The Rise and Fall of the SEO Consultant
This perpetual chasing of this chimera's tail by businesses willing to 'spend whatever it took to master the SEO game' gave rise to an entire new profession; the SEO Consultant (or SEO Master, SEO Guru, SEO Developer, or possibly the most egoistic of all, simply the SEO). Now, post Google's Panda and Penguin updates - and also post millions, perhaps billions of dollars spent employing such 'SEO visionaries,' the truth is plain to see: SEO is not a 'game,' and Organic Search Engine prominence can not be gained by focusing on some sort of SEO 'magic formula.'
Of course, for those willing to seek out the truth (or for that matter, those who have experience in general marketing practices) the bedrock of successful SEO was always there in plain sight: Build a website that provides timely, reliable and original information on its pages that are logically related to the subjects that website visitors will be searching on to arrive at your site.
Sounds pretty simple, doesn't it? And yet, so very many website operators lost track of the foundations of a properly built web page, and got lost in the concepts of keyword weighting, meta descriptions, URL structure, on and off site linking, and on and on.
Not to say that all of those things (and many others) aren't valid data points for website optimization, but priorities became skewed over time, and for many website owners, the lure of seemingly high-payoff, but perhaps slightly less than truly organic methods of SEO proved too alluring.
The combination of the imbalance in setting SEO priorities with the growing reliance on techniques that skewed and warped the raw data that search engines like Google and Bing relied on to deliver authentically organic search results, inevitably led to a state where it had become hard to argue that 'playing by the rules' wasn't a recipe for failure. Still, I cautioned my clients that straying too far from the bedrock practices of content optimization to provide real value and truly organic link building to build valid internet presence might ultimately come at a great cost.
A Catastrophic Impact on Website Rankings
And so, much like the mythical Cassandra crying in the wilderness, warning, "Beware! Beware!" only to be ignored as catastrophe loomed, I often found much of my advice rejected by those who sought my input. It was painful to know that a reckoning would someday, inevitably arrive.
And, with the recent Panda and Penguin updates to Google's algorithmic system, it finally did. The result had a biblical flood-like impact on the Search Engine Results Position for virtually every website in existence, one that for many businesses was severely negative. The further away they had gotten from the fundamentals of SEO, the worse the damage was.
The Resurgence of Real Organic SEO
As someone who has helped to develop websites since the first graphical 'web browser,' Mosaic, ushered in the era of the Internet as we know it today, I suppose it was easy for me to see that there might be a heavy price to pay for looking at online success as a game. After all, in the beginning search engines like Google didn't actually exist yet, and when they arrived, real Organic SEO was the standard by default -- there wasn't yet any concept that there was something like a search algorithm that could be 'gamed' for ranking advantage at all because the concept was too new.
I've always asked my clients to imagine themselves in front of the screen their potential customer is looking at and ask the question, "is this what I would want to see if I searched my primary search term?" For those of my clients who could answer in the affirmative, Panda and Penguin were, in the best cases, an affirmation of the value of doing things right, and in the worst, a prudent reminder that quality really is king, and that working for an honest and mutually valuable relationship with customers is never the wrong way to go.
Of course, today, effective SEO requires more than making a commitment to real organic SEO practices on your website - you need a system to build and maintain social media integration, effective localization, ethical external link building, and other important factors that go into building an effective Internet Presence for your business.
An Opportunity for Your Business to get SEO Right
But, if you operate a legitimate business, you might want to think of Panda and Penguin as the proverbial "blessing in disguise." The cheaters, domainers, affiliate hustlers, and all the other less-than-ethical abusers of SEO methods have been given a virtual eviction notice by Google. Even if you have been negatively affected by Google's recent algorithm changes, the playing field has been made honestly level for the first time in a long time, and if you commit to building an SEO program based on valid techniques now, the benefits you may realize are much greater than they have been in years.Don't compete — DOMINATE.