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Google has been making substantial changes to its search engine algorithms. This has led many website owners to reconsider how they implement their SEO campaign. Over the last year, two major new algorithm changes are going to have a major impact on website owners.
Google Panda was enacted last year to help remove low quality content sites from the front page of its indexes. This update had a major impact on a number of websites, particularly content farms and low-level affiliates.
The other update has not been put into place yet and we know even less about it than Google Panda. Google chief engineer Matt Cutts had a discussion with Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land last month to discuss some of Google’s practices. In this discussion, Cutts let it slip that Google was working on a new algorithm change to penalize sites that have engaged in too much SEO.
Both of these topics are expected to have a major impact on search engine rankings in the coming months. Here is the lowdown on what they both mean.
Google Panda Update – Dreaded for SEO
Image Credit: Thos003
Google Panda has really opened up a can of worms for many marketers. Almost every Internet entrepreneur I know has started panicking about how the Panda Update is going to impact them. That is completely unnecessary though. The Panda Update was intended to hit content farms like Ehow and many of the affiliate sites that use spun or stolen content.
After Panda, many of the leading content firms lost substantial amounts of traffic. One of the most extreme cases was Acesshowbiz.com, which lost 93% of its SEO traffic. Meanwhile, a number of leading content providers like Youtube increased their search engine traffic by 10%.
Google is clearly looking much more closely at quality content now. Internet entrepreneurs have got the message that they are supposed to update their site with fresh content as regularly as possible. Although fresh content remains a priority, entrepreneurs who have felt the Panda’s bite are likely to find that they are going to need to put more of their emphasis on creating insightful, fresh original content, than just updating regularly.
The Panda Update suggests that you should do the following:
- Make sure your site is written for humans more than search engines.
- Get rid of duplicate content as much as possible.
- Publish content that has never been featured elsewhere, such as article directories.
- Make sure your content is authoritative, rather than just rewrites of other people’s articles or spun content.
These tips could help you considerably as you try to keep your site on the top of the search engines.
Next Algorithm Change
The next algorithm change could mean any number of things for the site. Matt Cutts was pretty vague with his statement, but most SEO experts have at least some idea of what he was getting at.
The new algorithm change is supposedly intended to target over-optimized websites. Adam Audette of Rimm-Kaufman Group stated that SEO should be invisible. The sites that are most likely to get nailed by Google’s new update are those that don’t have any business model.
Audette said that SEO should be an “invisible layer” that is added to a site after creating value to the readers. Too many SEOs think that if they get to the front page of Google then the bucks will start rolling in. This notion is obviously flawed, considering how much readers hate over-optimized content. The new algorithm change is intended to keep these sites from even getting on top of Google.
What are some of changes you may need to make in your SEO model? I would follow these points:
Respect the Panda
Whatever new algorithm update Google has in the books isn’t meant to replace Google Panda. It is targeting over-optimized content, while Panda was directed towards content that provides no value. However, there is definitely an overlap between the two. Appeasing the Panda by creating great content will help you take your efforts away from over-optimizing your site for SEO.
Refrain from Black Hat Strategies
Image credit: Arbyreed
Many Internet marketers shun black hat SEOs like they are the worst kind of sinner. I personally don’t have any ethical standing against most black hat SEOs. However, I will say one thing about most black hat SEO tactics: they rarely lead to long-term results.
Google has been waging war with black hat SEOs from day one. However, Matt Cutts new statement showed that Google is clearly working even harder to boot black hat spammers off the front page. Here are some of the things he specifically mentioned:
- “Excessive link exchanges.” The reason Google evaluates backlinks is to assess how authoritative a website is in the eyes of others. Google hates seeing sites that just exchange links with each other, because they give no indication on the real value of the site. Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with sites linking back and forth between each other to network and share resources. I think Google can tell when sites are clearly trying to manipulate the algorithm and wants to ding anyone who does anything unnatural.
- “Overuse of keywords.” Keyword stuffing has been a no-no for a long-time. Avoid using keywords unnecessarily throughout your content.
- “Beyond what Google would normally expect.” Cutts could mean any number of things with this one. Some SEOs have ventured some guesses that I think were right on. One idea they suggest that he meant unnecessarily linking to the homepage in the body of the article of the footer. I have seen plenty of bloggers link to the homepage in the middle of their post for no reason with a random string of keywords. It gets really annoying to be honest and I am sure it looks weird to Google as well.
Most of the penalties should be clear to marketers by now. Google has been flagging unnatural use of keywords and linking for a long time. We will need to assess what Google is really doing differently this time around. Quite frankly, I think they are implementing some new changes that we may not have considered previously. Matt Cutts made a statement back in 2009 that Google doesn’t have any “over-optimization penalty” for websites. However, he specifically used that term in his most recent statement. Has he changed his mind or just took a new stance on the terminology he used?
It is much too early to see. Websites are going to need to see how their sites are ranked now and what they are going to need to do differently in the future. Carefully monitor your websites rankings before and after Google’s supposed algorithm change. This will give you some idea on whether or not you have over-optimized your website.
If your site has witnessed a drop in rankings over the next couple of months, you can pretty safely bet that your site is considered “over-optimized.” Sadly, that doesn’t give you any indication as to what you have done to overly optimize it.
I would say you should do a page-by-page analysis of your site. Analyze every single link, block of text and meta description to see what may look unnatural. You may need to play around a bit to figure it out. Anything that looks unnatural to you should probably be changed.
Just the same, I wouldn’t make any new changes just because your site drops a little for a while. Google often applies a heavy hand to its algorithm changes in the beginning, which harms innocent sites. It could reverse some of those mistakes later, which would help your site regain its ranking. There is no sense undoing a good thing just because Google has inadvertently penalized your site temporarily.
These two new algorithms may be just the beginning of the changes we are going to see with Google over the next few years. They should remind us that Google is constantly working to improve the quality of the user experience. Therefore, we will have to come to terms with the fact that our techniques to enhance search engine rankings may become increasingly obsolete.
As you build your blog, you may need to turn your efforts away from keywords usage and traditional linkbuilding strategies as you attempt to establish yourself on the front page of the world’s most popular search engine.