Matt Cutts, the man tasked by Google to send spammy, low-quality sites to the bottom of its search rankings, recently used his platform at SMX West to emphasize that future Panda updates will roll-out in a less frequent, less dramatic fashion. While algorithm tweaks will continue, we now have a fairly comprehensive idea what kinds of sites both Penguin and Panda reward and punish.
So how do those of us in the SEO space succeed in this post-Penguin, post-Panda environment? The key is artfully balancing offsite and onsite optimization.
Shouldn't We Be Talking About Content?
At first glance, focusing on offsite and onsite optimization might seem a bit strange. After all, industry chatter currently centers on the key role played by Content Marketing Optimization. The truth is, content has always been important, but that doesn't mean we can forget about the other two elements of a solid SEO strategy.
Thinking About Onsite Optimization
Penguin and Panda haven't had much of an effect on the core of onsite optimization. If you want your site to rank well, you need to continue following SEO best practices. Your assets need to be based on well-structured code, provide an easily navigable path for readers, include proper tagging, and contain relevant, organic keywords. While some would say this isn't strictly an SEO matter, your assets should also include clearly defined conversion points.
All these onsite activities will make your online real estate easy to discover and easy to index. Google still loves sites that go through the trouble to do these things properly. Just make sure you're not trying to game the system by using black hat tactics or tricks like keyword stuffing. Those kinds of activities will get you intimately acquainted with SERP penalties.
Thinking About Offsite Optimization
Linking, the core of offsite optimization, has been profoundly affected by Penguin's changes to Google's search algorithm.
Unfortunately for SEOs and SEMs, we will never have a solid blueprint of the precise nature of those changes. What we do know is that the old tactic of simply racking up thousands of backlinks no longer works. In fact, this once-beloved tactic could now quickly earn you a penalty.
In the post-Penguin/Panda world, you should be seeking natural links. This issue isn't even quality vs. quantity--it's common vs. quantity. The emphasis on natural linking means that link exchanges, paid links, and links from suspect directories are losing strategies.
So what's the best way to earn natural links? The answer to that question leads us back to the primacy of content.
Why Content Matters More than Ever
As we said earlier, quality content has always been important. Readers have always recognized thin content written solely to manipulate search engines, and they've never had patience with it. When they encountered it, they typically moved on to the next site within seconds. Conversions were driven down, and revenue was undoubtedly lost; though to what extent was largely immeasurable.
What's changed is that Google has now devised ways to identify the signals provided by quality content. This means it's easier than ever to put quality sites at the top of their rankings and shield searchers from sites that would waste their time.
Like its stance on linking, Google will never hand us a detailed blueprint of what makes for quality content in its eyes. Here's what we do know: Your content must be valid, useful, of reasonable depth, and updated consistently.
Making those factors the hallmarks of your content strategy will satisfy Google, please your readers, and also increase your chances of naturally enhancing your backlink profile.
It's Balance that Matters
In the end, your SEO success depends upon balancing all three legs of the tripod: onsite, offsite, and content. When news of algorithm updates sweeps through the industry, it's easy to overcompensate. Remember that Google's principles and guidelines have remained relatively constant over the course of Penguin and Panda roll-outs.
Admittedly, changes in strategic linking have moved the needle somewhat, but proper onsite optimization remains foundational - and now Content Marketing Optimization is just as important. All three components are imperative and all three need your attention.