How about a quick show of hands for those who have ever watched the epic 1986 animated feature film, Transformers: The Movie?
Dumb question. I can’t see any of your hands. This is a blog post. Duh. Regardless, if you haven’t, I suggest wasting 84 minutes of your time and enjoying a viewing of it.
Right now, you are most likely wondering what the point of my initial question and the title of this blog post have to do with each other. Follow along and let me explain. I promise it will be worth it.
Starscream: “Megatron?” Galvatron: “Here’s a hint.” — BOOM!
The beginning of the movie is basically one large, vicious battle between the Autobots and Decepticons. The Autobots are doomed until Optimus Prime shows up to “turn the tide” and battles Megatron one final time. Optimus and Megatron both become critically damaged and the tide turns for the Autobots. The Decepticons retreat to Astrotrain to fly off back to their home planet, Cybertron. Optimus Prime soon dies (yes I witnesses this movie in the theaters and held back tears) and Megatron gets tossed (along with many other damaged Decepticons) into outer space by Starscream along the journey back to their home planet.
Megatron and the other damaged Decepticons float off into space and meet the colossal planet consuming robot, Unicron. Unicron makes a deal with Megatron and gives him and the other damaged Decepticons new bodies and new names. Galvatron is born.
Obviously, Galvatron is still pissed at Starscream. Galvatron immediately flies back to Cybertron and arrives to witness Starscream’s coronation as the new Decepticon leader. Galvatron confronts Starscream, who looks confused, and asks, “Megatron?” Galvatron instantly transforms to his new gun mode saying, “Here’s a hint” and blasts Starscream, who then disintegrates and dies.
Now that is what I feel like doing to the authors of each new “How to recover from the <insert Google algo update here> Penalty” or when someone states “<insert Google algo update here> is a penalty.” I see this stuff daily and it drives me nuts. Nine times out of ten it is horrible advice. I honestly wish I had the ability to simply transform to Galvatron’s gun mode, yell “Here’s a hint,” and vaporize the stupidity.
For those of you that don’t want to waste 84 minutes watching the movie, you can waste 60 seconds and watch the clip I just spoke about.
Let’s Not Quibble Over Semantics
I say yes, let’s quibble. Without semantic explanation and definition we lack structure. Without structure we engage with chaos. When I say chaos, I mean disorder.
It really disturbs me when there are people who often scoff at the use of semantics as if they are too cool to follow some sort of logical meaning. When they do this, it reminds me of a hipster standing in line at some upscale coffee shop, with his skinny jeans on and key ring hanging off his one of his belt loops, trying too hard to be different while making a meaningless statement and overusing the word semantics because he is such a cool guy. Whew… Long sentence. Then suddenly, I realized how much I actually hate the use of the word semantics.
So yes, let’s quibble. I enjoy debate, especially when I feel strongly about my opinion and can back it up with justification. What are we quibbling about? Algorithm updates being called penalties.
Algorithm Updates Gauge a Domains Performance in the SERP’s
No. No. And no. For the last time, a search engine algorithm update is not, I repeat, not a penalty. Even Matt Cutts plainly admits this in his recent interview with Danny Sullivan at SMX. I can already hear people groaning because I mentioned something Matt Cutts said. That doesn’t mean I am telling everyone to follow everything he says. So get over it.
Think of a search engine algorithm update as a way to measure the performance of a domain. Much like how a coach evaluates his players. As your performance increases for the domain (or during practice), so should your rankings (or your playing time). As your performance decreases for the domain (or during practice), so should your rankings (or playing time). Simple analogy for this, but it does work.
Practice like you want to play. When I coached high school soccer (boys and girls) that was a common phrase I instilled in my players heads almost daily. It’s true. Why should a coach reward a player for being a slacker? Therefore, why should Google reward you with excellent rankings when your domain screams spam?
Search engines aren’t perfect and neither are we. There are mistakes and mistakes can be corrected.
My Rankings Decreased. Crazy Google Algorithm Update Penalized Me!
With every algorithm update there is a slew of people that start complaining that Google unfairly penalized them. Once again, they never penalized you. They saw you were underperforming and your rankings decreased for your keywords. Penalties are manual. Period. If you were penalized you would be suffering much more than losing some rankings and traffic. Ask JC Penney, iAquire, or Overstock.com about it. I’m sure they would love to waste time explaining that to you.
How about this? Look at a sport. Any sport. Let’s pick hockey in this instance. A player uses his stick to slash an opposing player. The referee sees it and gives the player a 2 minute penalty for slashing. The player broke the rules, got caught; now he must face the consequences.
What about football (soccer)? A player commits a harsh foul and receives a yellow card as a caution. They do it again in the same game and receive another yellow, which becomes a red card. They have now been ejected from the game. The player violated the rules and received a… (you guessed it) penalty.
Same goes for Google. They have their rules. If you break their rules, they have every right to enforce a penalty on you. When they enforce the penalty, it isn’t losing keyword rankings either. You aren’t performing to the coach’s standards, so it’s time to watch more of the game from the bench.
Don’t Complain. Do Something About It.
Before you point your index finger at the search engine, how about taking an analytical approach to figuring out exactly why your rankings have decreased?
- Do not panic. The world is not ending.
- Understand what the algorithm update targeted. The information is usually fairly public.
- Analyze data from your domain, especially data specifically targeted by the algorithm update. There are plenty of tools available to help you do this.
- Tackle the problem by creating educated hypothesis, not assumptions.
- Once you have a solid solution, implement it.
We as a community need to stop deciding how to interpret terminology by our own individual definitions. Those who do not work within the SEO inbound marketing industry already have a hard enough time understanding what we do. Why confuse them with so many different definitions of terms they already have trouble comprehending? There are solid definitions already in place. Use them.
This could not ring more true than with the subject I have just written over a thousand words on. Granted the first 300 or so were about Autobots and Decepticons, but not enjoying that is like saying a sad kitty isn’t cute.
Over the years I could not tell you how many clients have come to me scared to death because they have lost rankings. Then only to tell me how another “SEO” told them their domains loss of search engine visibility is due to the latest algorithm update and they are being penalized. That’s rubbish. Come on everyone, let’s get our crap together.
Feedback and debate is always welcomed. After reading this, what are your thoughts? Do you consider being targeted by an algorithmic update is in fact a penalization? Why? What do you consider a penalty should be labeled as? What would you rather be, an Autobot or Decepticon? Which Transformer would you want to transform into?