What does Google’s latest update mean?

Penguin, Panda – it’s easy to get confused about Google’s latest algorithm updates.  Panda 4.1 was released in September and Penguin 3.0 just last week (18th October).  But what do they mean for your business?

In short, if you’ve been doing SEO the right way – by creating quality content and building natural links to that content, your website is likely to be unaffected.  What Google is trying to do is continue to clamp down on the websites which are trying to cheat the system with over optimised (keyword-stuffed) pages and poor quality backlink profiles.

If you’ve been cutting corners, perhaps by worrying about getting keywords into your content rather than creating content that will answer your visitors’ most burning questions, or going for quantity over quality when link building, you’ll eventually feel the repercussions.

At best, your site will drop down the rankings while your competitors steal a march. At worst, Google could hit you with a penalty from which it can be difficult to recover. It may not happen straight away – as it can take time for Google’s updates to be rolled out in full – but it’s worth keeping an eye on your site’s rankings over the next few days and weeks.

What to do

Whether or not you’re affected by the latest update, it’s worth bearing in mind that SEO is really about good, basic housekeeping on your website.  If it feels like you’re maintaining your site for the benefit of your customers and prospects, you’re probably doing everything right.

If you try to get too clever with your SEO, you’ll trip up.  Though you may want fast results, they are usually unsustainable in the long run.  It’s like building your business on a cliff edge – it might survive the next round of algorithm ‘waves’ but eventually it’s going to get toppled.

Of course, the right approach will vary from business to business, but there are 3 golden rules to long-lasting SEO success.

Rule #1:  It’s all about the content

Content is king – it’s been said before and we’ll repeat it here.  Good quality content is the best way to build a sustainable presence. It may not be the quickest route, but it’s certainly the most resilient.

When we talk about content we’re referring to the pages within your site which explain who you are and what you do.  We’re also talking about the dynamic elements such as your blog or news feed. Not only does this show your visitors (and Google) that your site is active, it also allows you to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise in your industry and your relevance to your audience.

When creating content, get into the habit of putting together a content plan so the task doesn’t get left until 5pm on a Friday afternoon.  Quality is the key.  And this is because you want your content to attract links from good quality, relevant websites.

Think about the information your visitors need to know about your company, your products and services, and build your content around those themes.  Think about the issues and challenges people are facing and how you can help them – blog about these topics.  Infographics, user guides, e-books – there are lots of different ways to create interesting and relevant content for your website.

On top of that, review each page of your website on a regular basis to ensure it is accurate and up-to-date.  When writing or editing content, use keywords and phrases sparingly and only where they seem to fall into place naturally.

When creating pages and content, don’t forget the META titles and descriptions.  Again, these need to reflect the search terms people will use to find your content, but again, be careful not to overuse keywords.  If the latest update has affected your site, it’s worth reviewing your data to ensure it’s presenting the right information to Google.

Rule #2: Make sure your site is technically tip-top

Make use of Google Webmaster Tools. Whether or not you sell product online, it’s worth getting into the habit of checking Google Webmaster Tools on a daily basis.  It’s within Webmaster Tools that you’ll find notifications of penalties or any webspam actions.

Another common problem is that of broken links – if you delete any out-of-date pages, remember to remove any links to these pages. Also, make sure it’s quick to load, and compatible with all the major browsers – Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Chrome.

When your site was built it should have been accompanied by an XML Sitemap which helps Google find and display your pages.

Rule #3: Pursue quality links

A backlink is a link to your site from another site.  In recent years, Google has rewarded sites which generated huge quantities of backlinks, even though many were from poor quality, irrelevant websites.  Now, the tables have turned.  Google still wants to see backlinks – indeed, these are arguably the most important factor in building your site’s rankings – but the focus is on quality, not quantity.

This means creating good quality content that people who own relevant websites will naturally want to link to. It’s not easy – if it was, every website would be brilliantly engaging!  But the time and thought taken to develop content that people actually find useful will pay dividends.  A quality backlink profile is difficult for competitors to beat.

Hopefully, your backlinks will grow over time as you become known for creating quality content and keeping people abreast of the information they need to know.  However, an element of outreach is always helpful.  We use online PR to help our clients obtain quality links from relevant sources, whether that’s local or national media, online magazines or well-known bloggers.  Not only does this result in excellent quality link building, it also delivers publicity and exposure to a much wider audience, bringing new prospects to your door.

If you’re still confused about how to get your site to rank well on Google and other search engines, please get in touch. We’ll be glad to help.