There’s been a sea change in Google ever since Panda started up. Panda has kept webmasters jumping from one foot to the other, as they try to figure out what it is Google wants from their sites. There are several competing theories, but those aren’t what I’m going to talk about.
The bigger picture
Is it a mistake to zero in on Google and what it’s looking for? Google does account for 80% of searches, right? Well, no. Google’s still very dominant, but its dominance has declined down to 65% in recent years. Still, that’s a majority. Yahoo is a distant second with only 16%.
It’s true that of the search engines, the one you want to concentrate on is Google. But are you still getting most of your traffic from Google? Some webmasters I’ve talked to are – by far, they say. If Google “pandalizes” them, they really feel it.
But I’m seeing something else, and I wonder if it’s at all indicative of the way things are going. I’m getting considerably more traffic from a combination of Facebook, StumbleUpon, Pinterest and Twitter than I get from Google. While I don’t know what Google wants, I’m getting better all the time at predicting which posts will inspire people to hit their sharing buttons.
The future of social
Will Google always dominate our optimization strategies, or is social media going to step up?
- People use Google for searching specific topics or products of interest.
- Many people use social media to find neat content to check out.
- Many people ask friends on Facebook for links rather than going to Google. Maybe they don’t know how to search effectively, or maybe they’re just very social people.
Lately, I’m not finding what I want on Google. It’s like 2005 all over again: half the first page is spam on many queries, and the top results are always the same sites – which I’m already familiar with, and if I wanted them, I’d have just gone to them and used their search feature. No wonder people are going elsewhere to find things – and if they don’t know about Bing or how to access it from their browser, they might very well go to Facebook and see if any of their friends have found something useful.
A sea change?
The question I keep asking myself is: why did Google feel the need for Panda? Why did they suddenly care about content farms and other forms of spam? Why did it suddenly become such a big deal that the last few updates have changed the SERPs dramatically over and over? And why isn’t Panda doing a better job? What does it all mean?
Google’s landscape is changing dramatically. Once upon a time, search was the only way to find specific stuff. Dominating the other search engines was all Google had to do. But now look at the ways we navigate the web:
- We can search for product reviews on Amazon and other sites rather than Googling “whatever reviews.”
- We can reach out to dozens or hundreds of friends and relatives with one status update: “Do any of you know anything about the new whatever?”
- We can search our favorite sites via their apps (as well as their search boxes).
- We can go straight to online magazines and search them for content instead of going through Google’s news feature.
I actually know one person who’s never gotten interested in using Google. I tried to show her once how to make it work for her, but she couldn’t be bothered: she can find everything she wants through YouTube (a Google product, now), Facebook or other people’s sites. If she likes a site, she hooks up to the creator’s Facebook page and goes there to see what the creator says about [whatever]. The sites she likes recommend other sites, and forums where people recommend neat sites, and that’s how she finds stuff. It boggles my mind, but she really does find incredible stuff without ever using Google – including stuff I would never have found through a search engine. And she’s no web guru – she’s just a very social person who talks to other people who like to share what they know.
More than ever, I say: forget trying to figure out Google. I don’t even think Google knows what it wants right now, or Panda would be working better. Just create content for visitors and let the traffic sort itself out.