In: SEO21 Jun 2011
After Google released it's Panda update I saw a lot of horror stories of how people were losing all of their rankings and traffic. Spammy links do not work like they once did.
New filters are in place and certain SEO methods have become obsolete. Only marketers who can learn how to adapt and change will survive in this game. Posting articles on EzineArticles is not going to get your rankings like it used to.
The fact is you've got to "feed" the Google machine what it wants if you want to keep in the SEO rankings. Love 'em or hate 'em, right now, Google controls search – there is no denying that – and if you want to be in the game, you gotta play by their rules.
And in this issue I would like to share with you the most important issues to this particular algorithm change – the most relevant factors I've seen in the past couple months.
It just so happens, however, that the goal of this Panda update was to improve quality and so if you follow these suggestions the likely outcome is that you'll have a better site for your users in the process and that, after all, is what Google is really after anyway.
Of course, the list below is far from being complete but I just tried to emphasize some really important points that matter most.
Have you been posting spun content on your site for filler? If so, please stop now. In fact, stop yesterday. If you only have a small amount of it you should schedule that content to be re-written.
Don't delete those pages, you want to maintain larger sites for more presence and authority. So if at all possible I recommend rewriting the content and keeping the page rather than deleting it.
However, if you have a lot of content here, you may want to consider another tactic and that is making sure all of the duplicate stuff is in a separate silo. By that I mean that it is all grouped together on a sub-domain or specific category or directory structure. Ideally, however, you want to rid your site of duplicate content.
Keep in mind that content is the bamboo the Google Panda just loves to eat. You want to give it what it wants.
Do you have large 1000+ word rich content posts? If not, you should. We routinely make 2000+ and even 3000+ word posts and we find them to be very effective landing pages.
Large posts that have various sub-sections (keyword themed sub-sections with H2 and H3 tags) and loads of content are simply great for your site. It doesn't mean that you have to make all of your content that way – in fact you shouldn't because you want a natural mix.
But having large posts is one of the secrets of an authority site. Before you go and respond with dozens of authority site examples that don't have large content posts, yes, I know there are hundreds of them. But the goal here is to get authority as quickly as possible and large blocks of rich, quality unique and well written content can really help you along in that quest.
Then, of course, there are the other big advantages of large articles – they tend to get more natural links and they certainly get more long tail organic keyword traffic. The fact is that size matters and the more content you have on that page the more keywords Google can find you for and the more relevant your page appears to be to the topic.
In other words, if your site is a blog and you purchase blog posts, for example, to maintain the site they are probably all written at 250 or 300 words or something like that. It is not natural to have all of your content fit into one nice size like that and creates a footprint that is easily detected. So, make sure that you mix it up.
As mentioned above, throw in some big posts but you can also throw in some quick and short announcements or news posts as well.
The real key here is natural and varied.
This is another way of asking how many pages you have in the Google Index – this is often a strong indicator of authority and you want to evaluate your site in that regard. Remember that when you evaluate your site, do so relative to (a) your niche and (b) your competition.
So, for example, let's say you start with your sitemap.xml file and determine that you have 73 pages. Then you check to see how many of them are indexed and you come up with 59.
FYI, yes, you can do this via a simple site:domain.com in Google as well, but I don't really like that number because it tends to be skewed (high) since it takes into account things like Tags and such.
Now, how does that compare to the top 10 sites in your niche for the keyword that you are targeting? Do they have 113 pages, or do they have 10,000? This is just one factor of competitive analysis so I'm not suggesting it is in any way conclusive, but it is something you should consider in your niche and keyword select (along with a dozen or more factors).
As you should know by now, the Panda wants to feed, so keep that bamboo coming! Google loves content – fresh content and quality content. So when you assess your site and its content footprint, earnestly spend some time considering what type of content needs you have and map out a game plan for addressing them.
If you need to get a 100 posts added to your site to increase your footprint, then transform that into a budget and a timeline. Can you do it in 1 month? In three months? What is realistic – pick that and map out a plan, set your publication frequency and get rolling.
This is something that has picked up significance in Google in past months and this recent Panda update. This item kind of goes hand in hand with the next one about how much advertising you have on the site, but it really is all about the user experience.
Now, just in case you're not familiar with the phrase "above the fold", let me take a minute to explain. It dates back to newspapers. An article that was above the fold was an article that was above the middle of the page fold mark where a person would see it as soon as they looked at the front page (or, more precisely, the top half of the front page).
In online terms, above the fold is a bit different because the page height is not fixed like a newspaper, so it does not mean the top half of the page, but rather it means the portion of the page that is visible when the browser is maximized to full screen resolution. So, it's a bit of a mess because what is above the fold for you on a 15” screen running in 1024 x 768 mode is not the same is what is above the fold on a 24” screen running in 1920 x 1080 mode. But you get the idea.
Now what Google wants to see is that your site has a lot of textual and relevant content to the topic searched on above the fold. Let me show you an example to clarify. Based on how bad this is you would think I spent 20 minutes looking for it, but in reality it was the first search I did and the third result on the page. It's a perfect example of terrible design and one that Google Panda is likely all over.
The only content that is above the fold at all is four small lines of text on the left in the Table of Contents for the post. Now, here is the second page down:
Honestly, it's not a lot better, but at least it has some content. So, in this example the site design has absolutely no content above the fold and even on the second page it's buried on the bottom half of the page.
What I recommend is checking your site in 1024 x 768 resolution and seeing what is showing up above the fold. Here are a few items you might want to consider changing:
While you're hoping to find easy stuff, sometimes a more major site redesign is in order. You need to have your primary content on at least 50% of the above the fold real estate. If you think about it, it really makes sense from a user experience standpoint and you can probably understand Google's perspective on this one. You will likely have a better overall user experience by going through this experience.
This is very similar to the above item, only this relates not to the content on your page but rather the advertising. It's not uncommon to have a banner image and big blocks of Adsense on your site, but you've got to be careful about their placement and just how much vital real estate that they are using.
Let's pull up this screenshot from above again only this time let's focus on the ads above the fold.
Google doesn't like to see a site full of affiliate links as it makes them suspicious of whether or not you're a spammer. So you need to cloak your affiliate links so that they don't appear so much like affiliate links. This also can help your affiliate sales conversions as well as customers generally don't like to see them either.
So a link that might look like this:
Ends up looking like this instead:
Now, both of those links will take you to the same location, but the former is ugly and just screams "affiliate marketer" while the second doesn't.
This is something that Google has always been on the lookout for and something that you should have heard of or seen by now, but you should still double check it.
The theory behind this is pretty simple. They don't want you selling Page Rank and a DoFollow link passes Page Rank. I'm not so sure how much of that is really even important nowadays with PageRank Sculpting getting much less attention than it used to, but still it's a Google requirement that shouldn't be ignored and can have big, negative impacts on your site.
This is important as well. You don't want to just try to save time and effort by simply converting all of your site links to 'NoFollow'. That makes you look like you're trying to manipulate PageRank and hoard it – Google doesn't like that.
This is a holdover from the earlier days when PageRank had more of an impact on the SERPS than it does today. PageRank sculping is still practiced today, but much less so. And you have to make sure you're following the rules and not setting off any red flags.
Google wants to see that you are a part of the community – the larger community that forms the Internet. That means, do you participate in it or do you try to hoard traffic for yourself? It also touches on the issue of giving credit where credit is due.
So if you're using another reference as the source article for your blog post, it doesn't hurt to drop credit to them and make a link for reference. In fact, it helps. This shows Google that you are trying to give your customer the best possible answer even if that means that further research may be acquired elsewhere – and that's normal. No one has all of the information or is the expert in everything.
The Internet is made up of sharing and links are just that – a form of sharing. Google wants to basically see that your site plays well with others.
The other aspect of this that helps with your authority is that by citing credible sources it makes you credible as well. A spammer is not going to tell you who they swiped their illegitimate content from, but a quality journalist always cites their sources.
Do you have to do this in every post? Is there some fixed rule of how many links you should create? No. There are no hard and fast rules like that. You just need to assess your site and ask yourself some of those Google checklist questions (the ones directly quoted from Google) and see what makes sense from your standpoint. And, observe your niche and competitors. What are they doing?
Sorry, not trying to insult you here, but sometimes you may be doing things you don't even realize that are sending off the wrong signals and that is something you've got to be cognizant of. Most of these tactics are old and have long since been abandoned, but I still come across them on many sites almost daily.
The point is that the text isn't visible and not providing any value to the user, it was simply a strategy for trying to manipulate the search engines. Don't do this. It is super easy from their crawler to spot and you can get penalized for this type of behavior.
One of the places we see this tactic used a lot in the Internet Marketing space is with Testimonials. Many sites use images for their testimonials instead of text because you can be sure that marketer is likely using that exact same testimonial in several places, endorsing several products and he or she doesn't want you or Google to know that.
As you begin to reverse engineer your competition you'll start seeing this behavior. You'll see that site A is getting a link from Site B, but when you go to site A to find that link you can't. So then you do a 'view source' to view the raw HTML behind the page and you uncover these hidden links.
Google has been very clear about this stuff – do it and you'll pay the price. It's frustrating when you find this on sites ranking above you – trust me, I've seen lots of competitors doing less than ethical stuff and seemingly getting away with it. All I can tell you is that karma will eventually get them.
The fact is that Google's algorithm is becoming more and more sophisticated and less easy to "game" than ever. Will there always be away? Of course there will.
There will always be a place for SEO and Linkbuilding, but you do have to step up your game. And that is precisely what Google wants.
Here are just some of the recent shifts that show you that you need to up your game.
Google has been slow to use social marketing because they haven't had a good solution. Maybe Google +1 will succeed where Google Buzz floundered, who knows. But what we do know is that Google is clearing laser targeted on Social Media and this is not something new. This actually began with the Caffeine update many months ago, but all signs are indicating that this trend is only growing.
With the Panda update, Google admitted that they compared the ban lists that people can create in Google Chrome (their browser) to the results of the algorithm change. That statement was a very curious one because it really revealed a lot. They are basically saying that they're using their Chrome browser for market research and that it is very likely that they may use that feedback directly within the search algorithm at some time in the future.
That's it for now! I hope that you have found this article to be informative and useful. Remember that SEO is a fluid not a solid – it is constantly moving and changing. Our goal is not only to learn how to do backward analysis, but also identify forward moving trends so that we can be well prepared for tomorrows rounds of algorithm changes.
And as always, work smarter not harder!