Saturday, April 9, 2011

iBreakfast Controversy - Can You Beat SEO?

Report from "Google Changes the Rules" iBreakfast
It is not often that the staid world of Search Optimization erupts in controversy but it did at the last iBreakfast on Google's "Farmer" and "Panda" Updates. One of the speakers, Steve Arnold, claimed to override traditional SEO and boost the rankings or even silence offending sites by a method that sounded both intriguing but also like a storyline out of the "Wag the Dog."

This iBreakfast was designed to cover the key issues of Google's revamping of its ranking algorithm supposedly to reward quality providers and to ditch the questionable "content farms." These are the sites that fill the vast underbelly of the net with just enough text to attract high value Adsense ads or raising the rankings of a particular site

What we got was a challenge to go beyond the SEO model and think about creating a kind of transcendent awareness that enables sites to be seen via social media and mobile search.

While Google has framed the update in terms of refinements it is quite likely to be more profound than that. Silicon Alley Reporter noted that upwards of 12% of sites would see their rankings change. Some dramatically. The ever pugnacious Jason Calacanis found his Maholo website at the wrong end of the "update." This resulted in him drastically changing the business model from a kind of "Yahoo Answers" to "better" eHow. Good luck.

Google has grown on the backs of these content farmers since they boosted their ability to monetize high value keywords. After all, Google let everyone know what the high value keywords were and by encouraging the content farms they wound up with more inventory to sell.

When the New York Times ran its famous expose on the JC Penny that prompted Google's change - it seemed well, just a little too convenient. Perhaps there was more than meets the eye. While we can't say we saw the smoking we can suggest the bigger picture here - at least according to Arnold. Google would rather sell paid placements than let SEO's artificially boost the rankings of well-heeled but unworthy players. Not only that, but they are seeing real competition in Facebook which is becoming the home of more and more searches that are powered by Microsoft's Bing. The situation can be more drastic overseas while mobile too, is becoming more of a challenge since it is less and less web-oriented.
Matt Robson of Hachette talked about some of the key attributes of the Google upgrades that would qualify sites for a "Trust Ranking" - meaning it has been reviewed and tagged as a "quality" site for better rankings. The other side of this is being tagged with an "adversarial classification." The big issue facing traditional publishers online is their expense in creating deep original content is often challenged if not undermined, by the likes of Gawker or Mahalo which follows high value keywords and writes just enough fresh text to appear as a quality site before linking to the underlying video or story. They industry term for this is "Churnalism" and it is a behind-the-scenes battleground. At the end of the day though, Google values the user experience, rewards the originator and in his view they are moving to wards more techniques that harness forms of crowdsourcing to filter or improve their algorithm. 
Hamlet Batistsa's Altruik is known for automating SEO techniques. In his view, the major area of concern for websites is that prior to the updates their rankings were based on individual pages. Today, the entire site is taken into account. That endangers sites which used lots of filler pages loaded with keywords. On the other hand Google gives higher rankings to sites that are updated frequently.

For those looking to improve rankings these are key lessons.

For those looking to step up the game, we will be taking a deeper look at Steve Arnold's end game around SEO with his "Content with Purpose" seminars.

  Want to know more about "Content with Intent" Seminars?   

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