SEO in a post-Olympic world

SEO specialists have had life relatively easy over the past 10 years. Their magic formula before Google’s Panda and Penguin updates was something like:

Meta data, title tag, URL, H1, keywords, frequency, then link to hell and back. (Plus white text, mini text and other black hat bits.) The black hat world is thankfully shrinking but many would say linking and keyword use still attract too much unearned Google juice.

Google’s Panda and Penguin algorithm updates were to eradicate those low value and spammy sites. Affecting more than 12% of websites, they surely went a long way to achieving their goal but where there’s a stick, there should be a carrot.

The future’s search results have to be more complex than in 2011/12. User generated content will surely factor but rather than just looking for keyword frequency and backlink profiles (yes, I’m massively oversimplifying), engines need to ‘understand’ the site far better than they do today.

Quality scores need to better judge the experience a user will find there, not simply if a firm in India sourced 2,500 links to the site with some great anchor text. With its universal results, Google has evolved from 10 pretty ordinary links to a plethora of options within any search result, so it is definitely understanding more about your query but there’s no way we always find what we were after. Not because we didn’t search well enough but because that site in position 4 that appears spot on, is in fact a holding page selling ads and URLs.

Then there’s the sideshow of the junk web (as Chris Brogan would say). It’s what our self-publishing webbies are putting out there: photos, and increasingly photos with text overlays. As Brogan said, that’s not the web as we’ve come to know it – it’s a dead end, the photo is the payload, the endgame. Is that for Google search to roadmap?

The search world (i.e. Matt Cutts of Google) has been awash with ‘building a brand’ instead. That’s a euphemism for creating honest and usable content that the old web uses enough to have the social web show its approval by linking to – or something scalable like that.

I’m no Danny Sullivan but at its heart SEO has always been about architecture (a well-built and technically sound site), content (so it’s a relevant and useful page on the web) and back links (where others show your value to their audience on various platforms). I don’t see that changing a great deal, regardless of Panda, Penguin, Farmer, Facebook likes, tweets, +1s, pins, branding or anything else. If you build it, they will come…

What about your sites, how are you treating them differently post-panda?

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