Updated: June 15, 2013
Yes, here we are. The year is 2013, but some things do not change, like the bi-annual Google's normalization of the web in the form of their so-called algorithm updates, which usually happen in April and October worldwide. Panda, Paragon, Placebo, Panther, call them whatever you wanna call them, they happen, and the Internet goes into a fit.
This year, just like the last time I wrote about it, I was also affected to some degree. So I'd like to tell you what Google did this time, why you shouldn't be bothered, and what is going to happen come the autumn. So here we go.
New is always better
This is a motto a friend of mine coined, and here I'm using it. Unlike the last time Google did its Panda thingie, they tried to be more careful this time. Somewhat. Rather than just labeling every social site and blog as being more favorable than the rest, they did take into account a few factors, would you believe it. First, they did try their best, or rather better, since it's far from perfect. They did try to figure out original from scam. However, they also applied a very basic rule to their algorithm - ignore old content, new is always better. In fact, anything written three or four years back is automatically penalized, because in the age of modern and now, it seems implausible someone would want to read technical articles written in the stone age, no matter they might happen to be 100% relevant today.
One topic to rule them all
Then, if you happen to have a site with multiple subject matters, or let's say, multiple areas of interest, Google is confused. In a world where things are being presented to users in massive quantities of one, like one application at any given time, Gods of the Internet forbid more mental pressure on the poor user, a site dabbling in multiple things goes against the paradigm of what they want you to think the Web is all about. So if you happen to discuss a range of things, you should expect your less popular, less obvious articles to take a plummeting step down. Become a Borg, be successful.
Social is also better
Then, ever so slightly, no bias, if you happen to have a website rich in buttons to modern social media, like Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and such, it means you are in sync with your community, and so you must be offering rich content and all that nonsense. Because this is where Google gets most of its revenue, and if you abide by much simpler rules of just offering content without the social orgy element, you are not profitable.
What do you do now - why you shouldn't give a shit
All right, so now you're asking yourself, what should you do? What happens now? Your traffic might be hurting, you might be losing profit, income, revenue, or all three, and you're thinking how you should adapt to this new algorithm.
The simple answer is: do nothing. Which is exactly what I did last time. I have not changed a single item, no matter how much smart advice I got from would-be experts on Google forums. I waited for the code monkeys to realize their mistake and fix the crap in their algorithm, and that was it. SEO my ass.
This time, too, I am seeing some drop in traffic from Google, with approx. 25% less leads from organic search engine queries, but more direct traffic from loyal readers. It's not as serious as the blunder of 2011, but Google is gently favoring sites with the more social and mobile orientation, with a single topic focus, and it's also neglecting older content, because it is not profitable.
With such noble goals in mind, any kind of competition on your end is pointless. Like debating religion online. There's no winner in this game. Ignore the noise, or, if you feel like you should be venting, vent. But do not compromise on who you are because of someone's bullshit money-grabbing policies. Screw that. Let art and creativity rule supreme. If you even have to think how to phrase your content so it caters to random, arbitrary algorithms designed to make some company out there profitable, then you're doing the wrong thing.
Now, to keep my sorry ass from being sued for slander, I must emphasize this is just my poor brain speculating, of course. No accusations, or nothing, right. I am just expressing my opinion, and Google is just a sweet, sweet angel concerned with the welfare of all the consumers out there, of course. Not its own revenue, at all.
So now, lastly, let me explain WHY this is done. Internet is growing all the time, and margins are getting thinner, with the invented global crisis and all that. Google, or any company based on content only, cannot be expected to keep the pace with the Web in terms of spending, so now and then, it must normalize.
Which means simply trimming the Internet to what it can sustain, financially. When they say their change affects 5-10% sites out there, it probably means they cut the indexed Web down by 5-10%. And the same goes for their advertisement programs, like Google Adsense. If you think I'm just pulling random sentences out of my colon, ask yourselves the following question: for any given period where your traffic grew by a factor of two, did the revenue from advertisement programs grow as much? The simple answer is no. You will see that there's a big dampening factor to revenue, and you can go back to the source from there.
Yes, I do invite you to this mental exercise. Examine your revenue per thousand clicks, go back three, four years in time, and see how the numbers change not in your favor. Then, check your Webmaster Tools and profile your incoming traffic, check the pages that were ranked up and down, and look for a common characteristic. I am almost 100% certain that you won't get a linear ratio between the money you earn and the traffic you generate. Enough said.
There are several things at play here, all financial. And they should not concern you in the least. You cannot fight Google on its own terms. It has the money and the power, and it decides how it wants to make the Web run. With hard competition from Facebook, they must cut the costs down, so they trim. Expected. You're the one paying the price, so what. That's how it works. The big guys squeeze a muscle and you open your mouth for a free donation. Don't concern yourself with that.
What you need to do is stay focused on creating your content, as high quality as it can be given your skill, passion, time, desire, and such. Do not alter your work, your ideas or anything of that sort for the sake of software algorithms. That's sad. Now, you could be losing huge amounts of money, and your living might depend on online advertising, and that's tough, but when you partner with the big guys, they run the show. You control your work, though. No one can take that away. So that's what you do. Stay true to your writing, ignore the SEO and other bullshit, and you'll see that things are going to sort themselves out quite neatly. Mark my words.
Now, there's one blessed thing about the Internet. It's a double-edged sword. After all, you make the content out there, so in fact, in some small, diabolical way, you make the rules. Make sure your dissatisfaction is heard, and it will hurt them, where it hurts the most, in their pocket. Then, they will be nice and polite and listen to you. So if you do not like the way your creativity is being treated, don't sit back. Voice your opinion, tell people about it, and keep doing your online work, just as did till now. Most importantly, do not let an algorithm change you, because then you truly lose the game.