Shift in SEO Knowledge & Experience: Priorities in a Post-Penguin and Post-Panda World

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Shift in SEO Knowledge & Experience: Priorities in a Post-Penguin and Post-Panda World

The SEO False Mentality

Probably most of us are aware that Google is the predominant search engine in the industry based on market share and year after year, month after month, when Comscore announces their market share statistics, Google has consistently maintained about 60 to 70 percent of the total market share for many years. Which is why when Google changes their algorithm, SEOs go crazy! Many SEO professionals would complain and be ticked off but I really see no reason why they should. Come to think of it, Google does not primarily serve the SEO community. Their main concern is to continuously improve the search results to maintain the happiness of the user. Bottom line is Google is after pleasing the most amount of users using their search engine. The more users Google has, the more advertisers would be interested in using their Adwords Pay Per Click (PPC) ads service. Out of the billions of search engine users, SEO people are just a fraction of that. Thus, this fraction can be outweighed by the vast majority that uses the service.

I find it amusing when SEOs perceive Google updates as ways for them to demoralize the efforts of SEO people, and persuade them to use Adwords instead to make more money. Well, I find that highly unlikely, in my opinion, but who knows they may be right. Nevertheless, I still lean more on the side of Google’s desire to give the users a better search experience than discouraging SEOs and persuading them to go into PPC advertising.

Instead of blaming Google all the time for any ranking dips and decreases in organic search traffic, let’s look more into what kind of mindset should we have moving forward. What kind of thinking should your SEO team have to make your SEO strategies future proof.

SEO Core Knowledge

After playing around in the SEO space since 2004, and officially as a career (moving away from web design & development ) in 2006, which eventually led me to climbed the corporate ladder from company to company as an SEO specialist, SEO engineer, to currently, the SEO Director at Internet Marketing Inc., I have seen a change in the focus of skills and talent when searching for new candidates of people to work with, in finding the right outsourced vendors and other partners where it was way different back in the day, and for sure it was also way different before I was active in the SEO space.

From the very beginning with firsthand experience and learning from the many SEO friends I have in the industry, I see most come from 3 main disciplines, 3 distinct groups if bundled together as knowledge backgrounds.

  • 1 – Marketing Background: These people either had a related undergraduate degree or had jobs going into this direction. Knowledge and experience in this area helps SEO because it is the marketing people that know how to promote a product, reach people, make a buzz, creating things that would help out in the overall awareness of the product, with or without SEO. But since they know how to call the attention of the people for their target market, it is these same people that you reach out to online, and if you target them well, eventually their work is what gets users linking to your sites naturally which helps out in the overall search engine ranking.
  • 2 – Writing Background: These people that are trained so well in writing and concentrate mainly on pleasing the readers, the actual website users and not search engines. The best writers are not really looking at keyword count, or keyword density as the main factor that dictates how they write. Writers make content compelling to users, makes them more interested in reading. They persuade users to take a certain action. They get the main point across in the simplest of words and always using the main words needed to rank well at the same time in a very natural sounding tone. Writers that make great content that people love also makes users pass these around online in whatever way, social media, email, instant messaging and other various way, eventually linking to them naturally and driving other people to link to them naturally.
  • 3 – Technical Background: Almost 99 percent of the times what we are trying to rank are web pages. And there is a lot technology that goes into webpage creation.
    • The Design: Use of graphic software, and frontend development in HTML, CSS and JavaScript. In more advanced cases, some sites run on Adobe Flash or AJAX.
    • Server Side Programming: The backend development can run on a variety of scripting languages such as PHP, ASP or .Net, JSP, Perl, Phyton, Cold Fusion and more.
    • Databases:  Often these server-side scripting is tied to a database specific database. Some examples of these would be MySQL, MS SQL Server, PostgreSQL, Oracle, Sybase and more!
    • Common CMS’: Instead of programming from scratch in a server-side language and database, many times you can simply use a CMS and customize it. There are many popular CMS’ such as WordPress, Drupal, Joomla or some that are more for online shopping like Magento, OS Commerce, ZenCart, Cube Cart, xCart, etc.
    • Server Configurations: All websites are hosted on a server. And servers can cause SEO issues such as problems with 301 redirects, error 404s, or challenges in URL rewriting where the implementation of these differ depending on the platform. Configurations on Windows running IIS would be different from running Linux running Apache.
    • Domain Names: For international campaigns you have to deal with a variety of Country Code Top Level Domains (ccTLD)
    • Mobile SEO: On any mobile website, it is better to auto detect web browser device using user agent detection to properly display the website depending on the user agent.

Each of these 3 core knowledge backgrounds in SEO are all important, and the best SEO people I know have an above average knowledge and experience in all these 3 SEO background fields of study. Although not all SEOs would be experts in these, and if they are not, they are either have a specialist role with a specific purpose, which is why there are positions like content writers, or link builders, or SEO web developers, etc. But the ones that have a whole complete strategy, and analyzes the whole site would need some good working knowledge of all. If ever they don’t, they rely on others; they partner up with other people, add team members, outsource some work, or try to learn new things themselves.

In the past, 1 core background knowledge with minimal knowledge in the other 2 used to be good enough
Large SEO agencies that will be able to use a larger amount of funds and resources will be able to do an assortment of optimization strategies that revolve around all these disciplines. Smaller companies or some freelance SEOs used to get away with simply doing 1 thing for a small to medium sized local business especially if the keywords are not that competitive.

Most algorithm changes of Google are going against the technical SEO people that abused ranking factors

I am not really saying that all SEOs with technical backgrounds are always abusing the ranking factors, but more often than not, the blackhats that do these abusive techniques do have some technical background. Often they make tools to make optimization automated, and if ever they did not make the tools, they are the users of the tools which require less technical knowledge. Here are some of the examples of the abuse done by tools created to game Google’s algorithm:

    • Content Aggregation Scripts and Content Scraping Scripts
      Major source of duplicate content online. Often pestered with a variety of ads.
    • Content Spinning Scripts
      Sometimes created as standalone desktop applications, sometimes as web-based applications with APIs, sometimes as CMS plugins, add-ons, extensions, or modules. Made to combat duplicate content issues, but often end up having bad grammar and low quality content.
    • Article Directory Scripts
      Article directories used to be repositories of articles that you can search and find articles free to use for your own magazine or news website, online and offline. The benefit the author gets is simply recognition. Until the article directories started ranking themselves and spammers came in and just made their own article directories.
    • Web Directory Scripts
      Online web directories are currently not as powerful as they were before. Probably the ones that still work are the ones for geographic location and are official citation sources. But everything else running the common opensource directory scripts, and are obviously made for links alone no long work.
    • Submission Applications
      May be in the form of desktop applications, or a web-based tool, tool to submit to various places, from article directories, website directories, forum posting, blog commenting, social bookmarking and many more. In most cases, these postings can look as spammy as hell. Not because of the software, but how users were using it.
    • Multiple Blog Administration Systems
      Common CMS plugins to manage sites multiple number of sites for blog networks. SEO using this technique just makes a network of blogs made for links alone. They use the multiple administration system to manage the blogs easier.
    • Templates and Widget Links
      Almost every CMS has a template system, and in each one has the opportunity to display or even hide a link. Same is true with widgets on a CMS platform. Often disguised as a free theme or tool, to bait people to install it.

    Technical SEOs Don’t Do All Bad Stuff

    After talking about all the scripts, and tools that are abusing Google’s algorithm, this does not mean all SEOs with a technical background are bad blackhats. There is a lot of things you can do to help in the ranking of a website where you need technical knowledge and it is not abusive, such as fixing 301 redirects, fixing internal duplicate content, improve page speed, externalizing JavaScript and CSS, doing better implementations of Flash and AJAX, improve code order and much more!

    Although this is getting easier and easier over time, as many CMS platforms, such as WordPress, Drupal, Joomla and even shopping cart CMS’ like Magento, OS Commerce, Zen Cart and more are all getting better and better in fixing many of the onpage SEO issues. And if ever the core files still need some onage improvement, you can search the internet on a wide variety of plugins, modules, extensions, add-ons for many of the CMS platforms that solve most of your SEO issues.  This does not mean you can simply dump the technical guy out; you still need someone to install these and configure them but requires a less proficient level in programming and is easier to learn for the non-programmer.

    SEOs with Marketing and Writing Backgrounds Will Be More Sought After in the Coming Months (or years)

    It was the technical SEOs that has been abusing the algorithm, and where their knowledge and experience is needed on the good side of SEO, is getting easier and easier with the current day CMS’. Panda and Penguin updates came about mostly because of the abuse done by the various methods I mentioned above. And to really get out of the Panda and Penguin update, it all boils down to 2 main things Matt Cutts has been preaching about for years.

    1. Quality Content
    2. Natural Links

    Quality content comes from the writers. And these content ideas that can bring a natural buzz comes from the marketers. Marketers may look at quality content in various ways, not only text, but also video, tools, images, anything they can promote. Natural links are generated from that same quality content. And for years many people have been trying to game the system and it was inevitable, as the situation would be getting worse, Google would definitely step in all the time with an algorithm update to fix it. And as Google gets better in determining low quality content and artificial links, as part of a long-term SEO strategy, you really have to make quality content and natural links and this is where the creative talent of the writers and marketers are needed more.

    Benj Arriola
    Benj is the SEO Director of Internet Marketing Inc., a full service online marketing agency. Benj has been practicing SEO since 2004 and is a... Read Full Bio
    Benj Arriola
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    • I think SEO has been moving away from a technical focus for some time now. Having a strong marketing background is essential because SEO, in essence, is another form of online marketing. And since content is what fuels both the search engines and compels visitors to act being able to write great content is just as important.

      • Melissa Fach

        Agree 100%! Great comment.

    • Phil Shifley

      I find it amusing when people think Google has a desire to give the users a better search experience than discouraging SEOs and persuading them to go into PPC advertising.

    • I am glad to see that it’s content and not a bunch slight of hand tricks by blackhat SEOs that is finally making a larger impact, but it still seems like we are a little ways away before quality content rules and these guys can pack it in.

    • Although, I have been affected by some of the Google updates I think this is inevitable specially we are in the business of constantly changing algo of Google.

      We just need to adopt and do our work ethically.

    • “Most algorithm changes of Google are going against the technical SEO people that abused ranking factors”

      I strongly disagree with you. I know it’s counterintuitive, but usually technical SEOs ask for content/inbound marketing services, and the marketing/publishers are the ones asking for abusive/black hat SEO techniques.

      Most of the times, when I’ve seen some abuse, it’s either an IT in an SEO agency being asked by someone over his shoulder to be more aggresive against the IT advise, or someone with no IT/technical background who just bought an SEO BH software abusing it.

      What you just said is: “Scientifics are evil, they create and use nuclear bombs to kill people, we should be grateful to politicians and journalists because they save the world”.

      • Hmmm, what can I say, that indeed is a valid point and probably because I personally never experienced it that way, it didn’t actually cross my mind but makes total sense.

        Now, I can see that anyone can be calling the shots who ever is over the shoulder of whoever. Like directions of a CEO, or sometimes ever a client who thinks they know what they are doing.

        Thanks for that insight.

    • Dan

      As much as I would like to believe it’s all about the “happiness of the user” as you state, this couldn’t be further from the truth. For Google, it’s all about profit and the happiness of their shareholders.

      After the recent Penguin update, Google bragged about the increase of search volumes that resulted. I would interpret higher search volumes as being caused by users not finding what they want on the first attempt, so why is Google bragging and so happy about the extra searches? Because more searches equal a greater likelihood of a paid click.

    • Although I still think Google is biased in favor of big brands (hence PPC), truly a well-rounded SEO practitioner is gold in this industry. The goal is to improve the skill set of SEO professionals in order to keep up with Google. Great article! *clap, clap*

    • That’s right, as the industry moves even further away from creating websites for the search engines, we’ll need less machine work and more genuine content created by real humans.
      Great analysis!

    • I am totally agree with “Alesia Krush ”

      That’s right, as the industry moves even further away from creating websites for the search engines, we’ll need less machine work and more genuine content created by real humans.
      Great analysis!

    • Advanced Technical SEO have never been required as it is now. The already known incompetent or dirty technical SEO is dying.

    • Sorry – but this is more than a little late.

      Google has not really changed it’s objectives, it hasn’t asked you to do anyting new, it hasn’t moved the goal posts.
      Google has sat there saying the same thing time after time for years.

      There are 3 main problems though;
      1) G left itselt open to simplistic abuse – and it got abused
      2) G wants “natural” and “organic” sites – but doesn’t pay attention unless you optimize and market
      3) During G’s last few updates and adjsutments, it seems to have hit a % of “medium” sites, those of low quality but not really spam.

      So even G is failing to achieve the goals it wants.

      At the end of the day – SEOs are still needed.
      Doesn’t matter if you label as SEO, or Inbound Marketer, or Internet Ranking Consultant … you can still hold influence … so long as you really know what you are doing.

      Far to many “SEOs” are little mroe than flakey little lackeys that follow some top dogs around,
      parrot what they say and then do the simple bits.
      The reality is, for years, you should have been marketing, you should have been looking at usability/accessibiltiyu, you should have been improving conversion points.

      Sitting there and saying that is the way forward now is lame.
      It should have been that way from the start.

      You also missed that
      1) Penguin also dealt with unnatural content in some cases
      2) Google roleld out a bunch of normal algo refinements at roughly the same time.

      And please don’t sit there with the line of “build it and they shall come”.
      It doesn’t work.

      1) Research your market
      2) Understand what they need/want/desire
      3) Examine exisinting competitors
      — IF you believe you can compete, provide quality and be useful/interesting : contine (else go home) —
      4) Note competitors smart moves/good ideas, note their bad too
      5) Replicate the good, avoid the bad
      6) Innovate – bring something New to it all (preferably several new things you can roll out over time).
      7) Create content that appeals to the audience type (short/long, data points, tables etc.)
      8) Market it – that means going where your audience is. Being seen to be knowledgable, helpful etc. Do stuff in teh real world too!
      9) Contact organisations etc. and get listed if applicable. Get into mainstream est. quality directories
      10) Get a G+ profile, Get a Locale+/Places listing, Get into rated SM sites (Linkedin, Quora etc.)
      — Repeat step (8) again —
      11) Keep innovating, keep researching your market (existing and new), keep promoting yourself with press releases (quality ones, real ones!), by posting on various sites, by making interesting comments (like this one).

      If you cannot be bothered to do the work,
      if you cannot find someone trustworthy to do the work,
      if you think it’s not worth it,
      then don’t run a site based business.


      Bonus point : Google cannot identify quality content.
      All it can do is look for specific signals of user behaviour (SERPs and clicks, SERPs and bounce backs), and popularity.
      But there are plenty of other signals too – such as Trust points, references/citations, relevancy, linking out to related and trusted sources etc.

      You know, all the things that a Proper site would do for it’s audience.

      Seriously – none of this is rocket science.
      Msot of us have posted it over the years in places like Googles Webmaster Forums.
      It’s not new, it’s not that difficult, it’s just time/effort.

      • Dana

        That is so true!
        For years I have said the same thing. Invest in your audience. Make their experience better, make your site better and you will survive most of the changes that Google makes.
        I can’t say I haven’t been frustrated by competitors using black hat techniques that managed to rank higher but that just made me work even harder. And I also know what my weaknesses are so I know where I can improve my work.
        Personally I am also very intolerant of all the spam that is filling the internet that even though it makes my work harder I can’t say I’m not secretly happy that spammy made for links only blogs have been hit.

    • nice articles writing.thanks for this..keep on some more updates..

    • Absar

      Hi Benj..

      Some companies who were using questionable link building techniques in the past – e.g. blog commenting and leaving links – are now out of desperation considering writing to all those hundreds and thousands of blog owners and asking them to remove those comments/links. They think removal of all these comments might help improve their ranking on search engines.

      Do you think this is a worthy initiative or waste of time and effort? Should they be focusing their energies elsewhere?

      • That is a good question. First is I am not from Google. Second I tend to doubt everything until proven true by conducting actual experiments on live sites. And since I didn’t do any experiment on this yet, I really do not know.

        Now we can rely of the testimonials of others, and there are several different stories of different people and there are some that cleaned up their backlink profile and claim their ranking went back up. Like in the case of

        Now I have heard other people say they did nothing, just disregarded the links they already had. Did not work on them, added better content and added better links and ranking got back up. (I have heard this from multiple SEO firends of mine.)

        Now what is my gut feel about it… yes removing the links probably help if the site was really affected by Penguin and I tend to lean on accepting’s story.

        As for the people that said don’t worry about and just add better content and get new links… I think they were not really affected by Penguin. They were affected by the Panda update just before Penguin and they thought it was Penguin.

    • I love the continued focus on forcing the quality issue. However at the end of the day it is about discovering what the new ‘recipe’ is (aka algo). Those that know how to scrape data and analyze will just look at the new recipe and adapt.

    • What I am amazed at is that Google felt it was time to do this now. What changed? Ultimately, if you provide content users want when seeking information, then all the better.

    • True enough, marketing and efficient writing are the duo to be to maintain one’s SEO standing. Gone are the days when we have to really make sure that we mention a strict number of keywords per 500-word article. We are under the era where engagement rules! 🙂

    • Good point Benj – I really believe that the best SEO specialists come from people with all three specializations. You might even like to argue about a taste for design too – since user experience has an increasing effect now.

    • It’s an continued focus on quality which can lead the way now..there are some genuine sites who has got a hit by these updates but in a long run these will help people which are committed to their readers and generating quality content for them

    • I currently looking for useful information for my SEO presentation and I totally agree with this post… Thanks for sharing mate…

    • I am a novice when it comes to all this SEO talk, but having read many of the posts/comments it appears that their is a belief that bad/spammy links can affect your website in a negative way. With this in mind and considering how “CHEAP” people can buy a truck load of crappy / spammy links and blog comments etc. Would this not open the door to other ways of surpassing your competition in Search Results………. Just buy thousands of spammy links for your competitors website and let them drop below you ???