San Diego Zoo PandaGoogle’s latest updates are causing a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth among marketers. An announcement from the Big G has warned that the looming updates to its search algorithms will be “jarring” for search professionals.

Courtney Mills at brings us a quick rundown on the announcement from the Google HQ:

The warning comes straight from the horse’s mouth, Google’s Matt Cutts to be exact, who said at the recent SES San Francisco conference that the next few updates will be ‘jarring and jolting’ for webmasters and SEOs. He warned that the Google ‘engineers have been working hard,’ on this update and ‘you don’t want the next Penguin update’. Are you quaking in your boots yet?

This the first time Google have actively come out with a warning on an impending ranking update, so that goes to show just how severe it potentially might be. Matt also mentioned that updates to the Panda algorithm aimed at low-quality pages are now so minor as not to be noticed, when they roll out monthly. On the other hand, Penguin targets websites that spam Google. Matt says that Penguin isn’t a penalty but rather an ‘adjustment’ that simply doesn’t let sites get rewarded for spam as much as in the past.

Penguin and Panda: They sound so cute and cuddly, don’t they? From an SEO perspective, they are anything but. While both are geared toward making search results more useful by devaluing spam, they are also causing a lot of websites to lose hard-won link equity.

Add in the escalating importance of social signals to ranking, and the picture becomes clear. No matter what your strategy for SEO may have been, it will now require social engagement to be successful. This brings the focus onto content more than ever before. Useful, compelling content. Content that begs to be shared as opposed to the regurgitated content from the content mill.

I would offer that all of the tricks of the trade for SEO — optimization, link building, etc. — will be eclipsed by shares, tweets, pins, and other human-driven social actions. Ben Wood, the managing director of iProspect, addresses this from his pulpit on The Huffington Post:

Creating content to be shared is a longer-term strategy than the quick fix of buying low-level links. But a natural strategy should engage the right audience along the way, moving SEO into the realm of more creative marketing. It also means that the great content which has been produced can take on a life of its own and be shared and linked to long after its inception.

Guest blogging, too, is a natural way of building brand recognition. Partnership with popular blogs in your industry means that more people will read your content, and the potential for natural back links, and natural traffic as a result of this, should not be underestimated.

Guest-blogging? Creative and useful content written by humans? Carving out your SEO niche by producing highly shareable works on a consistent basis? These things have been the core of our approach at SixEstate since the beginning.

Wood sums it up nicely:

For SEO offsite strategy, it means adopting a longer term strategy revolving around unique, high-quality content and utilizing social platforms to drive engagement and exposure. Creativity should be at the heart of offsite strategies moving forward, and if it isn’t you may well be left out in the cold… like a Penguin.

As Google weeds out the spam and upgrades its attention to social signals, it becomes more and more important for marketers to adopt “white-hat” strategies as opposed to link-spamming and purchasing followers (the latter being especially risky now that the Faker app has been released).

It’s all about content and engagement. The other aspects of SEO will not fade out of existence completely, but they will continue to become more and more sidelined.

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