We’re approaching the first anniversary of Google’s launch of Panda, an event that has had a profound impact on the practice of SEO (search engine optimization), causing a good number of observers to pronounce SEO dead.
One of Panda’s key aims was to neutralize and thwart the various schemes (spam indexing, site scraping, link farming, etc.) that ethically challenged marketers were using to gain higher page rankings than they deserved.
As James Mathewson of IBM noted, “Those who think of SEO the way it was primarily conducted prior to these changes—keyword stuffing, buying links on content farms, and participating in commodity link exchange trading—have been left behind.”
Panda replaced Google’s original search engine ranking algorithm, called PageRank, which had become too easy to spoof. Panda, named after its designer, Google engineer Navneet Panda, uses machine indexing intelligence, with the aid of human site raters employed by Google, to enable Google’s search engine to foil scammers and return better results.
The Panda algorithm evaluates the quality of websites according to their design and appeal, as well as a whole new set of criteria such as time on site, bounce rate, and click-through to multiple pages.
While Panda has pulled the rug out from under the many forms of “dirty” SEO practices, it also made obsolete the SEO methods that had been used for many years by legitimate practitioners.
As SEOmoz founder Rand Fishkin said in explaining the changes that Panda had wrought to the SEO community, SEOs never had to think as much or as broadly about, "What is the experience of this website?”
The changes Panda brings to the SEO practice, as Fishkin and others have noted, are radical. “It is almost like the job of SEO has been upgraded from SEO to web strategist,” said Fishkin. “Virtually everything you do on the Internet with your website can impact SEO today.”
With the rules of SEO changing because of Panda, the rulebooks and guidelines are being rewritten. Genuine high-quality content is now required rather than superficial content and poor and mediocre content larded with keywords.
In “Say goodbye to SEO,” Jeff Sonderman, Digital Media Fellow at The Poynter Institute, describes how social media is infiltrating search through Google’s changes, so that different users will be served different search results according to their social media activities.
Sonderman and other experts warn that failing to reform and reinvent your SEO approach can have drastic consequences. Among them is Chad Pollitt of kunocreative.com, who describes how content writers, once reporting to SEO practitioners, are now assuming the senior position.
Inbound marketing, says Pollitt, is the new SEO, explaining that “Search engine optimization has drastically changed. If companies refuse to commit to content marketing and social media they will eventually see their search visibility suffer.”