Search engine optimization has long been a goal of virtually every website owner, but recent updates to Google’s search engine algorithms have many scrambling to completely change their ways. In recent updates known as Google Panda and Google Penguin, the world’s largest search engine changed the very structure of the way pages are evaluated, displayed, and ranked during a keyword-targeted internet search. It has had a number of major effects on website developers and marketing professionals, including a strategy that has shifted away from links and toward quality content.
Down with Links: The Changes that are Transforming SEO
Google’s search engine algorithm changes came in two parts. The first was known as Google Penguin, and that update focused on content. Developers at the company found that many websites were taking advantage of Google’s focus on keywords, engaging in an act known as “keyword stuffing” to propel their websites to the top of search result pages. That resulted in a number of spam websites being the “most recommended” website in the eyes of visitors, and it was a serious problem for the company for several years.
The update virtually eliminated that problem, focusing instead on a website’s value, authority, engagement, loading times, conversion rates, and other factors. Excessive use of keywords was punished, rather than rewarded, and habits began to shift.
A second update to the system, termed Google Panda, focused primarily on link spam and excessive outside referrals. Another major way that spam sites were taking advantage of Google’s policies was by building a simply unmanageable link of referrals from outside websites, many of which they actually owned themselves. In Google’s eyes, each of these links was a virtual endorsement of content, improving that site’s authority and sending it upward in search results.
With Google Panda, the emphasis on referral links was greatly diminished. In fact, it’s estimated that roughly three percent of websites saw their ranking change in a negative way after the update simply because they were relying too heavily on link-based SEO techniques. With results like that, website owners everywhere should consider the balance of their SEO between links and content, and make the appropriate adjustments.
How to Live in a Penguin and Panda World: Fresh, Authoritative Content
Since links are now virtually a non-starter when it comes to improving a website’s ranking and performance at Google, website owners have had to look elsewhere in order to make sure that their site doesn’t slip to the back pages of a keyword-targeted search result. That has been a pretty difficult process, largely because it’s new to many websites and they’re not familiar with how to accomplish this.
The operative phrase when making the transition into Penguin and Panda compliance is “content marketing.” In essence, content marketing involves creating robust, authoritative content for a website that is posted frequently and draws visitors based on how informative it is. Instead of luring people into keyword-spam traps, or link-heavy sites that offer no value at all, content marketing proves that a website knows what it’s talking about, carries some authority in the industry, and is worth visitors’ time. When Google gets word of that, they’ll reward a content marketing website with prime placement among their results.
Content marketing might sound like an easy solution to link-based search engine optimization, and it generally is. There are a few guidelines to follow, though, to ensure that these rich articles are not used in vain. To keep Google’s favor, be sure to make a few considerations when writing, soliciting, or posting content marketing articles to an existing website.
1. Focus on Keyword Density
Any search engine optimization professional is likely familiar with the term “keyword density,” but they may not be familiar with Google’s changed view of keywords on websites. While there was a time when more keywords meant a better ranking, that is not the case today. Instead, Google views excessive keywords as spam. If there are too many instances of a single keyword within any content marketing article, it will not help a website’s ranking at all. In fact, it will generally send the website down.
Be sure to focus on density that doesn’t exceed 5 percent, in most cases. This will make the keyword sound natural, and Google will rank the website far more favorably. A few different keywords throughout the article will make this easy to accomplish without sacrificing placement in any current targeted search results.
2. Freshness is a Priority
Articles must be fresh. Content marketing is viewed by Google has a field that is exceedingly dynamic. Information changes every day, and the search engine’s algorithm now accounts for this. Articles that are a few months old do not score highly anymore, and those that are a few years old will probably not appear in search results at all. Instead, focus on fresh content that is posted on a regular basis.
One article per day, or three articles per week, or ten articles per month, is a great way to get started. With fresh content and a predictable update schedule, Google will reward a website with higher rankings.
3. Post Content Marketing Articles on Other Sites
The importance of the “guest post” on outside blogs has become significantly more important since the Penguin and Panda updates. Websites that link to another site as part of a blog entry lend significantly more authority than those sites that merely operate a link list. Therefore, website owners should focus on striking up relationships with others in the industry, exchanging guest posts and creating a rich environment for competition and SEO improvement that Google will view as authority and credibility.
Easy Changes to Make for Penguin and Panda
The changes that need to be made in order to accommodate the Penguin and Panda algorithm updates are actually pretty easy. Most people already operate a blog within their site, and they like to discuss topics relevant to their products or niche. By emphasizing keywords, freshness, and authority, link-based marketing can easily become a thing of the past without harming a website’s rankings during the transition to more modern techniques.