Just read a great top-level overview of Google’s Panda on SEOMoz. If you haven’t been following Panda, or you’re not involved with marketing much, it is Google’s latest algorithmic attempt to minimize the ability to game search results. This article is at a good level for CEO’s, Board Members, Investors, and other Interested Parties to understand the flavor of this huge watershed event for marketing on the web. I’ve talked to a number of companies that were impacted by Panda. In most cases, the impact hurt their search traffic because they’d been relying on SEO games to get the job done. In a few, it has transformed their search traffic for the better. Those few are companies that had been almost overly focused on content.
Google wants to interfere with the SEO strategy of manipulating search results mechanically by delivering search results that searchers actually like. Towards that end, Panda lets Google blend in subjective evaluations of search results to tune up their search engine and start to de-emphasize those sites we all come across that aren’t really that enjoyable or even informative despite great search ranking. This is mainstream when you start to see Dilbert cartoons about it, and it is life threatening for Google when we read that measurable amounts of web traffic have left the general web and gone to sites like Facebook.
Marketers should expect a lot more of this sort of thing over time. It will be increasingly important to quit worrying about SEO voodoo and start publishing content people are delighted to find. I have been saying to everyone that will listen: Marketing is a Product. It has a User Experience. Make sure yours is one that delights would-be customers lest they not only tune you out but have an increasingly difficult time even finding your content. First impressions will matter more and more as feedback loops like Google Panda and Social “Like” buttons that affect search results are not going to give you a second chance if you blow the first one.
If you’re running an established business that focuses most of its efforts on SEO manipulation, start thinking about how to ramp your content quality up quickly. If you’re an entrepreneur thinking about bootstrapping a business or an investor wondering where to invest, you need to add another couple of tests to your framework for evaluating potential ideas:
– Is this space crowded and noisy due to an abundance of great content, or is it one where there is a tremendous hunger for scarce content?
– Does this company already have a track record for producing differentiated content that is driving traffic?
– Does the company have content creation talent on board and does it understand how to use content effectively?
You want to be a big fish in a small content pond when you’re starting out if you expect to be noticed. And importantly, it’s hard to farm out the best content until you have a critical mass of folks familiar with your market and products who want to contribute. Make sure you have the ability to operate with great content until you’ve spanned that gap.
There’s a new sheriff in town, and his name is Content.