In their natural habitat, pandas munch mostly on bamboo, and penguins dine almost exclusively on aquatic creatures. Neither preys on humans. But in the wilds of the Internet, Google Pandas and Penguins proved to be ravenous carnivores, feasting primarily on the backsides of SEO experts like myself.
While some of us still find it painful to sit down months after Google rolled out its career-changing algorithms, the honest among us will admit that we deserved the butt-chewing. Although most of us in SEO used mostly white-hat techniques, I'd challenge any of my colleagues to prove their hats were never shades of gray.
Personally, I've dusted the dirt off my hat and vowed to stop trying to fool Google and instead stay ahead of its animal rules. And, in the spirit of generosity (or retribution), I'm willing to tell all Internet marketers how they, too, can stop worrying about Google's next algorithm update:
Set the highest possible standards for yourself and only work with clients who agree to them.
Quality, Quality, Quality
It's that simple -- and that hard. If you've looked at Internet marketing as a numbers game where the guy who gets the most links faster than his competitor wins, you're going to have to change the way you think -- and act. And if you're used to telling any and all clients that you can improve their rankings, you're going to have to tell some of them the unhappy truth that you can't.
Because the only way to reach and maintain great rankings in the post-Panda and Penguin era is to earn your way to the top. And the only way to do that is to consistently produce and promote quality content.
If a client isn't interested in quality content or is unwilling or unable to pay for it, cut him loose. Quality content is the basic entry fee for successful Internet marketing. .
Mantra, not a Joke
Quality content is not any piece of writing that passes a spell-check and plagiarism review. Quality content is writing that provides value to the reader. Words like "quality" and "value" come easily to Internet marketers, but they are not terms many of us took too seriously in the past. As long as content contained a certain number of keywords and a certain number of links, we were happy. And our clients were happy -- until Google took the links away.
Great content and great links are and always will be Google-proof. Get a link from The New York Times and you'll have it forever. Because you can't buy a link from the Times. You have to earn it.
Make quality content your firm's mantra.
Location, Location, Location
The real estate maxim applies to Internet marketing. Because once you have quality content, it's essential that you find a good home for it.
Let's say you've written an interesting, intelligent guest post on behalf of your client. You want to place it as quickly as you possibly can so you can report its publication and back link to your client.
But if you place the content on a junky website, its value diminishes. It makes no more sense to build a mansion in a neighborhood of slums than it does to place a great piece of content in a bad Internet neighborhood.
Seek the best possible placement for every piece of content. You may have to settle for a site with low authority, particularly if your client's website is new and contains little material.
Examine the potential host site beyond its current authority rank. A new website with an unblemished reputation might score equally with an older one with a sketchy past. But the new site is your better option.
It Takes Two
Staying ahead of Google's algorithms demands, in addition to a commitment to quality content and quality placement, a new level of commitment between you and your clients.
It's not enough for clients to pay you a fee and for you to ignore each other until the next billing cycle.
SEO is no longer a solo sport. Successful SEO and successful Internet marketing of all kinds require effort and communication among all parties. Educate clients about the new role of content in marketing and the longer timelines for achieving SEO goals. Help them avoid mistakes such as posting duplicate content or stuffing it with links.
Stop telling clients "Here's what I will do for you" and start telling them, "Here's what we can accomplish together."
If both you and your clients commit to greatness, you will achieve it. If either of you is looking for the fastest, easiest solution to Internet marketing, keep your bottom well-padded. The Google animals are coming for you.
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