Google Slaps SEO Professionals


It happens all the time… your website finally secures a starring role on the first page of a Google SERP. And then…

 

KAPOW!

 

Google “slaps” your website, sending it into virtual purgatory (SERP page 1,398,530 or beyond) – effectively flushing your web-based income down the toilet.

 

Google’s infamous slaps strike without warning, penalizing websites that somehow offend their never fully-disclosed notion of “correct and proper” SEO.

 

But now, Google is giving advanced warning that it intends to slap, believe it or not – SEO itself!

SEO, of course, is the art and pseudo-science of intuiting Google’s rules, so that your website, in a perfect world, appears and stays on the first page of a Google SERP.

 

But, the world is far from perfect – indeed it is ineffable, and Google prefers it that way.

Because Google lives in constant fear that bands of ingenious little techno-nerds and black-hat bandits will hijack their search algorithms, and “game” their system – bringing down their galactic cyber-cash cow, like Visigoths sacking ancient Rome – not only do they never fully explain their rules, they keep changing them!

 

So, at best, SEO has always been a gamble… a guessing game.

 

Their most recent algorithm change was PANDA, which penalized websites for, among other things, too many low-quality ads or links above the fold, and for poor quality traffic over all.

 

And now, here comes…

 

The newest Google slap

 

So new, in fact, this Google slap doesn’t even have a name – nor has it been activated yet. But it will be – says the man in charge, Matt Cutts.

 

Matt Cutts, you see, is the head of Google’s Webspam team, and he leaked a bit of info recently at Austin’s SXSW convention that has sent web-marketers and SEO professionals into a virtual tailspin.

 

Matt said:

 

“…We don’t normally pre-announce changes but there’s something we’ve been working on over the last few months and hope to release it in the next few months or few weeks. All those people doing, for lack of a better word, over optimization or over SEO – versus those creating great content and a fantastic website – we’re going to level the playing field. We are trying to make GoogleBot smarter, make our relevance more adaptive, and, we are also looking for those who abuse it, like using too many keywords on a page, or exchange way too many links, or go well beyond what you normally expect. We have several engineers on my team working on this right now.”

 

No doubt, the question you’re now asking yourself is:

 

How much is too much SEO?


Indeed, what is over-optimizing, or over-SEO-ing?

 

Well, you can bet you’re top page ranking that Google isn’t going to tell you any more than what Matt said above.

 

So don’t bother trying to micro-analyze his statement, or guess how many keywords or links are too many on any given webpage.

 

Google’s algorithms are probably the world’s best-kept secrets. Governments would pay dearly (and probably are) to learn how Google keeps their cyber-vaults hacker-proof.

 

So, unless you can somehow mind-meld with Matt Cutts’ brain… you’ll just have to…

 

Create content that appeals to people, not bots

 

Hardly a revolutionary idea.

 

In fact, this “idea” has been promulgated ever since Internet marketers stopped living in the world of flesh and blood, and chose to live and market in the cold, black, binary world of cyberspace.

 

So what’s the answer then to the question: how much SEO is too much SEO, or more to the point, what is to become of content marketing as currently practiced?

 

The answer is revealed when you…

 

Stop worshipping Google

 

Look, when it comes to content marketing, so many companies today are hiring anyone who can tap, tap, tap on a keyboard and conjure up articles stuffed, to whatever degree, with keywords.

 

Yet, these articles have so little actual value or use to readers – indeed they’re not intended for human eyes – and these companies state this, unabashedly. These articles are written instead for Google’s bots.

 

In fact, when advertising for writers, these companies will state, unequivocally, they’re looking for “SEO writers” – that is, anyone experienced with keyword research, and can strategically insert keywords into a 750-word article.

 

The actual “writing” of these articles is only incidental to the job. No real writing talent or ability is required, because there’s no need to connect, on any level, emotionally or intellectually, with a human being.

 

Could this slap then be the final fatal blow to content marketing?

 

No doubt, you’ve read these types of articles yourself (or published them).  They’re innocuous, banal and often created by unemployed housewives with no experience with, or intrinsic knowledge of, the subject at hand, or, by offshore content factories, where English is a second language, and price and speed of delivery is their main value proposition.

 

This is the type of content-marketing abuse Google is looking to stop.

 

To its credit, Google’s aspiration, vis-a-vis SEO, is to provide targeted, and most of all, valuable, actionable, qualitatively superior content to those searching for it.

 

To that end, Google has upped the ante – penalizing those who attempt to game their system, tricking it into rewarding their websites with a higher SERP placement, which would otherwise be given to websites that serve searchers better, and more honestly.

 

What then is to become of SEO companies?

 

Let’s face it, most SEO companies are a slippery bunch, with mixed track records. Their ability to divine the intent of Google’s algorithms has always been, and will always be, rather Sisyphean.

 

Any results they achieve for their clients are, by their very nature, fleeting.

 

What many marketers fail to realize though (until they look at the results and their associated cost), the broad strokes with which an SEO company typically paints a client’s website, to earn it a higher ranking, is pretty much the same thing marketers can do themselves, if they understand one elemental truth:

 

People are not stupid (and neither is Google)

 

Therefore, in regard to content, provide what people want to read – and what they can hold in high esteem, if you’re preferred mode of marketing is indeed content marketing.

 

And if you do this, by virtue of your content’s qualitative depth, your website will become known, inevitably, to both your broader target market and to Google’s new smarter bots.

 

In other words, you’ll gain market share – you’ll make money! And you’ll have great SERP placement!

 

So do what so many of us are already hoarse from preaching…

 

Create content for humans not spiders. Provide well-thought out, well-crafted answers not diluted pabulum, stuffed with keywords. Publish articles that nourish relationships, and can satisfy your market’s appetite for solutions.

 

And doing this requires no more time, effort or money than that which would otherwise be expended hiring penny-per-word writers to produce thousands of pages of useless drivel – drivel that now will only cause you to be banished to SERP page 1,398,530 or beyond.

 

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About Barry Densa

Barry A. Densa is a freelance marketing and sales copywriter. You can view samples of his work at Writing With Personality. To receive free blog post updates sign up here.

Comments

  1. Jared says:

    Barry,
    Thanks for the update.
    It’s interesting that the real key is, or will soon become, honest content.

    Don’t lie or tell me what you think I (bots) want to hear.

    Tell me who you are, throw in a story, and give me honest content.

    I have long believed that the technology doesn’t matter. I’ve never had a search engine, or a link send me a single dime. People do that.

    Talk honestly with and for people. It will all come around.

    Looking forward…
    Jared

  2. This is great news not only for professional writers (giving them another bit of proof that real copywriting gets real results), but also for customers who are tired of having Google return nothing but barely-relevant article farms that provide no actual value to their search.

  3. Horray! Horray!

    I am an SEO, Professional Web Copywriter. However, the content I produce will grab top placement in Google SERPS because of:

    Relevance
    Merit
    Fresh, informative – well thought out, people-helpful content.
    Top quality, clear, concise, content that people actually love to read.

    I have looked for the day that Google would “wise up” to the gamers who pay $4 -6 dollars for witless drivel not worthy of a decent read. THEY have made Google LOOK BAD for too long.

    Have you ever wondered why people SCAN the Internet? It is mostly because they have to read
    1,000 words to extract a single decent sentence – that makes any sense whatsoever.

    Praise the Day! Webwriter777

  4. Ken Nadreau says:

    You know, I read a lot. But I’ve never bought anything from a site loaded with spun articles, or obviously over optimized content. It just doesn’t make sense to buy from someone who doesn’t make sense.

  5. Thanks for this great piece; I found it very educational and plan to quote from it when clients yammer for SEO (or see-oh, as one memorable prospect referred to it) writing, with nary a clue what they’re talking about…which brings me to a follow up question? How to you effectively communicate this to your clients without using the word knucklehead? :)

  6. Interesting indeed. I often feel like the tortoise, just pluggin’ along with my content written for real people. It’s a slower way to garner SERP but better for relationships, hands down. Thanks for the info!

  7. Barry Densa says:

    Thanks all, for your comments. (Carrie, cut & paste works).

    Content marketing is commoditizing both copy and copywriters.

    When individual words become the focus, as opposed to the message being communicated — not only does literacy become a casualty, but also communication as a necessary adjunct of socialization. And what of the art and craft of writing?

    • Hamza says:

      Well said Barry. Hope other writers were also able to think in the same way. I think that the problem is with the mindset of people. Most of the people think that writing is what any one who has finished high school can do. They don’t want to look at the time and effort spend by people such as copywriters, writers, authors to achieve the kind of level for which they are known. And this mentality has founded it’s way in online content creation also. Even before internet writers were not known to be rich but at least they were able to earn a respectable living. But nowadays most of the companies on internet are looking for slaves who will charge them $1 for a 500 word article,blog post or sales copy.
      I think that search engines are playing a good part in digital revolution. forcing the people to improve quality of content will certainly raise the standards and pay for writers. Thanks for this article

  8. Joyce M. Coomer says:

    “Create content for humans not spiders. Provide well-thought out, well-crafted answers not diluted pabulum, stuffed with keywords. ”

    Oh, how I have wished for that ever since I have been doing even a teensy bit of research on the Internet!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. Bob says:

    I’m confident you’ll agree Barry, that hiring editors and proofreaders is also prudent. The shoemaker is barefoot.

    “Therefore, in regard to content, provide what people want to read – and what they can hold in high esteem, if you’re preferred mode of marketing is indeed content marketing.”

  10. Rob Trube says:

    Barry,

    What a great post! The upcoming slap is sorely needed, and is, in my opinion, way overdue. Creating interesting, valuable content is truly critical for generating quality leads. It has truly befuddled me that companies, large, professional, reputable companies, pay for and publish a lot of the “content” that is created by these “writers”.

    But they are not the true culprits here. It is all of the small, solo and rogue bands of internet marketers that have flooded the internet with garbage that is causing the problem. There activity is what has forced the larger companies to publish the same level of content, just to stay relevant and rank.

    I am looking forward to the slap. My content will shine, and my workload, and stress level will improve….

  11. heather hanson says:

    Amen, Halleluja

  12. The comments on this thread – speak for themselves! People are sick of having their search queries pull up useless garbage fit only for the “circular bin.” It is an insult to the populace. I sincerely hope this “slap” puts the “content farms” drivel so far down in the SERP’s – that they become lost in Cyberspace!

    GOOGLE has a reputation to uphold. How long will they continue to let spun, “monkey-level” content continue to show up on page one? Or even worse; first place listing? Slap them hard enough to “ring their bell” and force the big conglomerates to start paying “real writers” for top-level material.

    Outsourced materials, “written” by chopstick-using (English second language) countries are an eyesore for folks who NEED real answers to their search queries. WISE UP GOOGLE!

  13. Lisbeth Tanz says:

    Finally! The voice of reason. Imagine, writing for a human audience. What a concept.

    I’m so glad you wrote this post to highlight this fundamental requirement – we need readable content, not drivel written for bots. For those of us who make a living as writers, it’s nice to be acknowledged by a company like Google (no matter how backhandedly) that we provide a valuable service in our understandable and sensible text.

    I’ve steered clients away from keyword stuffing for years, instead directing them to focus on their message and engage their readers. It will be exciting to see how Google’s new antics will turn content marketing on its ear.

  14. Greg Imhoff says:

    I thought Google reworks their algorithms always, to improve results. It is simply smart to measure content management and to continuously improve most any process. This is Google’s money machine, lock stock and barrel and they husband to it well. To improve efficacy & efficiencies give me Content over Botent any time.

  15. Mark Andrews says:

    I’m batting for you Barry, superb advice coming from your kind self once again.

    Long time no see btw, how have you been, are you keeping well? In good health, fine fettle?

    Over on LinkedIn, in the Copywriting Advertising group of which I’m a member, lots of the so called ‘copywriters’ (inbound marketers posing as copywriters are in complete disagreement with you. 99% of them are taking the opposite opposing stance for what good reason I find totally unfathomable but there we go. I of course, I’m taking them all on, well, you know me – some things never change.

    I just cannot stand by whilst other people (who should know better) are still perpetrating this nonsense, that it’s perfectly acceptable to try and trick Google into thinking their content marketing strategies are more important than is really the case.

    As you quite rightly stated, a view which I wholeheartedly support, you do not write for a bot, for a search engine, for an algorithm. You write for other people with the provision of extremely valuable information which actually benefits the target market you are trying to connect with. Anything else merely dilutes what the entire purpose of content marketing is all about.

    You can see the discussion here:

    http://www.linkedin.com/groupItem?view=&gid=58585&item=274801979&type=member&commentID=167411966&trk=hb_ntf_COMMENTED_ON_GROUP_DISCUSSION_YOU_FOLLOWED#commentID_167411966

    Warmest regards,

    Mark Andrews

    • Barry Densa says:

      Hey Mark, good to hear from you buddy.

      Well as they say ignorance is bliss — doesn’t pay the bills though. Fortunately, there’s enough marketers out there that see the truth, that’s why I stay booked up — I’m not accepting new clients until the spring of next year, if then. Hope you’re doing the same.

      Best regards,
      –Barry

  16. michael says:

    Although it would be nice to think that there is end game to this, it’s just another episode in the endlessly mutating world of running websites. One year later, there are still content farms, and you can pick up spinning software and more sophisticated site creators quite cheaply. I’m not entirely convinced that “pure” content is king. I wish it was.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Google Slaps SEO Professionals MARCH 26, 2012 BY BARRY DENSA 8 COMMENTS [...]

  2. [...] Barry A. Densa, a freelance marketing and sales copywriter, sums up the message for writers, “Create content that appeals to people, not bots.” This is particularly comforting to self-published authors who want their quality content to get noticed. [...]

  3. [...] Google Slaps SEO Professionals MARCH 26, 2012 BY BARRY DENSA 8 COMMENTS [...]

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