Since Panda and Penguin hit the scenes, I’ve gradually developed the notion that Google has discovered that it is very difficult to detect spam programmatically, have tried going to the end of the earth to get it right, and decided that the easiest way to outwit the SEO and spam communities is to bombard them with many changes at once, and not tell them what those changes were. This leaves the “enemy” distressed, confused and disoriented so that they cannot regroup fast enough to retaliate.
This tactic seems to be working pretty well, and one thing Google has shown me about themselves lately is that when something works for them, they turn up the dial. It’s a bit of a tricky tango at the moment, that will only trot closer to the cliff edge. We will all have to create and embrace a broader philosophy or strategy for SEO, rather than just a set of formulaic tactics.
Bill Slawski’s post from back in August really confirmed this for me, if I wasn’t already certain enough. He talks about Google’s patent for a rank-modifying system, that actually waits a bit before effecting the new ranking of a page after a small change or modification to the page, such as Meta information. The idea is that if somebody stuffs in a bunch of keywords to see if it helps rankings, then they won’t see an accurate result. It might suddenly jump up before declining, or decline and then rise. If the “spammer” immediately does further changes after a rank increase or decrease, the page can basically be marked as potential spam, which can then be dealt with accordingly, depending if they can confirm it.
So something like this really makes things difficult, if you’re trying to recover from a Penguin refresh, or some new algo update. You’re prevented from being able to try to get out of it, as your trial and error process actually gets you into more trouble. Google, if you want SEO practitioners to pack it up and go home, then you might as well close shop yourselves. It ain’t gonna happen anytime soon. In nature, if there is opportunity to feed from something, rest assured the parasites (good SEO’s are more symbiotic in my opinion) will swim right in and attach.
So, back to the broader philosophy. SEOMoz appear to have become tired of trying to ease the industry away from gray-to-black hat methods. Rand seems to have adopted a kind of impatience in his demeanor when talking about the basics of SEO, as if he’s asking a kid with crumbs all down there front if they ate that cookie just before dinner (and they look up from beneath their massive eyelashes, shaking their head from side to side). Rand I think is trying to hammer it home, that in order to do well in future, you need to get creative. The ability to take short cuts is diminishing. Try everything. Learn how to create all kinds of media. Learn a little bit of web development even if just to know how it works. Get the word out about your client, rather than turning them into a keyword list. Listen to what the top dogs are doing, and kindly sharing with others. Don’t assume one isolated tactic is gonna help your client, such as getting site-wide backlinks because they collectively have higher PageRank (it doesn’t work).
Personally I look forward to a web of transparency, openness and creative thinking, as long as my rents getting paid