You’ve likely heard a lot of news about the latest Google algorithm updates like Panda and Penguin and how they affect a website’s rankings in search results.
When Google updates its algorithm, people get hurt. If your income is partially tied to traffic you receive from Google, this article is well worth your time.
The question is how you can prepare your own website to ensure it is not hurt by these or future Google updates. In this post, we’ll discuss some ways you can make sure your website is as safe as possible from being penalized in search.
1 – Understand what Google means by “Quality Content”
Photo Credit: Brian Massey of Your Customer Creation Equation
Whether it is on your company blog, products & services pages, articles, news updates, or any other part of your website, be sure that the content you publish is quality. While you could get away with $5 article writers for your blog or inexpensive SEO copy for your website’s main pages in the past, you can’t anymore. Some sites might still be getting away with it, but it’s only a matter of time before the Google Panda catches up with them.
What makes great content? Great content is…
- Created for People – Don’t write for search engines. If you have content that was written purely for SEO (over-optimized with keywords, under infused with value), be sure to revamp it today. Create your content with people in mind and search engines will love it too.
- Unique – No you can’t copy great content from someone else and use it on your website. That is theft and duplicate content, neither of which will put you in Google’s good graces.
- Not Covered in Ads – Some blogs like to make extra money with advertising, which is fine. But if the content on your website is lost amongst the ads, then you’re going to be in trouble. This is particularly true if your website is heavy on ads above the fold.
- Meaty – While the old SEO standard was a minimum of 300 words, I would say the new standard is probably a minimum of 500 – 600. Article networks that previously allowed short content didn’t fair well with the first Panda updates. Most that have or are trying to bounce back after being penalized by Panda have upped their word counts to at least 400. My theory is that you want the content on your website to be better than an article network, so aim for at least 500 – 600 words.
- More Than Text – Spice up your content with at least one image, if not more. Add in videos to keep visitors on your website longer. Try various forms of media mixed in with your text to give it even more value.
If you’re not certain that your content is up to snuff, do a content audit of your website. Start from the homepage and click through to each link. Look at those pages, note any changes you could make to improve them, make the changes, and then move on to deeper pages of your website.
You can also do this process using Google Analytics. Go to your website’s analytics profile and look at your Content > Site Content > All Pages. Then start looking at pages that get a lot of traffic but also have a low average time on page. This is a sign that the content isn’t compelling enough to keep people on board and might need to be updated.
2 – Don’t spam.
Photo Credit: Timag on Flickr
It doesn’t matter where you are doing it or why. Don’t spam.
- Don’t spam your website with tons of keywords. It’s called over-optimization and Google is not a fan.
- Don’t spam article directories with low-quality content for backlinks.
- Don’t spam email lists with link requests.
- Don’t spam comments for backlinks.
- Don’t spam forums for backlinks.
- Don’t spam your business blog by accepting low-quality guest posts or approving low-quality comments or comments that include shady links.
- Don’t spam social media networks with nothing but advertisements or, worse, non-stop automated messages.
And, of course, don’t hire services that will spam for you. Review the services you are receiving from marketing or SEO agencies to make sure they are not spamming in your name for links or exposure.
3. Build links as naturally as possible.
Aside from not spamming, you will want to build links to your website as naturally as possible. Be sure to avoid.
- Buying links, with exception to paying for quality directory listings because those *seem* to still be alright. Here is what SEO Moz currently recommends for directory listings.
- Link exchanges, especially with sites that are not relevant or jam hundreds of links on resources pages, link partner pages, or other similarly named pages.
- Sitewide footer links, because these signal paid / unnatural.
- Over-optimized anchor text, because too many links with keyword based anchor text signal paid / unnatural.
Instead, try the following.
- Create link bait. Link bait comes in the form of infographics, videos, resource lists, Creative Commons licensed images (like the ones I’m using in this post), widgets, online tools, and other top quality content that people will want to link to naturally.
- Don’t specify anchor text. If you’re sending out link requests to have your website added to pages that are highly relevant to you, you don’t need anchor text. Google can figure out that any link on a page titled “Best Italian Restaurants in New York” should be associated with New York Italian restaurants or similar keywords.
- Do a little guest blogging. Most blogs will give you a link in the author box back to your website which can help you with SEO, building authority in your industry, and getting some direct traffic. Check out Jon Morrow’s excellent guest blogging program to get started.
- Add your link to your social profiles. While there may not be much SEO value, you can get a lot of click-through traffic to your website from links in your social profile.
- Accept interviews and media exposure. 9 out of 10 times, anyone asking you for an interview or to participate in articles where multiple people are asked the same questions will likely link back to the website of your choice. Try signing up as a source with HARO for more media exposure opportunities.
The simplest piece of advice.
What does all of the above advice boil down to? If you want to keep yourself in Google’s graces no matter what algorithm updates they come out with in the future, then the best piece of advice I can give you is this.
Adhere to Google Webmaster Guidelines.
Google tells you what you should or shouldn’t do (for the most part) with design, content, technical, and quality guidelines. Be sure to review these guidelines to determine if you have done anything to violate them. And if you have, try to remedy the violations as best you can. This will ensure the safety of your website’s rankings from now and on into the future.
What tips would you give to someone looking to protect their website from upcoming Google algorithm changes?