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Thursday, 7 February 2013

SEO Tips to Help With New Google Panda and Penguin Updates

When it comes to SEO, there’s no denying it can be pretty hard to keep up – especially when you have a busy e-commerce site to run – and just lately it’s been harder than ever to stay up to date.There are some things that are essential for ensuring that your company is enhanced for search engines, like SEO hosting on a dedicated web server. Without that, following all of these tips won’t make a difference if you share a server with a lower quality site.   In the last 12-18 months Google has introduced a number of major updates which have all but flipped traditional SEO values on their head. For those of you that aren’t in the know, Google has pretty much thrown out the rule book when it comes to web spam and content, leaving lots of website owners clambering for alternative traffic sources. If your website traffic has been up and down more times than a yo-yo and your rankings have pretty much nose-dived over the last year or so, there’s a strong possibility you have been hit by Google’s latest updates; Panda and Penguin.   Google Panda Originally released in the US in February 2011, the Google Panda update was designed to combat the issue of low quality, duplicate content on websites. Also known as the Farmer Update, the update affected around 12% of all web searches and was focused on lowering the rankings of ‘low quality’ sites and boosting the rankings of ‘high quality’ sites.    

So what makes a ‘low quality’ site? 

A site is classified as ‘low quality’ if it features lots of spammy, duplicate content which isn’t classed as useful or informative. Spammy content can be defined as any content which doesn’t make sense – i.e. it doesn’t flow and is only there to catch searches. In the past it’s been about quantity over quality when it comes to content, but now that’s all changed. Gone are the days when you could just write a few paragraphs and then spread them across every page on your site, simply changing a few words to make them seem ‘unique’ – thanks to Panda it’s now all about having quality, unique, useful content on every page of your website. Have lots of duplicate manufacturer product descriptions on your site? You might want to think about rewriting them to ensure you’re not penalised by Panda!    Since the initial launch, the Panda update has been tweaked and re-launched a number of times, with the most recent update taking place on June 8th – Panda 3.7 is thought to have affected around 1% of all web searches – so if your traffic or rankings took a dip around this time, it may be time to take a closer look at your site content!   Google Penguin Only released on April 24th, the Penguin update is Google’s latest attempt to crack down on web spam in the form of keyword-stuffing, spammy inbound links and hidden text. Also known as the Over-Optimization penalty, Google Penguin has been designed to punish ‘black-hat’ SEO techniques which have previously been used to achieve high rankings. In the past if you stuffed a page with keywords and bought tons and tons of links which all linked back to your site with keyword anchor text, you were destined for rankings success but now that’s no longer the case.  

 So what are ‘spam links’?

Spam links are any links which have been bought or acquired specifically to push up your rankings. From article marketing (writing lots of articles with links back to your site and publishing them on every article site going) to buying high PR links to boost your own site’s PR, in the past it’s been very much about both quality AND quantity when it comes to inbound links (the more, the better!) but now the focus is very much on quality and quality alone. Rather than simply taking your link profile at face value, Google is now taking a closer look and taking the decision to penalise sites which it believes have an unnatural, spammy link profile – in their eyes, you should earn links, not actively go out and acquire them!   As with any other update, Google keeps tweaking Penguin (the latest update was May 26th) so if your site has been punished by Penguin, there is a chance it will recover at some point if you clean up your link profile, reduce the keyword density of your pages and delete any sneaky hidden text you may have had hiding on your site to try and catch searches!    

So what’s the answer?  

Unfortunately because Google’s still such a dominant player in the search engine industry (although Bing and Yahoo! are gaining ground every day!), there’s no ‘quick-fix’ solution. To succeed in the rankings these days you need to focus on creating a high quality site which is easy to use and features useful, unique content – oh, and driving traffic to your site via alternative platforms like social media and email marketing isn’t a bad idea either!    


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