Back in 2011, when Google Panda hit, the search industry went berserk. Companies that ran entirely on search advertisement fell flat on revenue, freelance writers who worked 10 hours a day writing dozens of low-quality articles were laid off, hot startups that leveraged content farms downsized to half the size, and a lot of mayhem was caused among all these things.
Google Panda was probably the most extensive crackdown ever by Google so far on low-quality sites.
Since then, there’s been a lot of talk about how the search space has changed and how Google has redefined “quality” on the web. Experts talk about how content is king and why SEO is dead. There are seminars on best practices to get over Google Panda and Penguin updates.
But why do only a small percentage of people worry or cry over it?
How has Google Panda (or Penguin, for that matter) improved search results for Google users?
Why are some websites that were thought to be content farms still ranking on the first page on Google?
These are some questions that’ll always intrigue a search guy like you and me.
If You Are Focused On Your Users, Nothing Matters
Let’s assume that you have a website that has both search and social traffic. Your social traffic is higher than your search traffic. And you don’t bother about people finding you via search engines because on every excellent content you create, the social community takes it to places it’s supposed to be, and search traffic follows.
What would your attention be towards Google updates? Very little.
Today, the trend is such that people, especially on social networks, are more clever than Google or other search engines in finding “good content.” Now, what is good content is relative.
It could be something that emotionally appeals to your target audience, something controversial, or just the best how-to guide on a topic that your fans and followers think you’re good at.
The point is that it only takes a few minutes for the social folks to pick up such a story while the search engines are dumb about it. They need more data to validate what good content is.
They need to see who’s been linking to that article, who’s been linked to, what the page rank is, and what the page load time is, to name a few things.
Social doesn’t need that. All that hard work of deciding what the people do good content. They are faster than Google, and chances are that if someone is trying to fool the system, the crowd’s wisdom will take care of it and throw him out of the plan (or not entertain it).
Why This Frenzy Over Google Updates
In reality, Google updates its algorithm (or the thinking pattern with which it decides good and bad content) several times a year. So much so that we don’t get to see or are told of 95% of them. It “told” that there are about 600 changes that can happen every year., that’s roughly about two changes a day.
We do not know, or will never know, the reality. Still, the truth is that Google is an ever-evolving, self-learning, clever robot that can analyze patterns, predict events, and judge websites more amazingly than any other search engine out there.
So, chances are that there has been an update today to Google nobody even knew about, except its engineers (some of which they don’t even have control over).
It is part of making the web a more reliable, better, and good place.
SEOs talk about the other 5% of significant updates publicly shared from Google (or unofficially via employees). These updates, like Panda and Google, are what the search community “ought to” know.
Why would Google go public with some updates and not others?
Because they want you to know. Because some of those updates will need your help changing how you design your websites and how you write your articles. Others may be you shouldn’t know.
Content Is Not Always King
I will always argue that content is not king – the user/visitor/reader is. He is the guy whom you have to make happy.
Content or no content, if he is happy staying on your site, coming back to it, engaging with it, trusting your brand, then you’ve done an excellent job.
Content is only a means to make him happy—a medium.
Great content is good, but not all great content gets the same love. I wouldn’t consider having great content as a must-have, standard pre-requisite for someone to like your brand or website.
There could be other factors like the person’s credibility, his expertise, the brand’s visibility, and things like that, which sometimes Google or any other search engine can miss. People don’t.
This is why, in the coming years, search engine robots will have a tough time competing with the crowd’s intelligence.