After Google's recent Hummingbird release, it's no secret that Google is always updating the algorithms they use to evaluate websites for search ranking factors. However, most people outside the SEO/online marketing community rarely seems to pay attention to Google Updates. Smaller businesses are especially at risk for receiving a Google penalty -- which can be debilitating for their business.
Hummingbird, Panda and Penguin
Hummingbird, Google's brand new algorithm, focuses on search intelligence: taking into account the full semantic meaning behind search phrases. For example, the algorithm now considers question words like "how", "why", and "where" and returns "answers" rather than "results". Hummingbird has also compensated for the increase in mobile and voice-based searches by acknowledging more natural language searches one would verbally use rather than a carefully crafted phrase on the computer. It's much more natural to say "How far is it from here to New York" versus "The distance in miles from San Diego to New York".
Panda and Penguin are Google's other famous algorithm updates, and they target websites that have "spammy" or low quality content and links. Many people often refer to Panda and Penguin each as though they are one standalone Google update, but the fact is that Google is constantly adding smaller updates and adjustments to Panda and Penguin. So how do you know what each of these updates affects, and how do you protect your website from getting blacklisted?
Use Inbound Marketing to Defend Against Google Updates
Inbound marketing (SEO and social media marketing) is quite effective in staving off Google penalties. By putting even modest effort into your small business' SEO and social media, you can:
-Create good-quality inbound links to your website -Drive traffic to your website organically & improve your search rank -Improve online reputation
Even if you only focus on the essentials of inbound marketing, you can easily prevent a Google penalty by doing the following:
- Regularly update at least 2-3 social media channels, and make sure those channels link back to your website. Also include social media links or icons in your website's header or footer
- Update your blog once a week or more with high-quality content. Although keyword optimization is important, don't keyword-stuff your content. Aim for 400-800 words, and only post original content. Make sure your blog can be found at a URL such as "blog.yourwebsite.com" or "yourwebsite.com/blog".
- Syndicate your blog and social media content through content aggregators like Digg, Delicious, StumbleUpon, and Reddit. Be sure to include links back to your website or landing pages. You can even syndicate YouTube and Vimeo videos through TubeMogul for the same effect. Just be sure to fill out the video's description with links to your website and other social media channels.
- Put effort into good-quality link building. Email webmasters from websites that are related to your business to ask for a link back to your website. Your vendors and industry associations are great resources for this. When asking for a reciprocal link, politely ask them to include anchor text that is also keyword optimized. Avoid using a paid backlink service at all cost!
If you're still worried about getting hit by a Google update, there are great tools out there that can help:
Top Tools for Assessing & Improving Website Quality
- Google Analytics (http://www.google.com/analytics): Use an analytics program to regularly monitor your web traffic. Sudden drop in traffic or underperforming pages might be an indicator of a penalty.
- Google Penalty Checker (http://fruition.net/google-penalty-checker-tool/) This Google Penalty Checker works with Google Analytics to diagnose websites and evaluate risk for a Google penalty. This tool lists all Google updates and indicates whether or not a particular update might affect you and the probability of that happening. The tool also explains in plain English what each update does, and how you can improve your site to avoid getting a penalty.
- Moz Toolbar (http://moz.com/tools/seo-toolbar): The Moz Toolbar is a plugin for Firefox and Google Chrome and helps you diagnose specific elements on your website that need improvement. Even if you're not an SEO aficionado, the Moz Toolbar is easy to use and gives you real-time data and actionable information on how to fix it.
Regularly Monitor Your Site's Performance
By regularly monitoring your site's analytics, ways that each Google penalty might affect you, and specific elements on your website combined with solid SEO and social media practices, you can easily avoid Google penalties no matter what update gets released. Because Google's main priority is ranking websites that are of good, relevant quality and weeding out websites that could potentially be "spammy" or low-quality, be sure to keep good content flowing and your inbound links coming from high-ranking sources.