Prepare Your Site for the Upcoming Google Penguin Update
By: Jessica Chestnut
April 2013 marked one year since the “birth” of the Google Penguin, which is the code name for an aggressive filtering system that Google installed to lower the search rankings of sites that violate Google's quality guidelines. Google will be launching another big update in the near future, so be ready!Google offers a checklist for conducting a site audit to ensure that you are in line with acceptable practices. We recommend taking a few minutes to read through these guidelines. In a nutshell, Google wants you to create a site aimed at people (not search engines), and to avoid the futile game of trying to “trick” search engines to boost your rankings. Don’t try to outsmart Google: you will likely get caught and be penalized. Here are some steps you can take to see how Google views your site:
- Log into your Google Webmaster Tools account to see if Google has blatant concerns with your site. You will see a notice identifying the issues, if any.
- In Webmaster Tools, check on your site map if you have submitted one. Click its link within the dashboard to see if Google is reporting any errors related to it, and address them accordingly.
- Click HTML Improvements (under the "Optimization" header on the left side of the screen) to see what Google suggests to improve the content and performance of your site.
If you are not sure what Google Webmaster Tools is or whether you have an account, just ask us. Play by Google’s rules and develop great, original content. Google will reward your efforts! Keep in mind that there are number of practices to avoid, including:
- Participating in link-building schemes: Links to your site from other sites (including the quality and quantity of these links) do have some effect on your site’s search engine ranking. As a result, some sites have taken to link schemes in hopes of improving their traffic. This includes using automated programs to create links to your site, building partner pages just for cross-linking, low quality links, excessive link exchanging, and more. The way around this is to attract credible in-bound links with your quality site content.
- Keyword stuffing: Keywords are important for any site, and when used appropriately (sprinkled throughout your text or in your page title), can often boost your site in searches. However, keyword stuffing (unnecessary, overly repetitive use of keywords in hopes of boosting your search results) will hurt you in the end. An example: Are you looking to buy speed lace snowboard boots? If you need speed lace snowboard boots, we are the expert in speed lace snowboard boots. Call us for speed lace snowboard boots or come see our speed lace snowboard boots in-person and have your questions answered by our expert speed lace snowboard boots staff. Pretty easy to figure out where the stuffing is, right?
- Overly optimized links/anchor text: You CAN overuse keywords in your links. The rule of thumb is that if 60 - 65% of your anchor text uses your exact keywords for inbound links (a link with only the phrase “speed lace snowboard boots” like the example above), then it’s seen as a punishable offense. Always be sure to use variation in your anchor text. Even adding in generic terms such as “Click Here” or “Visit Our Site For....” (e.g. “Visit Our Site for Speed Lace Snowboard Boots”) will help.
- Low quality content: The word is that Penguin is a content-oriented algorithm. With that said, your content needs to be relevant and original. Your content should be made for your human audience, not the search engines.
- Spun content: Spinning content involves creating multiple copies of a single piece of content by changing bits and pieces of it (sometimes full of keyword rich phrases that don’t always make sense) so it looks unique. You should always try to avoid duplicating content within your site, as this practice is frowned upon. However, spinning content by making small changes throughout can also hurt you in the long run. There are actually software programs available to “assist” with spinning content. Avoid them.
- Not updating your content: Just because you have quality content on your site doesn’t mean you should let it sit there! Search engines need new content to crawl. A blog can be a simple way to provide fresh content that pertains to your site. Keep in mind that spam posts in your comments section can result in a manual penalty, so monitor your comments and delete anything that does not add value.
- Cloaking: This is where your site shows different content or URLs to the search engine than it does to your human visitors. It’s a direct violation in Google’s eyes, as it provides users with different results than what was expected.
- Long load times for your site: Google started taking load time into account a few years ago when ranking sites. They noticed a trend where when they ranked sites that were slow, users would use Google less. Check out Load Impact to evaluate your site’s speed.
- Hiding text around your site: Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean the search engine spiders crawling around can’t see it. Stuffing text with keywords and then changing the color of it to match the background of your page, or creating text in size one font so site visitors are unable to read it (but search engines can still pick up on it) will hurt you in the long run.
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