When Google’s Panda update started targeting on-page optimization that were considered low-value—with special focus on duplicate content and outbound links that appeared to be spam—it caused quite a controversy. Now, the most recent Penguin update, which targets primarily inbound links and links that are particularly identified as unnatural, controversy has once again arisen. Many businesses on are now seeing their traffic, search engine rankings, and even a significant amount of income drop with amazing speed. And just like what happened with the Panda, many are complaining that they’re being targeted unfairly.
The problem with many of those who complain is that they really have no clear idea what the term “ethical SEO practices” mean or what they constitute. This is particularly true of small businesses; this is why many people think they’re being unfairly targeted by Google’s updates—they don’t think they’re doing anything wrong. Take the case of an online business that has derived its ranking from the start by using tactics such as article spinning, using inbound links from networks, and buying links: for years the business owner may have used these tactics without realizing that they go against the primary mission of Google, which is to provide its users with only the most relevant search results. One of the reasons for the business owner’s failure to realize this fact is that his online business may have been doing quite well until the Penguin update. Also many businesses underestimate the importance of hiring a white hat SEO company to handle their accounts properly and in the end they got what they paid for.
The fact that you continued to enjoy good rankings, good traffic, and good sales even after the Panda update was launched doesn’t necessarily mean you can just relax and expect to be saved from the Penguin update as well. After all, the very reason why these updates are launched in the first place is for Google to be able to provide their users with the best answers to their queries. Imagine yourself being the one searching for something on the Internet. You wouldn’t want to do a Google search only to be victimized by the manipulative use of SEO services, would you? The best way for site owners to ensure good rankings regardless of what updates Google comes up with, therefore, is to make sure they follow only ethical SEO practices.
The problem lies in the fact that not all webmasters are SEO professionals. This means your webmaster may not really know how much is too much where search engine optimization is concerned. Even if you read Google’s updates and guidelines, they still wouldn’t do you much good if you don’t know the basic rules in the first place. That’ll be like cooking with a list of ingredients, but no cooking instructions. Making even the slightest mistake could ruin the entire recipe. To further aggravate the situation, search engine algorithms are so mercurial that what works today may not necessarily work three months from now. This is why it’s very important for you to keep up with the latest algorithm changes.
To make it easier for you to deal with the Google Penguin and any other further updates, here are three important things the Penguin should have taught you by now:
1. Diversity and balance are the key
The reason why Google’s Penguin update focuses on penalizing “spammy” sites is that Google wants to improve SERP quality for the benefit of searchers. If you want to get on top of search results pages, therefore, you either have to buy an AdWords spot there or come up with exceptionally good content for organic rankings. More importantly, you’ll have to forget about shady SEO tactics. Remember that saturating your title tags with keywords, using low-quality back links, and unnatural inter-links are the top targets of the Google Penguin. You should also learn how to mix up the types of content on your site. You can learn more about balancing your page look and feel with content, here.
In this image, the Biltmore website was able to achieve balance by distributing content evenly in blocks. Well chosen illustrations also added dimension to break the monotony of the site. – http://net.onextrapixel.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/biltmore.jpg
2. Strive to be as Pertinent as Possible to Your Audience
As long as you remain relevant to your target audience, you’ll always be safe from the pummeling these Google updates give errant sites. Take note that Google has recently introduced the Knowledge Graph, which is expected to hugely change the SEO game. Google is changing the way online search is processed; instead of depending heavily on keywords, search results are becoming more and more dependent on concepts that are relevant relative to each other. This means searches are moving away from its dependence on disjointed keywords. What this means for site owners is that the quality of their outbound and inbound links will now be measured according to their relevance and usefulness as well as the importance of the information in relation to the user’s query. This makes it even more important for you to develop connections and authority in your chosen niche. If you haven’t already started, then now is definitely the best time for you to start community building, particularly since community members are usually the best sources for natural links. Community building is also an excellent tool for customer retention.
3. Provide Useful Content
Since you now know that your main focus needs to shift from shady SEO tactics to building your credibility, your target audience’s trust, and your authority in your niche, then you need to understand that the best way to achieve this purpose is for you to keep things real. This might mean overhauling your entire site content. What’s important is for you to start focusing on creating better content, especially in on-page and guest posts. To put it simply, you have to keep your site content clean, clear, and useful.
There is a way for you to avoid getting pummeled by the Penguin and even if you’ve already been hurt, you can still bounce back. The secret is in taking a close look at your site to identify what could have gone wrong and then making the necessary adjustments.
Top Mistakes to Avoid After Google Penguin
If your website has been heavily affected by the Penguin update, you may want to go all out on SEO. However, due to the update, some of the old tried and tested optimization tactics may not work as well as before.
If you are still doing the same things you have been doing before, then there are chances that you may be making some grave SEO mistakes, which may even drive down your rankings even more.
1) You Are Using the Same Anchor Text – Using the same anchor texts, like “click here” or “find out more” or “click the link” may not do well for your website rankings. However, using these kinds of keywords would make your anchor text profile look natural. Use your brand name in the anchor, as well as your domain name. The key here is to link as naturally as possible by using natural keywords, and avoiding being aggressive.
2) Spun Content – In the past, the more content out there, which linked back to your site, the better it was for your rankings. However, eventually, article directories became breeding grounds for poorly written articles, which were posted just for the sake of links, and we saw plenty of spun content, which absolutely made no sense. Spun content that do not make any sense and are posted for the sake of placing links will definitely get you penalized by Google.
3) Over-Optimizing – Back in 2010 and 2011, over-optimizing was a very popular thing. People used keywords as many times as they could in a blog post or article. Today, however, over optimization does not give your site that boost and appeal to Google like it used to before. So, avoid forcing keywords in the first and last sentences when they look unnatural, and avoid unnecessarily underlining, italicizing, and bolding the keywords because these do not provide any added value to your site.
4) Spam Blogs – Using spam blogs can also be bad for your rankings. Spam blogs are basically blogs with poorly written content. Most posts for spam blogs usually do not have any sense, typically contain a wide range of disconnected topics, and are posted only to put links in them. Real blogs that want to rank in search engines need to have a clear focus and should have excellent content that people will take time to read.
5) Spam Commenting – Some people prowl popular niche blogs and post spam comments. However, this may not work at all. Spam comments include all comments which are placed to simply drop links and do not contribute to or provide any real value to the blog readers.
6) Ranking Using Only Popular and Paid Blog Networks – Plenty of sites which were dropped by Google Penguin used popular blog networks. Instead of using paid blog networks, you may want to use article marketing instead since this continues to be a solid method for site ranking.
7) Using Free Directories – Article directories used to be very popular a long time ago and they were the go-to places to find helpful information on the web. However, they became loaded with poor and uninformative content, which is why Google has forced them to take a backseat. Good directories categorize and classify effectively so people can find helpful information easily. However, there are free and poor directories which do not classify their content and also accept poorly written content. These will not help your site at all.
Aside from these mistakes, there is one thing that you should remember. Google dislikes spam. Keep this in mind regularly and remember that any practice that constitutes spamming or providing spam-like content to readers will definitely not be good in the eyes of search engines.
So, take at look at your current practices or the SEO services of your provider and determine if they are currently making any of these mistakes. If they are, then you should stop doing these and use more helpful and relevant SEO tactics instead.
Read Up and Keep Yourself Updated
The key to search engine success is to play by Google’s rules, which changes from time to time. So read up and update yourself about the newest Google updates because a good tactic today may be an SEO mistake tomorrow.
See you at the top!
Traian, the guest author of this article, is the Director of SEO and co-founder of Pitstop Media Inc, a Canadian company that provides top rated SEO services to businesses across North America. To invite the author to guest post on your blog too, please contact www.pitstopmedia.com.