What you need to know to stay in Google’s Top Ranks

SEO is a critical part of any web strategy and most organizations engage in SEO in one form or another. On April 24th, Google implemented a huge algorithm change called Penguin that targets sites trying to manipulate SEO results using ‘black hat’ SEO tactics.

Who’s at Risk?

Penguin targets those sites that have an artificially high amount of incoming links or low-quality incoming links. This is targeted to those who pay for link generation on spammy sites. If visitors are coming to your site from what Google considers a bad neighbourhood, your site will be punished.

Penguin also punishes sites that stuff identical keywords in link anchor text. When real people link to a site, they rarely use the same keywords as the page they’ve linked to. When those keywords are identical, Google recognizes that they’re probably artificially generated.

Finally, Penguin is all about punishing those sites that use low quality article marketing tactics to create links back to their site.

First Google looks at the sites containing your articles and linking back to you. Are they spammy (too many low-quality links?) and do they contain too many ads ‘above the fold’? The more your articles appear on these websites and link back, the worse you’ll fare.

Second, Google looks at the article itself. If you’ve paid a content house to develop tons of low-quality articles that contain nothing but keywords or duplicate content, you’ve probably already experienced a decrease in traffic.

How to know if your site’s been punished by Google

Take a look at your webstats before April 24th and after April 24th. Was there a sharp decline in web traffic? If so, it’s important to look at your site and make some changes. Don’t worry. Provided you make the right changes, your site will start to receive traffic again when Google implements its next algorithm update.

Post-Penguin SEO Best Practices

Write for people – not search engines. As a published author, I appreciate this. Quality content will naturally include key words. There’s no need to go overboard. Particularly because stuffing your copy with keywords will increase your bounce rate which leads to the next point…Lower your bounce rate by offering better user experience. The idea is to increase page views as much as possible by providing amazing content that compels your prospect to keep reading. This can include offering free value, having a useful blog or simply being upfront with how you help your clients.Don’t cloak information behind your interface – present the same info behind the scenes to the web crawler as you do to visitors. Imbedding additional links on the backend of your site is a big red flag for Google so if you’ve done this in the past, it’s time to get real.Avoid link schemes or incoming links from ‘bad neighbourhoods’. Forget offers from unknown sites to swap links. From now on, only link to sites because they offer content your prospects will appreciate.Develop a good community of online influencers who will link back to you because they think YOUR content is valuable. Generally this means developing a useful blog or posting helpful articles and reports on your site.Another way to develop quality inbound links is to share your content using social networking sites or commenting on high-quality blogs or in LinkedIn. Your posts will automatically draw people back to your website.Review your current outbound links to make sure they’re not dead and to make sure that the once-quality sites you linked to in the past haven’t turned spammy.

The biggest thing to remember is that depending solely on Google to generate website traffic is a bad idea. Since when did putting your eggs in one basket constitute a solid business plan?

It’s important to diversify your traffic sources across different channels. Email marketing, social media, social media advertising and conventional adverting should all be included in the traffic mix. The less vulnerable you are to Google’s constant changes, the better.

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