12 Sep 2013

SEOs Should Focus On Patterns, Not Quality

green patternsDear SEOs, please talk less about quality and more about patterns. We have all heard it before: “The future of SEO is high quality content.” or “Its time to start building high quality links.”. Here’s a little secret that I have mentioned in the past: Search engine algorithms don’t care about quality. Search engines are more interested in patterns that are typically associated with web sites that large audiences love to visit. So whats the difference? The difference comes into play when SEOs ignore large negative patterns and instead push forward with high quality content or high quality link development. By ignoring these patterns, the SEO is wasting their time with new content or links because the negative patterns are holding them down.

Here are a few patterns to look out for, and the algorithms they are associated with:

  • Excessive patterns in URLs. (Panda)
  • Irrelevant terms in URLs. (Panda)
  • IA uses a singular topic for all content. (Panda)
  • Money Terms” as internal anchor text. (Panda/Maybe Penguin)
  • Excessive duplicated footer links on every page. (Panda)
  • Excessive secondary navigation in sidebars. (Panda)
  • High concentrations of exact match anchor text on inbound links. (Penguin)
  • Site wide links. (Penguin)
  • Links from multiple domains on the same C-class IP address. (Penguin)
  • Links found inside scraped content. (Penguin)
  • Links on domains with overt ties to SEO. (Penguin)
  • Links on domains with overt ties to link building. (Penguin)

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that you can or should quit building high quality content, and links. But, the truth is you should be doing that anyways. Building high quality content and links shouldn’t be a corner stone to your SEO efforts, it should be a default marketing objective; something that should be done way before SEO enters the conversation. Unfortunately, I often times see the reverse, and as a result, all of the time effort and money that goes into building high quality content is wasted because it is surrounded by bad patterns.

What are some patterns that you have identified?


  1. Josh @ Form Your Future September 12, 2013 at 4:04 PM

    Awesome post, Joe. I completely agree with you there and I’ll definitely be incorporating patterns on the niche site project that I’m working on.

    However, I still love the type of traffic that I can pull from really getting readers socially engaged. And You’re right, people should already be doing this from the beginning. Combining both is the key to finding long term success in blogging.

  2. Rohit Palit September 13, 2013 at 5:00 AM

    One of the best SEO articles written in the simplest possible way.

    This IS SEO – understanding patterns. You should create quality content anyway. I’ve personally found quality content to not work on sites that already have bad patterns (for SEO) around them.

  3. Jason September 13, 2013 at 9:20 AM

    Fantastic article, really one of the best I have read about Panda/Penguin in a long, long time. It is a very nuanced and sophisticated viewpoint of Google’s attempt at ‘rewarding’ high quality sites.

    One question for you Joe. What exactly do you mean by “IA uses a singular topic for all content. (Panda)”? Can you give an example or two please?

    Thanks for this article, you really solidified my thoughts on this.

  4. Matt Zajechowski September 13, 2013 at 10:23 AM

    Great post Joe. I couldn’t agree more. You amazing links and content arent going to provide much value if your backlink profile is littered with patterns and crappy links.

  5. Asher Elran September 13, 2013 at 2:18 PM

    Bad pattern will outweigh any kind of quality content or link. Very Good article. You hear so many times from different people “content is the king” or similar type of nonsense. Google can’t tell the difference between the article written by an average writer and an excellent one, but it can tell if your site has a bad link pattern.

  6. Ryan September 17, 2013 at 12:10 PM

    Another pattern is links from same type of sites, i.e blogs, directories, comments. If all links are the same type, it generally indicates spam. This rule is usually associated with blog comment spamming, but if a website all of a sudden has 250 directory listings or 8 blog post on 8 different blog platforms, it looks pretty suspicious.

  7. Tommy Landry February 13, 2014 at 4:03 PM

    Great post Joe – I tell my clients this all the time and most of them listen. The problem is that there is so much fluff out there pimping content marketing as the “be all end all”, that many of them think they can just post new materials and the links will magically appear.

    We still have to pursue links and post good content, of course, and a natural rhythm is key. This is why I always warn clients not to leave all their eggs in one basket – diversify content types, link types, where they post comments, etc. Thanks for calling out the pattern recognition part of the whole system.

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