SEO tactics for algorithm updates
Search engine optimisation is not two-dimensional; It doesn’t mean “making websites #1 in Google”. Yes, it is nice to see your website reach the top spot in the major search engine for your chosen keywords but that’s really the result of steady, sustained search engine optimisation work. It is a set of processes that keep your website functioning and healthy.
SEO is a meeting of the technical with the creative. It’s ensuring that on-page and off-page are balanced and working in harmony. A cross between a toolbox and Pandora’s box. If opened without care and without knowing how to use the tools inside, it can all go horribly wrong.
Take a look at what’s been happening since the middle of the year and, we are told, will keep happening for the foreseeable future. Google and Bing, the unchallenged rulers of Internet search began making changes to the factors which they use to determine rankings.
As usual, Google’s algorithm changes are making a lot of noise. Overnight, some of the biggest websites were taken down, penalised or relegated to the inside depths of the search results pages. It was talked about online and offline. Meanwhile Bing moved stealthily along carrying rankings factors changes just as large as Google’s.
The Google change was the first incarnation of Penguin; since July there have been 21 updates. It was created to stop websites that had been, in Google’s words, “over-optimised”. Those to be hardest hit were sites that were considered by all, including those that built them as Web Spam. These sites have no reason for existing other than to grab your attention and point you to the thousands of ads plastered there or to replicate secure websites and steal your personal details.
“Good riddance” I hear you say, “Now they’ll just be useful content on the web”. Well, that was the theory. As with all functions based on an algorithm, there is no human eye to distinguish between the real thing poorly executed and a clever hoax. When Google and Bing set out to tackle spam sights, they also toppled millions of ordinary websites and affected hundreds of thousands of businesses.
So now what?
With the first Penguin change, the rankings became a strange mix of multi-nationals, dominating brands, news articles and often foreign language sites in the top search results pages. How do you get in the mix?
– Listen to Webmaster Tools. Especially the Google service as it lays out any technical issues that Google has identified as needing attention and provides varying degrees of warnings for anything that could end up getting a site penalised. These can be as simple as pages not being indexed properly to malware lurking within your site.
– Revisited site content. Part of the on-going changes by the major search engines are an attempt to provide the visitor with an enhanced, more user-friendly experience by serving up results pages that contain useful, relevant content. Review the information on your web pages and look at ways to give visitors to those pages more of the information they are searching for.
– Obtain new links from respectable sources. Links are one method search engines use to gauge how useful your website is. They count links from other websites to yours as a vote for your site’s popularity. Google has been very outspoken about where those links are coming from lately. A ton of incoming links from spam sites will get your site penalised so avoid that and focus on getting higher quality links from reputable sites.
– Vary the anchor text of links. Previously there was a lot of pressure to make incoming links from other sites an exact match to the keywords you wanted your site to rank for. Realistically, this would never happen. This is the Internet, where advertising and brand management runs beside editorial articles and user-generated content. So, links to your site would naturally be a mix of the keywords you want to rank for along with variations of them and more often than not, your brand name.
If you’ve been hit by Penguin and not sure what to do, get in touch or leave a comment below.
Co-founder of Cornerstone and web junkie, Michael knows just how to diagnose your online problems and remedy the issue. An online enthusiast who believes in technology as an enabler of growth, Michael worries about all the details so you don't have to.