Recently, I was quoted in an article by CNBC, where I was asked about my experience and feelings toward Google’s spam quality updates, in particular: Google Penguin.

My answer likely shocked many of peers and potentially alienated me from my community, SEO’s – the brilliant people who are hired to break the Google formula and get ranking for their clients.

I, unlike many, am relatively happy with Penguin and how it has improved Google’s search engine results. Before I get into why, here’s a quick recap of what I told Ari Levy:

He [Wiideman] says that if companies concentrate on building a clean site, producing useful content and doing outreach to business-listing services, rather than spreading links, they’ve got a much better shot of moving up the search rankings.

“Penguin has cleaned up so much garbage and spam created by black hat SEO companies,” Wiideman said, adding that Google manages negative SEO just fine. “It’s pretty easy for Google to see what is natural behavior and what is manipulated behavior.”

Most of the negative SEO complaints Wiideman has heard are from small businesses that at some point hired the wrong person to try and boost traffic and ended up with a bunch of low-quality links.

Why Penguin is Good for the SEO Ecosystem

Google Penguin Sweeping Up Bad ResultsThe smarter we become as search engine optimization specialists, the more vulnerable Google and other search engines become, an ending that destroys our ability to seek and find knowledge, products, and services that authentically satisfy our queries.

It’s therefore critical for search engines to “shake up the virtual etch-a-sketch” once in a while, to seal up gaps susceptible to vulnerabilities, and immunize themselves from those geniuses who figure out how to push a square object through a triangular hole (results that don’t deserve or belong at the top of the SERPS).

Google’s next Penguin Update could be the refresh that penalizes over-linking within your own website. It could be the update that reduces or eliminates the value of any link from a page that isn’t linked to itself. Regardless of it’s impact, it’s purpose is to penalize manipulation, and you can bet that Google knows the difference.

The Cure to Change: Working Under SEO Principles

I’m just a plain guy who drives a 2003 Honda Civic, wears jeans and polo shirts (sometimes shorts and a geeky t-shirt), and spoils my two little girls and crazy awesome wife as my leisure activity. I don’t use what I’ve learned in SEO to make billions of dollars with search arbitrage, affiliate microsites, or anything else that involves creating content that doesn’t genuinely make a difference to those who stumble upon it from an online search.

All of us SEO veterans have been through the muck of black, grey and white “hat” techniques, testing, exploring and experimenting with tactics that often become short-lived, and reap zero long-term financial gain. So many of us find our soul (and our career) in helping amazing clients operate under 3 unbreakable, never-changing principles:

  1. Good search results are the most relevant to the person’s end desire, not the keyword queried
  2. Web crawlers feed on links that infer authority to weigh against a page’s historical popularity
  3. User search behavior is and always will be important to search engines

There’s No Way Around It

Do the math, if you satisfy the first principle and build amazing, relevant content that serves a user’s end desire, but fail to validate that result through organic links, references, or brand name (with keyword) queries, it could appear to search engines that you’re just not as interesting as you may have seemed at first.

If you satisfy the second principle by earning seemingly authentic links, but users return to search engine results and ultimately end their quest on somebody else’s webpage, it’s easy to figure out that you missed serving the searcher’s need and that you might not be relevant enough to hold that number one position.

Lastly, if you and your genius technology crew figure out user behavior patterns and emulate what appears to be user preference in search results, yet lack a random pattern of natural inbound links over time, you’re destined to be filtered out from the SERPS altogether. And let’s face it, eventually Google will catch on to your robot searches when you reboot or forget to refresh your Mechanical Turk account with funds.

Take the Red Pill

To avoid search engine penalties, we as a community must avoid anything the search engines tell us not to do. That means staying away from link schemes or anything that may appear unnatural or only created for sole the purpose of moving up in rank. As my 8-year old would say (sing), it’s time to “let it go“. So put away your black hat, roll up your sleeves, and take a deep breath.

Now you have a choice: take the virtual red pill and come to the reality of the work lies ahead, or take the blue pill and keep experiencing the unpredictable roller coaster of short tail search engine ranking.

Matrix Red Pill and Blue Pill

By following this new idea of search optimization, you’re presented with a few obstacles, but nothing too scary. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, involves the following:

  1. Really challenging yourself to make and keep making your page better than any other page
  2. Building and earning relationships with people who believe in you and your brand
  3. Monitoring and adjusting based on what is seen in search and how content is served up

Or Take the Blue Pill

If all this “Google stuff” is still overwhelming to you, don’t beat yourself up. It’s normal to fear what we don’t know or understand. As you go back to work, I encourage you to (at a minimum) change your thinking about SEO to be that of doing “whatever it takes to rank higher”, to finding a sharp person (or agency) with a great sense of ethics, who avoids using the word “links” in the interview pitch.

The worse that can happen is being eliminated from organic results and having to pay for advertising; which is still a very viable and worthwhile strategy for getting traffic from search engines (it’s just not a cheap way to go about it).

Thanks for reading. Below is an awesome infographic donated by our friends at Vennage who offer a free infographic generator you can use for content like this one. Careful not to get addicted, you’ll spend the rest of 2016 making infographics. :)


This infographic was made with the Infographic maker Venngage, definitely check them out. Thanks for reading!