The One Question Google Panda Has Taught Us To Ask Ourselves

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In the old days, there were clear cut ways to game search engines and rank well for whatever keyword you pleased. You could keyword stuff, spam exact match anchor text through article directories or social bookmarks, or create link networks to manipulate your way to the top and profit.

Then Google Panda hit and things changed drastically.

Of course, SEOs still have to admit that some of the manipulative stuff still works. No SEO should ignore the fact that black hat still works – no question. As a matter of fact, any SEO should always take a look at what strategies black hats are using or what they’re discussing. It’s a helpful learning experience for everyone and could even help you think of new ideas.

But the focus isn’t on that.

The focus is on how Panda has slapped some sense into many people and have them back on the right track.

Panda has caused people to realize that there is really only one important question to ask whenever you’re engaging on social media, writing content, link building or creating a new product:

Am I Adding Value?

This is what the world was built on. Add value for others. Help others first. Get returns from helping others.

Somewhere along the line, the search engines came and many of us decided to game the system. Rather than focus on creating value, we created trash. Mounds and mounds of trash.

Every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of
civilization up until 2003, according to Schmidt. That’s something like five exabytes of data, he says.

Then the search engines got smarter. Much smarter. In 2012 we’re seeing paid link networks get torched, people starting to stray from exact match anchor text link building, and content marketing seeing an upward trend.

The Search Engines Are Catching On

Just take a look at this video inside Googleplex where top search engineers are discussing potential changes to their search algorithm.

Do you see the level of detail that goes into their discussions? These are the best minds in the world working on creating a great search experience for their users.

They understand that if they fail, their ad revenues will drop across the board. That’s not the only reason though.

You see, working on something cool means there’s a good chance you’ll become passionate about it. Once you become passionate about something, you want to be damn good at it.

So why do these Google engineers work so damn hard? Because they want to add value to the world.

It’s a concept we all lose sight of from time to time. Good thing Panda came out in time to make a lot of us realize that creating value, not trash, is the top priority.

It’s Time To Shift Our Mindsets to Where They Should’ve Been

To reiterate again, no one is saying black hat tactics don’t work – they’re just tougher to sustain. If you’re looking for something long term, focus on people instead.

Recently, a black hatter wrote about how he was trying to shift his SEO strategy from black hat to white hat because the costs were starting to add up and he just didn’t want to deal with the risk anymore.

Guess what happened? He still got torched.

So rather than going from black to grey to white hat, you might as well start from the white side.

“Being grey or black hat is like always having a herd of zombies running after you.” – Jonathon Colman

The time wasted trying to figure out how to manipulate the system would probably be better spent on creating something remarkable for users. Besides, who doesn’t like the added benefit of engagement and new relationships from great content? From becoming a better writer to establishing your brand on other websites, the benefits are countless.

So next time, whenever you’re considering a darker tactic to try to get ahead of the system, think about this question:

Am I adding value?

If the answer is no, you should probably rethink your strategy. It’s not worth sacrificing so much time to build an empire only to see it go up in flames in a day.

Just look at the previously popular link networks like Build My Rank. Gone with a wave of a wand.


Has Google Panda altered your online marketing strategy in any way?

Eric Siu
Eric Siu is the User Growth Lead at Treehouse, an online technology school that teaches coding, web design, how to build startups, and more. Feel... Read Full Bio
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  • Joseph McClelland

    You do have to add value to the reader on the given topic. I totally agree. But aren’t we still back to the same point that great material on a site no one reads gets no traffic.

    The system is still flawed, don’t you think? This article on another site would not get traffic or this comment much less show on the first page. It seems like we are just moving to a point where only articles on authority sites get traffic, even if they curated the content from you.

    I think the direction is towards big business. The democracy of the internet is becoming like our own democracy…corrupted by money and influence. Thinking that a search engine cares about results for the purpose of results is simple not their business model. They want money. The first time they can change the serp results to a landing page with everything they have scraped from all of their properties, it will be done.

    Social signals are already being gamed. All of the black hat stuff from the past is just being done differently. They will win for a long period of time, the rules will change, then gamers will win for a long period of time. Oh, maybe that is why they are just giving up and rewarding authority sites only. Have some good weekend fun.

    • Eric Siu

      Hi Joseph,
      I think it’s a two pronged attack. Step 1 is to have great content on your site. Step 2 is to build relationships with others so you can amplify your message to reach a larger crowd (like this post). This post on SEOmoz does a great job of talking about how it’s important to build relationships and take the focus away from link building:

      • Melissa Conn

        I agree! Google’s goal is to create relevant search results according to the user’s query. The key is constant, fresh content that readable user friendly, and informative. The challenge is developing the content and being creative with it depending on the industry.

  • logan1429


    I worked on a site that was hit hard by Panda and a whole new strategy needed to developed. Unfortunately, the owner of the website refused and still refuses to listen to reason. He continued to believe that writing the same old crappy content, creating links to the main site form his other sites. The site has not completely recovered and continues to sink deeper into the SERPs with no relief in sight.

    • Eric Siu

      Hi logan,
      Sounds like it might be time to pack your bags if the client won’t listen to your recommendations.

  • nevilzden

    Hi Eric,

    It’s really nice post. Recently we noticed that many website’s keyword affect in SERPs. I don’t know why but it’s true. Can you explain about this that why many of websites keyword ranking down in March 2012.
    I have read your article and i really impress for this.

    Thanks & Best of Luck.

    • Eric Siu

      Hi Nevil,
      There could be a myriad of reasons for this – it’s tough to pinpoint any cause without knowing more details. It doesn’t look like I can post links here but I strongly suggest you google “more guidance on building high-quality sites” and see what Google says about building high quality sites.

      • nevilzden

        Thanks Eric for quick reply.

  • Sajal

    Eric! So interesting topic you have pointed out through this post. Most of our sites are really hit hard by Google Panda by causing us with a lot of troubles. I just don’t understand why people in order to get benefited always are so engaged for driving more and more traffic.! After all I have enjoyed reading your post. Thanks.

  • Eric Siu

    Hi Sajal,
    Most of the time, added relevant traffic equates to more dollars so that’s why they want more traffic 🙂

  • Dewaldt Huysamen

    Adding value is the most important I agree and if every website’s core function and articles does just that you would not need to worry about doing good and making profit instead of just focussing on rankings.

    • Eric Siu

      Hey Dewaldt,
      As long as we can keep ‘add value’ in the back of our minds, I think we’ll all be good to go.

  • Jonathan Saipe

    Our focus has turned massively in favour of content marketing. This isn’t just because of Panda, but a combination of factors including increased weight of social media links, link velocity and the importance of brand engagement.

    SEO’s holistic nature means that we have to look any many causes before deciding how they will influence our strategies, and Panda is one of those many factors that have influenced that holistic mix.,

    • Eric Siu

      Great to hear Jonathan – I think it’s great that SEO ties in with other segments of marketing now (like content and social).

      • Gareth Morgan

        It definitely does. When speaking to clients about SEO or Social, we now ask about their content strategy first and if they don’t have one then it’s the first thing to develop.

  • Ashley Balstad

    Great article and amazing thread! All the comments have me brainstorming for not only my company’s SEO, but my clients’ as well.

    Thanks everyone 🙂

  • Honolulu Aunty

    Found you through Pat Lynn’s site and glad to read more about Google Panda from you. I think it is good for a person like me who is just learning how to drive traffic to my website. I do it the REAL old fashioned way by giving people my business card and/or pens with my address on it. I know, that is like the dinosaur age, but I am almost a dinosaur, lol.
    I’m still learning how to change my facebook page and trying to figure out how to load posts on that page.
    Just want you to know that I appreciate sites like yours that really educate others, especially aunties like me!


  • Steve

    Great article – this is becoming so true!

    Unfortunately, as Google’s algorithm is “improving” some genuine websites are being pushed down.

    We are uncovering the secrets of Google’s latest update on its Panda algorithm at

  • Larry Kim

    i am finding that Google Panda and all these SEO penalties are resulting in people re-evaluating paid search options.