Did you notice anything?
There has been a huge disturbance in the force, by which I mean Google updated its algorithm again and people have been picking over the pieces to see what’s gone on. Here’s what we can ascertain thus far:
It’s about content
Content, content, content. Pretty tiring talking about it to be honest, but there you go.
From what we can see, if you had a site that had a ton of really good content, then you did quite well out of Panda. If you had a site that was full of spam or scraped content, well, you ended up without good rankings or disappearing altogether and some sites really have suffered, some high profile ones, too. There’s a lot of talk about whether eBay was hit by Panda 4, but it seems that this may have actually been a manual penalty.
What’s a manual penalty?
A lot of what we talk about on here is to do with automatic updates to Google. We all know there’s a big brain full of clever stuff that decides which results to give for any particular search term and this is referred to as the ‘algorithm’. Google updates it regularly to make sure it’s accurate and relevant. However manual penalties are where something is flagged to a member of staff (yes, an actual human) who then decides to dish out digital SEO hate and make your site disappear.
It seems this is what’s happened to eBay and they’ve been punished for some poor SEO practice, probably on-site stuff. So let’s not talk about them any more, let’s get to some more meaty stuff.
SEO people the world over are always looking for the next best way to promote their websites and a few years ago it was press releases. They used to be brilliant for getting top rankings and a few carefully constructed releases could do wonders for your rankings. However, as with everything, the spammers caught on to it and before you know it, they stop providing any kind of value and it’s easy to see why.
Press release sites sprung up all over the place and the cost of sending a release soon dropped, however even some of the bigger PR sites got caught up in it and people were willing to spend a few hundred quid on a release due to the lovely link-juice it gave you. For example:
Take some time to read that and you’ll notice that it’s not very well written at all. There’s lots of keyword repetition and links out to YouTube Videos. It’s terrible. Someone paid £200 or so to have that distributed and it looks like that.
There are lots of links to YouTube which then launch off to other sites that try to sell you some stuff about losing weight. It’s all a bit trashy and this sort of thing appears to have been hit by Panda 4.
It’s a shame because press releases used to be a good way to get news out to people, however as they started getting spammed, people took much less notice of them. Can you imagine being on a press release distribution list and getting stuff like that in your email inbox every morning? Soul destroying.
So, something had to be done, and done it was. Here’s a screenshot from SEMRush which is a site that shows various metrics for websites. This one is the number of visitors to PRWeb:
And here’s Businesswire’s tale of sorrow:
PRLog seems to be going waaaaay down, and it’s no surprise to see, they appear to allow all sorts of stuff on their network, check this one that
I got from my browser history someone sent me:
So are press releases an ex-method of getting great rankings?
To be fair, they never should have been. A press release is a method of getting information out to people who may then pick up on the news and write about it themselves or perhaps highlight it for more people to see. As a link building method it was a poor choice as again it fits into that all too familiar slot of “something dodgy that Google will eventually pick up on”.
That’s the point you see. Google is moving more and more away from links as a ranking signal in its own right. Five years ago a thousand links could bring you riches galore but now it’s not so easy. As soon as links became a digital commodity, Google stopped liking them so much because in effect, it meant that they could be bought and sold.
We used to say that a link to your site was like a vote. The more votes you got to your site, the better your rankings would be. Now, imagine you were voting in a new government and you wanted more votes. The best way to do this is to create a ton of great news about your policies that in turn creates a buzz about what you do and eventually, people will vote for you. Now imagine one of the other parties merely bribes a bunch of people to get them to vote for them. That’s what buying links is like and the more that it goes on, the more Google will come down hard on them.
Content is the way forward, but it needs to be good content and search engines are getting clever, they know what’s good and bad these days.