Wow. As I averred the other day, I’m aware of some awful SERPs for some particular keywords (a few people now have picked up on the fact that Viagra.com doesn’t rank for ‘viagra’, which is borderline batshit insane).
As you may or may not know, I’m currently working at Trusted Dealers, with an interest in the used car market. It’s a tough market, because there are a bunch of brands who, as you’d expect, are pretty much grandfathered in at the top of the rankings for pretty much everything: Autotrader, Exchange and Mart, and Motors.co.uk, followed by a raft of big national names in motor retail – including manfacturers, franchised dealers and some very good affiliates.
Penguin didn’t leave much of a ripple in the market (which is part of the reason I have half an inkling that it was targeted at particular verticals) but even so, here’s a site that’s suddenly ranking on page 2 in the UK for “second hand cars”, which is a reasonably competitive term in this vertical.
Seriously, Google? A peek at some of the referring domains hardly suggests someone putting in the hard work at the coal face of link building either.
There’s a few other sites that have crept into the first couple of pages that really have no business being there – plastered in AdSense or linking to this kind of shit – which is some kind of awful low-rent affiliate program, I guess:
So while the industry as a whole is relatively untouched, there’s definitely a chill around the nether regions.
So what to make of it? It’s war on the SEO industry – or at least the linkbuilding part of it. In a way, that’s the logical conclusion of what Google has been moving towards over the last few years: reward brands. Reward social signals. Punish content farms. Go after spun content and made-for-AdSense sites.
Dave Naylor probably had it right a few days ago: Google have decided to start dropping the hammer, and are prepared to countenance compromising the quality of the SERPs in the short term in the name of what they perceive to be a greater good.
So what does this tell us about the future? Is not link building the new link building? Will you have to be a brand? Should you work on legit social signals. Probably yes, but if that’s news to you, you’ve been asleep too long even before this update.