A few months back I wrote an article about SEO and the big changes to Google's algorithm that took place on April 25th this year. Since writing my article, there was another update in late May / early June.
The April "Penguin" updates followed on from the Panda updates which occured in February 2011 with various 2.0 & 3.0 versions happening thoughout last year and even as late as June this year. The fact of the matter is that updates happen all the time.
What you really need to know is what work's & what doesn't work since the update and what will always work. Here's a overview.
- Keyword density: Don't stuff your page with keywords. Don't even try to make sure that at least 2% to 4% of the words on your page contain your keyword on it. Keyword density went out a while ago but some people still keep insisting you do that but trust me - its old hat. We don't focus on keyword density and haven't for quite a long time.
- Blog Networks: There were many blog networks available where people paid a subscription to have their articles published on websites. Many of these networks got hit hard. Avoid.
- Spun Content: Spun content is where people use tools to replace words with synonyms. So instead of the word "cat" they might replace the word with "kitten" or "pussy." Essentially the content of the article is the same but the words vary - often to a point where it sounds unnatural.
- Over-optimised back-links: When you get links from another website, make sure your anchor text is varied. Anchor text is text where you send words that are hyperlinked like you can see right here. In other words, make sure the text that has the link is varied. You don't to have text with a link that repeatedly has the same word.
- Irrelevant links: Avoid getting links from websites that are not contextually related to your website. For example, if you are selling men's shoes, getting a link from a website that sells pet food is rather irrelevant. This can happen naturally but the point is that you shouldn't seek it out.
- Site-wide links: Many website designers and SEO companies took a hit in the search engine rankings
- Link exchanges: Do not exchange links. In most cases, there is no benefit to you - especially if it was someone you don't know and trust. Ask yourself if you are really going to monitor if your link is still active on their site. If you ain't going to monitor it, chances are the link will be removed once you link to them. (Note: This was not impacted by Penguin but I am amazed at how often I still get asked this and also how often I am asked to exchange links to other site).
In truth, many of these things were flagged in the Panda updates.
- Write for humans not search engines. Search engines are incredibly good at working out which words are relevant, how sentences are structured and if words are being overused. Most of us got taught in school not to repeat the same word twice in the same sentence. You think a search engine might follow a similar rule.
- Vary your anchor text on your pages: Avoid having the same words hyperlinked. Variety is the spice of life and this is especially true of search engines.
- Get links from related sites: If you are going to get links, make sure you get your links from related sites. Directories, like Hotfrog and True Local are the one exceptions but even these have pages that have related content on it. If you are selling shade cloth, the last website you want a link from is adultshop.com - you get my drift.
- Write guest posts to raise your profile on prominent websites: Writing articles for other peoples website is fine - especially if the site you are writing for has a loyal readership base and is willing to credit you with a link back to your site.
- Get Infographics created that encourage other people to share your content: Info-graphics are essentially graphical pictures that display interesting facts and figures, stats and information related to your market. These are hot. These are very popular because they are visually appealing and allow people to see key facts at a glance. But be warned, infographics are on Google's radar so may become less effective in the future. Of particular concern is the accuracy of the information and if the link goes back to a related site.
What's In Question
- Local directories: Google started de-indexing free local directories like www.global-web-directory.com. Services where you get free listings like True Local, Hot Frog, Aussie Web, Yellow Pages and Yelp are still fine.
What's Evergreen - especially for start-ups
A lot of people including web designers ignore this but here are the fundamentals. We see a lot of websites that get most of these points wrong. Here is an overview:
- Choose whether you want www or non www in front of your website (and make sure your website works for either version but not both)
- Verify ownership in Webmaster Tools
- Enable email fowarding so you can get important messages
- Do a domain background check on your domain to make sure it does not have a "spammy" past
- Use the Fetch as Google Bot feature in Websmaster tools (link to blog post)
- Install Google Analytics code
- have a strategy for your site design (link to blog post)
- Consider using personas for your website (e.g. Customers, Investors or Press)
- Ask if your design meets the needs of each persona
- Make sure navigation is easy
- Make sure each page is focused on one logical topic that is obvious to visitors
- Define your conversion and make sure your page is focused on that - don't make users make extra clicks
- Use natural relevant keywords on your page i.e. don't try and optimise for a specific keyword if it does not sound natural
- You can use research these terms using the keyword tool
- Answer common questions that your users might have
- Make sure every page includes:
- a unique topic
- Unique Page Title (meta title)
- Unique meta description
- Keywords that are lower case & hyphen separated
- Descriptive anchor text for every link e.g. not "click here" but "please read our product specifications"
- Some of the pitfalls include:
- Hiring a rogue or shady SEO - especially if they guarantee anything. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.
- Do not participate in link schemes or buying links.
- Focusing on a fancy site if you don't have indexable text
- Focus on page speed
- Studies show a page load time of 2 secs is acceptable for a customer, anything longer is too long (Google aims for under 1/2 a second)
- Check how you rank for your site name by going to Google and typing in site:yourdomain.com.au
- Get involved in forums, blogs and social media sites - attract buzz (Google+ likes, Facebook likes etc)
- Use the appropriate Social Media for where your user is & connect users to entry point of conversion
If you require help, please feel free to contact us.