Google do theirs. You’ll no doubt meet again at the top of the search results page.
* If my memory serves (who am I kidding: if Wikipedia is right), Delphi was a major site for the worship of the god Apollo after he slew Python, a dragon who lived there to protect the navel of the Earth. Substitute “the god Apollo” with “Google”; “a dragon who lived there” with “Rand Fishkin” and “the navel of the Earth” with “web traffic” and the analogy is complete. (No offense, Rand. I mean, who else would we trust with our navel defenses?)
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