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Google Penguin: Secrets to Help Prevent Algorithm Updates from Impacting Your Site
Friday, May 04, 2012
Just as it happened last January and February when Google's Panda algorithm update was launched, there appears to be more outrage at Google for releasing yet another algorithm update with Google Penguin. The Penguin update was launched on April 24th, but Google had given lots of advanced warning that it was coming.

I am still amazed at the people who "freak out" after being hit by an algo update from Google.  I would suggest that eight times out of ten, sites that are devalued by Google post algorithm update probably deserved it.  Remember people, Google owes it to no one to keep your site ranked on the first page year in and year out.  Think about it, you don't "own" your rankings, you are "renting" this space.  Are you so naive that your site is the most authoritative for <insert key phrase here>?  People are creating content everyday, the competition in the online world is fierce.  For those sites and businesses that are totally reliant on organic traffic from Google your days are numbered.  This is a flawed business model so you had better establish a plan B and put it in place soon.  There is no doubt that there are more Google algorithm updates on the way.  Both Panda and Penguin were pretty large updates.  Both are designed to help Google clean up their index.

Before we talk about the "secrets" that can help prevent your site get devalued by Google, let's quickly touch on the latest algorithm update from Google, Google Penguin.

Google Penguin Algorithm Update - targeting over-optimization

Who:  Google
What: Algorithm updates focusing on over-SEOing a website specifically via keyword spam and “unnatural” link building practices.
Where:  Google Search Results Pages (SERPs)
When:  Started in February 2012?  Officially launched on April 24, 2012.
Why:  To clean up web spam results in their Index; to prevent sites from artificially optimizing their websites.

Rumors began to surface in February and early March 2012, that Google was preparing for another major algorithm update that would continue to address web spam in their search results.  This particular algorithm would be focusing on over-optimized or over-SEO’d sites, that is sites that violate Google’s guidelines via tactics such as keyword stuffing and questionable link building efforts.  On April, 24th Google released their Penguin Update which devalued “over-optimized” sites (keyword spammed, link spammed, sites that used cloaking etc.).  Judging by the impact, many are suggesting that the Google Penguin Update is as large as the Google Florida Update from 2003 or Google’s Panda Update last year.  Google suggests that the Penguin algorithm affects about 3.1% of queries in English.  (Panda was said to impact 12%).

Quite often with major algorithm updates from Google, there can be collateral damage whereby innocent sites are impacted.  This is what it means to be at the mercy of the algorithms so establishing a plan for driving traffic to your site from other channels such as social, mobile, or referring sites is a great approach.

So what can you do to prevent algorithm updates from impacting you?  Well first off you should not be chasing the algorithms, you should be focusing on creating the best website that you can, focusing on your audience and your target demographic.

Secrets to Prevent Algorithm Updates from having a Negative Impact on Your Website

The fact is there are no "secrets" per se.  Google has set fourth their Google Webmaster Guidelines and have stated that "...strongly encourage you to pay very close attention to the "Quality Guidelines," which outline some of the illicit practices that may lead to a site being removed entirely from the Google index or otherwise impacted by an algorithmic or manual spam action..."

Secret #1: Google's Webmaster Guidelines

There are a number of guidelines that Google has outlined.  Herein lies the secrets.  While there are claims that abiding by all of these terms can still result in your site being devalued as a result of an algorithm update, perhaps as part of collateral damage, for the most part following these guidelines will help ensure online success.  Remember you have to work at it.  You have to keep your site relevant for both users and the search engines.  Having said that here are some of the guidelines to pay attention to:

  • Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines. Don't deceive your users or present different content to search engines than you display to users, which is commonly referred to as "cloaking."

  • Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you'd feel comfortable explaining what you've done to a website that competes with you. Another useful test is to ask, "Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn't exist?"

  • Don't participate in link schemes designed to increase your site's ranking or PageRank. In particular, avoid links to web spammers or "bad neighborhoods" on the web, as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those links.

  • Avoid hidden text or hidden links.

  • Don't use cloaking or sneaky redirects.

  • Don't send automated queries to Google.

  • Don't load pages with irrelevant keywords.

  • Don't create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content.

  • Don't create pages with malicious behavior, such as phishing or installing viruses, trojans, or other badware.

  • Avoid "doorway" pages created just for search engines, or other "cookie cutter" approaches such as affiliate programs with little or no original content.

  • If your site participates in an affiliate program, make sure that your site adds value. Provide unique and relevant content that gives users a reason to visit your site first.

  • Secret #2:  Google's Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide

    Again keeping in mind that you should create your site based on the needs of your users and not necessarily on the search engines and algorithms, Google has provided a starter guide to, as Google puts it, will help make it easier for search engines to crawl, index and understand (i.e. rank) your content.  I am not going to post a link to the Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide (c'mon it's a secret.. well it's actually not) as if you search hard enough you will find it.  I will however share some of the fundamentals from the guide.  You may already be aware of these items.

  • create unique, accurate page titles - as page titles are displayed in the search results and can entice clicks from a SERP
  • make use of the meta description tag but do not stuff with keywords
  • improve the structure of URLs - why is it that site owners have so much difficulty with this?  If your content management system cannot accommodate your architecture needs get rid of it.  Clean, static, user friendly and search friendly URLs are the way to go.   An organized site structure will do wonders for you.
  • make your site easy to navigate - don't bury important content where users cannot find it.  Navigation is important to search engines but probably more important to users.  Use things like breadcrumb navigation and base your navigation starting out from your homepage.
  • create sitemaps and HTML-like sitemap for users and an XML sitemap(s) for the search engines.
  • write easy to read text
  • do not stuff content with keywords - it should read naturally
  • vary your anchor text when interlinking site pages
  • support text with optimized images and videos
  • use heading tgs properly - they are meant to add structure to your page - avoid excessive use of headings, avoid using heading tags only for styling and not presenting structure.
  • notify the search engines of your mobile sites - think mobile sitemaps
  • avoid cloaking - an attempt to boost search result rankings by serving different content to Google than to regular users
  • promote your site smartly - do not artificially inflate your link inventory 
Secret #3:  It is All About Your Content

Do you think that your website should perform well in search if it:
  • features thin content
  • features more ads than content
  • creates duplicate content
  • syndicates large volumes of content
  • scrapes content
  • features old, inaccurate content
I'm not sure if these are in fact secrets. To me they just make sense.  If you want to avoid being hammered by the search algorithms, prepare your site to be of high value.  Of course understand that what is of high value to you may not be of high value to your users, site visitors or the search engines.  Keep working on your site and perhaps you can begin to ignore or forget about the algorithm changes that have happened and will continue to happen.

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posted by Jody @ 11:52 AM  
  • At 3:38 PM, Blogger Becca said…

    Google loves content that goes viral Writing articles while keeping these points in mind shall direct spiders in going viral and you will not hit of google update.
    Roofing Melbourne

  • At 3:38 AM, Blogger James Denny said…

    This is informative information to SEO users because completly seo is depends on google and google do updates his algorithm time to time so before doing seo this types of knowledge is must.
    seo boise

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