Since the constant evolution of Google’s algorithm never ceases, oftentimes marketers find their sites losing traffic from loss of SERP rankings as soon as they are activated. We’ve already seen pandas, penguins, zebras, and now the newly activated Hummingbird update that is meant to level the playing field for those that follow the proper procedures.
Some try to pull the wool over the eyes of Google or try to exploit a flaw in the algorithm, but eventually get caught once the newest updates roll out, while others simply aren’t aware of the proper SEO procedure that will prevent Google taking action against them.
Trying to “game” Google is like playing chicken with a train. “Tricks” that worked 4 years ago no longer work today and “tricks” that may work now will most likely be obsolete soon enough. It is just a matter of time before even the craftiest slicksters get caught. On the other hand, Google will not give quarter to anyone that claims ignorance of the rules…..even if they truly didn’t know any better. That is why it is so important to follow the proper procedures that will ensure long lasting success and avoid getting kicked in the keester when the next update comes out.
On Site SEO: What NOT to Do
Link Exchanges/Reciprocal Links – This was an old tactic that many site owners used to gain backlinks. Unfortunately, it is incredibly easy for Google to detect. If done to excess, Google will take action in demoting your site rankings.
Hiding Links – Google’s Panda update quickly put the kibosh on this practice.
Over Optimization – Following some basic SEO practices are fine, but if it looks as if your site is using every technique known to man, Google will see this as an attempt to manipulate rankings. Plus, over optimization can oftentimes hinder the user experience. Google’s sole purpose with these updates is to promote sites that are user friendly and relevant.
Spun Content – You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to detect content that was originally posted somewhere else and then altered. If it doesn’t read well, Google will NOT like it.
Low Quality Content – To reiterate what was just mentioned, “IF IT DOESN’T READ WELL, GOOGLE WILL NOT LIKE IT.” If you are purchasing articles for the cost of bellybutton lint from some contractor in a third world country, the quality will not be high. Google promotes sites that offer a high user experience. Content with spelling and grammar errors that doesn’t flow well will get hit hard.
Too Many Ads – Google has explicitly stated that having too many advertisements, especially above the fold, could lead to potential penalties.
Automated Blog Posting – There is no software known to man that can accurately pull blog content and repost it to your site without hurting your rankings. Not only may this cause copyright issues, but it is an obvious “lazy man’s” tactic to try and build a site. It will not work.
On Site SEO: What TO Do
Content, Content, Content – If you only take one tidbit of information away from this article, let this be it. We’ve established that Google only wants sites that enhance the user’s experience. Quality, relevant content will help a site more than almost anything else. Outstanding content is also likely to go viral, which will lead to even higher rankings. Generate well-written content and do it often.
Simplicity is Key – Sites that are over complicated or contain a ton of flash images will not do as well. If Google’s webcrawlers find your site difficult to navigate, than chances are human users will also.
Diversify Link Text – When Penguin 2.0 was launched, many found that if 30% or more of their linked text was identical, their rankings took a hit.
Mobile Compatibility – More users than ever are taking to the mobile web to do their daily surfing. Matt Cutts even mentioned that having a mobile compatible site that loads quickly is important.
Paying Attention to Alt Text, Internal Linking Structure, Keywords, Etc. – All of these basic principles still play a role, but no longer dominate what Google is looking for. Not to sound like a broken record, but Google wants sites that give value to the audience and are user friendly first and foremost.
SEO is an integral aspect of building a site and imperative for a business. By focusing on what the user wants instead of trying to find ways to fool the “Big G,” you will gain rankings faster and have a higher likelihood of staying there. In the next edition we will cover off-site SEO practices that no longer work and what you can do to gain favor in the eyes of Google.