Friday, May 11, 2012

Google and Panda, Venice, and Penguin Changes - SEO and Google Places Effect

Since February of 2011 Google has declared all out war on weak content, and has tightened it's localization approach.  Three major algorithm changes with code names of Panda, Venice, and most recently, Penguin, have wrecked more than a few expensive SEO efforts and driven website traffic down by large percentages for those counting on suspect back link campaigns.

While I have commented on some of this in prior posts, I have been waiting out this most recent Penguin change to see what the impact really was or is.  The last two weeks have seen the return to normal fluctuations in rankings for websites, Google Places and other media.  In fact, it would appear that the various bots are being very, very conservative over that period, with changes given only grudgingly for improvements in content, linking, layout, etc.

The big takeaway according to almost all pundits that I follow and my own observation:  The White Hat SEO strategies have won, and won big.  In fact, being 100% honest, this is going to be a huge benefit to SEO marketing guys like me.  The $1000 website is history.  The skinny, 3 post a month blog is useless.  The strategic media play is no longer going to provide a good return on investment.

What will give great ROI online?  Great content, properly optimized, that provides a great user experience.  It will cost more and require more careful execution. 

Websites and Blogs

The most immediate and direct effect is on websites and blogs.  I think it isn't that productive to  talk about what won't work anymore.  Rather, the important thing to stress is what Google is going to reward.  Not surprisingly, what Google wants you to put in your website or blog is to provide relevant information, the more and better written the better, outstanding navigation including internal links, and engaging overall presentation that results in a great visitor experience.  They also want the site to load in under four seconds.

Our clients who have been willing to spend $3000 or more for such content, navigation, and customer satisfaction are finding their rankings solid and improving.  Those clients who have had sites built by others that are templated, lacking in written content, and/or having poor navigation are now having serious traction problems.  Worst of all are those sites that relied on cheap back links to prop them up.

One such example would be a home remodeling contractor in Dallas that I consult with.  His Google Places ranking is fantastic for keywords like kitchen remodel Dallas or remodeling Dallas.  But because the content of his website is kind of skinny, he has seen slippage of his website at  We are going to add a bunch of new content to the website, and we expect to see it quickly move up in rank.  We also expect that this effort will help already amazing ranking on Google Places. 

Google Places

In that Google Places rankings have always been effected by website ranking and content, one would expect these changes to effect Google Places ranking.  Unfortunately it is really hard to track this aspect, since Google Places has had multiple changes in that same period.  We certainly have seen massive shifts in ranking, and many categories are much "cleaner" than they were a year ago.  However, I can't substantiate and direct linkage of Panda and Penguin to Google Places.

What have you seen?  What impact have the changes had on your site?  

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