You know of course that appearing on page 1 of Google for your target keywords is a guaranteed way of increasing the amount of traffic your website receives.
The difficulty is, unless you invest in PPC advertising, it’s not an easy feat – especially because Google keeps changing the goalposts through its algorithm changes.
And given the recent confirmation from Google’s Matt Cutts that the next phase of Penguin algorithm update went live just yesterday, you may be feeling a little nervous about what this might mean for your web traffic.
But it could be you’re worrying needlessly once you appreciate what Google is trying to achieve.
Let me explain…
First things first – Google is not your friend!
You have to understand Google’s motives from the perspective of its customers. Web users rely on Google to deliver quality results for whatever they’re looking for and so it’s in Google’s interests to ensure websites that deliver a top user experience score highly in the organic ranking.
And that is the essence of Google’s on-going algorithm changes – reward authority and quality, punish spam and ensure the end user finds what they’re looking for – quickly.
Discover what Google defines as high-quality in the Official Google Webmaster Blog
Now I’m sure you’ve heard the horror stories of websites seriously affected by Panda and Penguin. You may have even been affected yourself through a significant reduction in traffic volumes. And here’s a quick look at the reasons why:
Panda was rolled out back in February 2011
This change launched the start of Google’s fight against low-quality websites and targeted so called content farms and scraper sites. In short, websites publishing duplicate content and extraneous keywords were penalised.
Penguin followed in April 2012…
Next Google started tackling website spam with its Penguin algorithm change. Sites with “ghost pages”, keyword stuffing and dubious linking patterns were the hardest hit.
The biggest losers of these algorithm changes and their subsequent refreshes and updates were the websites who “cheated” their way up the rankings. But on the positive side, websites who focused on delivering a quality experience for their visitors began to see their rankings climb.
Be warned. Algorithm changes will continue – so be prepared!
Google’s heavily protected algorithm is not static. Algorithm changes, refreshes and updates will continue for the foreseeable future. It means your site’s quality will continue to be tested. So if you’re keen to minimise the future impact on your website, check out these five proven tactics that will help protect your rankings.
- Boost your organic search results through high quality, “white hat” SEO tactics:
Don’t underestimate the time it takes to get your site highly ranked. And whilst black hat techniques may give you overnight results, they also make you vulnerable to the next algorithm change. Always use an SEO agency that promotes ethical techniques. This will include tactics such as the natural integration of keywords into website copy, diverse anchor text as well as a slow, steady, diverse link building strategy.Be warned! It’s simply not worth trying to find the loopholes in the algorithm, because Google’s smart team of web spam experts led by Matt Cutt’s are constantly closing the gaps.
- Write for your user first and for Google second:
Whilst Google may send you traffic, if a visitor lands on a poorly written, spammy website they’ll soon click away. Instead focus on conversion by delivering a great user experience. It is a cliché but you can’t escape it. Content is king. It means ensuring your content reads well is always preferable to squeezing in random keywords. And when you write with a natural flow, you’ll find your keywords are seamlessly integrated and can be effortlessly tweaked for optimisation.
- Build a quality link-profile:
Backlinks are used by Google to organically rank websites because they can be an indication of quality. However the quality of links is far more important than quantity. In fact, a single link from a website with a high domain authority is often worth significantly more than a mass of less significant links.So whilst you should focus on link building, never be tempted by offers such as “500 links for £5” and avoid SEO consultancies who promise to get you lots of links very quickly. Instead secure quality backlinks through a variety of tactics. Guest posting is still a major, ethical link-building tactic but Google is starting to clamp down. Remember it’s also about authority so, for example, posting the same article on numerous other sites to secure links is unlikely to work. Instead, work with a quality SEO consultant who can recommend appropriate sites and always submit quality articles (your SEO consultant may be able to help with this too if writing is not your thing)
And do be aware that a reliance on guest posting is too one-dimensional. So ensure you work with someone who will deploy a variety of tactics to ensure your link profile is robust and diverse.
- Work social media:
There are clear signals that Google is taking notice of social sharing as an indicator of quality. It appears the number of likes, +1s and mentions will influence your rankings via the backlinks that are naturally created via social sharing. What’s more, Google is placing more emphasis on author authority with the introduction of Google authorship and of course the growing importance of Google+.
- Don’t rely on Google to send all your traffic:
Finally, SEO should never be viewed in isolation. Instead it should form an integral part of your marketing strategy to reach customers and promote your business. If Google is your only source of traffic you’ll always be vulnerable. But if you supplement this with strategies such as social media, blogging as well as offline marketing, you’ll reach more people and reduce your risk.
So you see, whilst you need to be aware of what Google is doing, if you focus on creating a website that serves your customers, the impact of future changes to your business are likely to be minimal. What’s more, you could find that your efforts to boost quality will actually help your rankings grow.
Over to you…
What questions do you have about protecting your website from the next Penguin update? If you note them in the comments, I’ll answer them for you.
Hazel Jarrett, director of SEO at SEO+, is well-known in the SEO space, has won many awards during her 20-year career and has been published on various well-known sites. Through her services and training programs, her SEO strategies have generated 10s of millions of sales for her clients, earning her a big reputation for delivering the results that matter.
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