Google's Algorithm Changes Throw Marketers, New Study Comes To Rescue

Panda-PenguinChanges in Google's search engine ranking algorithm, which many know as Panda and Penguin, have some brand marketers giving up on optimization strategies. Google announced another Panda update earlier this week, suggesting only 1.2% of English queries were affected -- this time.

Many companies affected by the 24 Google algorithm updates never recovered. An upcoming PM Digital study literally dissects passages in Google's guidelines to provides 30 tactics to improve today's SEO techniques through off-page signals, location, relevance and recent information.

"I've heard marketers tell me, 'we've given up on Google organic'," said Clay Cazier, senior director of natural search strategy at PM Digital. "Everyone's really freaked out about Penguin, but I don't know why. Google's been telling us about this for the past 10 years."

Cazier analyzes passages in Google's guidelines to define principles that will drive better performance from Google's algorithm in 2013. He attempts to clarify the ongoing value of traditional link-building and explore ways to supply the off-page signals of social previously supplied by links alone.

Pay more attention to incoming links that are immune to future updates, such as the Better Business Bureau or the Chamber of Commerce, Cazier said. He also suggests that marketers monitor Google Alerts for authoritative people who may blog about the brand but forgot the link.

Marketers need to begin thinking differently when optimizing pages because Google has changed the search game by bringing off-page factors to bear on organic rankings. They should target links found through what Cazier calls competitive coincidence -- a mention of the brand along with relative keywords -- rather than focusing on directories that are "free," a word that inherently remains flawed.

Compile a list of sources of incoming links for sites that already rank well in Google for your top keyword.

Marketers working on sites in the U.K., for example, need to focus on local U.K. links, according to the report. That made the difference for search engine query ranking when working on the site for Berks Beads. While the guidelines don't measure link quantity, Cazier plans to analyze that next.

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11 comments about "Google's Algorithm Changes Throw Marketers, New Study Comes To Rescue".
  1. Maryanne Conlin from RedRopes Digital/4GreenPs , January 24, 2013 at 6:09 p.m.
    Basically stop playing games - feature great content and reach out to influencers to create great content
  2. Dennis Hart from AnalyticsSEO , January 24, 2013 at 7:39 p.m.
    May sound strange coming from an SEO technology company, but the best strategy is to provide the best quality site you possibly can. Provide information that your users will love and make sure that the search engines can find you. Tricks are short lived. There are plenty of things you can do that are extremely effective at communicating the value of your site to the search engines, but start with a great site.
  3. Clay Cazier from PM Digital , January 25, 2013 at 9:06 a.m.
    Thank you for the write-up Laurie. Google has been telling us for years what's good vs. bad in terms of link building. Penguin finally enforced it. With that in mind, what else has Google told us in 2012 that could help us understand post-Penguin link building? To answer that, I went to the InsideSearch updates and saw themes of relevance, locality and freshness that shed new light on traditional link building tactics. In a way, I assume many of the 30 link building tactics outlined in the full PDF may be familiar to digital marketers but, in the same way, I assumed no one would have been surprised by Penguin ... For readers interested in reading the full PDF, I believe the link will be posted here soon!
  4. Tom Pick from KC Associates , January 25, 2013 at 9:27 a.m.
    Excellent points Laurie, and this illustrates why marketers need to broaden their focus from just SEO to web presence optimization (WPO). The efforts of the entire marketing and PR team need to be coordinated in order to maximize a company's overall online visibility (owned, earned and paid media), rather than narrowly focusing on ranking this page for that keyword.
  5. Kevin Lee from Didit , January 25, 2013 at 11:34 a.m.
    The solution to great SEO is and always has been great content properly promoted. Unfortunately, that's labor intensive and not all "laborers" are the same quality, so that's why a great internal team with a great agency is the best way to go. Just like PR, SEO is an ongoing investment.
  6. Reg Charie from DotCom-Productions , January 26, 2013 at 12:28 a.m.
    I think you have it backwards when you state: "Marketers need to begin thinking differently when optimizing pages because Google has changed the search game by bringing off-page factors to bear on organic rankings. They have not. Google has been shutting down and enforcing off page factors to the point where any link building to influence SEO is now black hat. Penguin was a recalculation of a site's link profile (PageRank), removing the influence of off topic PR. As they had previously turned off PR as a SEO factor, it was done with the effects of PR turned on for the recalculation and then turned off again. They did not, as a lot of people surmise, target anchor text by the percentage of use, but used the anchor text found on non-relevant link pages as a basis for penalties. Links placed on non-relevant pages are never organic and are instances of the link profile trying to influence their results, and thus the anchor text could safely be used for a basis for their penalties. In organic linking, anchor text is not under the control of the site owner or their assigns, and Google fully understands this and would not penalize by percentages.
  7. Domenico Tassone from Viewthrough Measurement Consortium , January 26, 2013 at 2:05 p.m.
    The premise of this cat-and-mouse game further serves Google, just like the move to obfuscate organic keyword referrer data in the name of "security"... More here: http://goo.gl/a6SSQ (Ironically)
  8. Reg Charie from DotCom-Productions , January 26, 2013 at 3:42 p.m.
    @Domenico Google is out to get organic SEOers. Too many of those doing SEO are trying to fool Google's results instead of working with them and they have declared war. Have you seen articles on the "randomizing" patent? I like to call it: " Google introduces the "We are going to screw with the heads of the SEO people" patent. Rather than allow the rankings to respond immediately and directly to those changes, the patent explains a system that would change rankings in unexpected, counter-intuitive ways - while the rankings change from a first position through transition positions and to the final "target rank" position. In other words, significant changes in position continue to happen even though there is no change in page's ranking factors! http://seo-mentoring.ca/googles-mind-games-updated-a-16.html
  9. Pete Austin from Triggered Messaging , January 28, 2013 at 11:16 a.m.
    "I've heard marketers tell me, 'we've given up on Google organic'," - Excellent! Less competition for the rest of us.
  10. Warren Lee from SEO-CUBED.COM , January 28, 2013 at 3:16 p.m.
    Don't forget about the importance of website architectural considerations. Panda and Penguin updates are no reason to "give up on organic search", they ARE a reason to give up a few spammer methods you may have been using.This goes to show that many marketers really do not understand that there are also many important technical aspects of SEO.
  11. James Hobson from E-Platform Marketing, LLC , March 6, 2013 at 9:16 a.m.
    I think that it is beneficial to sometimes step back and look at the big picture. Too many SEO people first drill down on specific tasks in an attempt to manipulate metrics that they think contributes to a "magic formula". The bottom line, in my opinion, is that Google seeks to filter the ranking system from easy manipulation. Accordingly, measuring traffic and interaction from real (verified) people/accounts makes things more trustworthy. At the base value, if Google perceives that your site gets steady/growing interest and appreciation from "real people" then your site will benefit.