Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird – the major Google algorithm updates. You may well have heard about them so know why they’ve been introduced. If not, put simply, Google want to give searchers the best results they can and they’re not happy with people who are trying to fool their search engine. There’s a good summary of the major changes in this article by Groove.
Some older Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) practices (we call them ‘black hat’ practices) were all about fooling the search engines to get their entries higher up the search rankings. In the earlier days of the internet it was generally accepted that you’d have to sift through results, but things have moved on. Searchers are more discerning. They want the most relevant results, first time. They want answers to their questions and so the search engines have to move on too. The Google algorithm updates are all about improving the search experience to meet our demands.
Some people who have used black hat practices previously aren’t happy about the changes and have found their website disappearing off the search rankings. I’m of the opinion that if they knew they were using those poor practices like link farming etc. to try and cheat the system then they only have themselves to blame. Unfortunately some businesses who didn’t understand what their SEO teams were doing are now paying the price too.
I recently heard someone describe the changes as ‘spiteful’ claiming that Google keeps changing the goal posts, but let’s take a step back and look at why Google are cleaning things up. If you search for something and get results that are not really relevant to your search, are you happy? No, of course you’re not. If you click on a link in an advert and are taken off somewhere unexpected are you happy? I suspect not, and you’re likely to go off and find a search engine that returns better results. If you wanted to advertise, would you spend your budget with a company that produced poor results? No, I didn’t think so. Of course, there’s the side benefit that will follow for Google if the search results can be improved – more advertising income, it’s understandable.
It’s very easy to avoid being penalised by Google algorithm updates. You just have to use good practice and consider what searchers want to see when they find your site. Think about what you want returned from a search and you can’t go far wrong.
Here are our top tips for keeping your sites on the good side of Google
Make sure your content accurately reflects what you do or what’s in your adverts. Whether it’s products, services or business information make sure each page has content that’s relevant to the product or service. When using Google Advertising it may well be necessary to set up separate landing pages to make sure that your landing page content is relevant to your Ad, particularly if it’s a one off campaign.
Of course you need to make sure that the key words you want to be found for are included in your content, but don’t overdo it. Your content needs to be easily readable by people. And don’t forget to do your research in terms of which keywords convert best for you.
Avoid using images that can’t be found by the search engines, e.g. Flash and make sure that you use alt text behind the images. Using alt text gives the search engine another way of establishing what the image is about. It goes without saying that the alt text must accurately reflect what’s in the image!
4. Advertising / Layout
If your site has advertising space, make sure it doesn’t dominate above the fold and drown out your own content, i.e. when a searcher comes to your site they see third party advertising before they see your content. One of the latest Google algorithm updates (nicknamed Top Heavy) addresses this issue.
There are some legitimate sites that you may want or need to link to from your own – just do your research and check that they are also playing by the rules. If they’re not, think twice as it can have an adverse impact on your site.
Here at WSI eMarketing we have always applied best practice SEO using content and social; something we call AdaptiveSEO™. If your site has suffered as a result of Google algorithm updates and you need some advice, get in touch.
If you’ve had to work hard to get your site back on track with Google and have some tips to share or advice on things to avoid, why not share them in the comment box below?