So on the eve of MozCon 2012 we find out Google will be rolling out the Panda 3.9 updates. At first I thought it was a joke, alas it is not. This perfectly timed update may look like a slap in the face to SEOs, but I can assure you it’s far from that. Panda 3.9 is going to make waves, but the sky isn’t falling.
Why Did Google Do This?
Now here’s a question I don’t have the answer to, but I’ll take a guess at it. I think the Google web spam team wants to crash the party and make these updates -+the talk of MozCon 2012. I don’t think it was an accident that they chose this night to roll it out, but I don’t think it’s entirely malicious towards SEOs.
At first glance it looks pretty bad. Some of the top SEOs in the world are coming to Seattle to meet up face to face, learn some new stuff and of course party like a rock star at night. Then the night before it starts Google rolls out this huge algorithm change when all these folks are away from their offices, and ruins the conference because now all these SEOs are flooded with calls from their customers and stressed out over dropping rankings. Sounds pretty evil from a company that prides itself against doing evil, right?
But that’s not how things are going to go in the next few days. Here’s why:
Only 1% of the sites in the index will be affected.
Honest SEOs will likely see no change or an improvement to their rankings.
The webmasters of the sites likely to be hit hardest already know they’re doing something wrong.
In theory it will be only spammy sites dropped from the index.
The Best SEOs Aren’t Worried
If you think Rand Fishkin and the SEOMoz employees are losing sleep tonight over this you haven’t been paying attention lately. The best SEOs at this convention will be checking their rankings and watching the news, but they aren’t going to be worried. If you start doing things the way they do, you won’t have to worry about these updates anymore either.
If your site sees a drastic ranking drop tonight, you’re either doing something wrong, or your site is collateral damage.
There are always a few casualties of these updates, because no web spam algorithm is perfect. But the majority of the sites affected will have had it coming. In 2012 there are still people who think they can outsmart some of the most creative and intelligent engineers on the planet. In the past you could outsmart Google’s crawler, sometimes for quite a while, but we’re quickly reaching the point where it’s a waste of time to even try anymore.
If you’re doing black hat stuff, hopefully it’s on a throwaway domain because it’s more risky than ever.
I’ve been saying this for a while but it gets more true by the day. Black Hat SEO will still work sometimes, but it’s riskier than ever. If you’re doing anything even remotely Black Hat it’s just a matter of time before you’re caught.
So What Can I Do Now?
If you have a website you actually care about and you want long term success, the formula is pretty simple.
Follow Google’s Direction - They actually give you really good guidelines for keeping it clean. Read them, know them and follow them.
Focus on your content - All the time you would spend asking for links and/or spamming should be time spent working on your site. Build your site up from the inside.
Give people a reason to show up - If your site is pure eCommerce you will need to create unique content. If your site is just a funnel towards affiliate links it’s going to become a ghost town.
Clean up the house - Do all the on page optimization you can think of. Clean, crawlable html, no orphan pages and good quality site structure. Make it as easy as possible for Google to find your data.
Use social media to your advantage - This is how you build links in 2012. You engage with people, produce great stuff and get them to link to you naturally. Social media may also become a trigger for Google.
Scrap any and all black hat or paid link plans - The days of link purchasing and trickery are coming to an end. Stop trying to trick Google and start making your site better.
This may seem really basic but so many people are really misinformed about this stuff, then get frustrated when their sites don’t rank the way they want them to.
The best SEOs at MozCon are going to embrace these changes because it’s very likely their rankings and those of their customers will go up. They stopped the tricks long ago and started focusing on content, traditional marketing and building quality websites. 2012 has been one heck of a turbulent year for SEO but overall I think they’re improving the quality of results, so we all win. If you’re doing the right thing, you’ll win too.