Penguins, Pandas And Polar Bears – How Not To Get Bitten By Google Algorithm Updates

With all the Google algorithm updates like Penguin and Panda, it’s hard to know where you stand. We show you how to play by the search engine’s rules.

Play by the Search Engine’s rules and you don’t need to worry about being caught out by Google algorithm updates – we show you how.

Recent Google algorithm updates have been sending shockwaves through the web community. But if you’re doing all the right things and have created a solid site with original and quality content and a natural link profile which has been organically rising up the rankings, then you won’t have much to worry about. Here are ways to stay on the good side of Google and ensure that in the Search Engine’s war against spam, you’re the last one standing.

Follow Search Engine guidelines

Search Engines allow you to index your website for free. However, they ask that your website follows the guidelines they have set such as Google Webmaster Guidelines. White hat SEO in a nutshell is about techniques which fall within a Search Engine’s guidelines. When you have fallen outside of those policies and are seen to be spamming or manipulating Search Engine results, your website may be penalised or banned as a result.

Analyse your link building profile

One of the main problems that even high-profile ecommerce sites like JC Penney have encountered is that they have hired link building companies who used black hat SEO techniques to lift their rankings. Google has specified that the focus should be on natural link building profiles with backlinks from high quality, credible, trustworthy and relevant websites. Open Site Explorer by SEOmoz is a good starting point to analyse your link building profile.

Remove bad links

In theory, you cannot control what sites are pointing to your website but if you find a link from a website that you want removed, you can email the webmaster and ask them to remove it. A very bad sign is when there are no contact details on the website. It is a time consuming, cumbersome and ongoing process to clean your historical link building profile but it will be very rewarding in the end when you see your rankings return or a spike on the SERPs*.

Analyse your anchor text

Anchor text is the hyperlinked (underlined) part of links, both internal and external. Again, the key here is ‘natural’. Google wants to see a healthy and organic link profile with a variation of keyword-rich anchor text that reflects the content of the web page it is linking to. Don’t put all your links in one basket; Search Engines want to see a diversity of anchor text and links pointing to different pages on your website.

Review your content

In recent Google algorithm updates, the Search Engine is heavily pushing their ‘content is king’ mantra and cracking down on content theft such as duplication, content spinners and scraping. The underlying premise of search is to improve usability for visitors. One of the key ways to do this is by including original, interesting and engaging content. But unknowingly, you may be raising the ire of Search Engines. Here are a few things to watch out for:

  • Keyword spamming has always been a point of contention. The keywords used in the on-page optimisation need to reflect the content on the page and used in a natural and organic way.
  • Duplicated content can also be an issue for some sites and for some organisations, and businesses, this cannot be avoided. But what you can do is index one of the pages in question on your site and noindex the low value page or add a rel=canonical tag.
  • Websites scraping your content can also be a point of contention. Use programs like Copysentry (the premium version of Copyscape) which monitors the web and emails you when they spot plagiarism.
  • As above, watch the use of anchor text in internal links. This has been a recent focus on Google algorithm updates. The Search Engine wants to see varied anchor text across your website.

Limit the number of ads above the fold

In February 2012 Google announced an algorithm update that affected sites that don’t have much content and too many advertisements above the fold** You can use Google’s Browser Size tool, among many others, to see how your website would look under different screen resolutions. In light of this change, if your website is ad-heavy, you may have to change your page layout and bring more visible content above the fold.

Monitor your website

It’s important to track your rankings – especially the keywords that are in the first page of the SERPs*. Then you will notice if you’re rankings have dropped or equally as alarming is where you have had a huge influx of traffic which can also arouse the suspicion of Google. In addition, Google may send you a message via Webmaster Tools so if you’re not checking your account, you may not get a head’s up from them about your rankings drop.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

The underlying message in all this stated by leading SEO expert Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land is not to put all your eggs in one basket. Diversify your online marketing strategies so traffic is driven from different sources and you’re not relying solely on Search Engines. SEO is one of the most cost-effective internet marketing strategies but it’s also about building your brand through public relations, advertising and social media marketing.

There is little coincidence that Google chose the names Penguin and Panda for the Google algorithm updates. As we always say in SEO, there is only black and white, there are no shades of grey when it comes to following Search Engine guidelines. SEO Works is part of Internet Intelligence Works, a full-service internet marketing agency. Contact us if you would like to find out more about the services we offer and remember it’s a jungle out there.

*Search Engine Results Pages

**The part of your website a visitor can see before they need to scroll down further.