Are you a small business owner that is relying on the search engines to drive traffic and sales to your websites? If so, this Google SEO Guide is for you.
The ultimate goal of the search engines is to provide the most relevant and useful of information for the keywords being searched. And in order to achieve this goal, Google has to “weed” out spammy and irrelevant websites from the top of the search results.
While Google claims to make at least several hundred updates in a year (500+), they have also released several “animal” updates targeting low quality websites.
@gregrysmith yes. 500+ algo launches/year mean 1-2 a day. I know of at least one other algo rolling out over same timeframe for example.
— Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) September 30, 2012
These “animal” updates are popularly known as the Panda and Penguin updates. The Panda update was launched in February 2011 which targeted low quality websites with duplicate content, content farms, and thin pages of content. Currently, there have been 24 Panda updates since it was first launched.
The Penguin algorithm update was launched last April 2012 to target spammy link building techniques like irrelevant links, unrelated blog posts, and link networks.
How to Determine if your Website has been affected by the Panda and Penguin updates?
Open up your Google Analytics and check your traffic and keyword stats. Go to the day view and check your stats to determine when your traffic dropped.
Check with the dates below to find out if you have been affected by the Panda or the Penguin update.
These are the dates for the Panda updates (Drops in rankings usually occurs during this day or several days after the update was rolled out).
- 02/23/2011 – Panda 1.0
- 04/11/2011- Panda 2.0
- 05/09/2011- Panda 2.1
- 06/21/2011 – Panda 2.2
- 07/23/2011- Panda 2.3
- 08/21/2011 – Panda 2.4
- 09/28/2011 – Panda 2.5
- 10/05/2011 – Panda “flux”
- 11/18/2011 – Panda 3.1
- 01/18/2012 – Panda 3.2
- 02/27/2012 – Panda 3.3
- 03/23/2012 – Panda 3.4
- 04/19/2012 – Panda 3.5
- 05/27/2012 – Panda 3.6
- 06/08/2012 – Panda 3.7
- 06/25/2012 – Panda 3.8
- 07/24/2012 – Panda 3.9
- 08/20/2012 – Panda 3.9.1
- 09/18/2012 – Panda 3.9.2
Related Google updates:
- 01/19/2012 – Above the fold Google Update
- 01/12/2012 – Venice Google update
Dates of Google Penguin updates:
- 04/24/2012 – Penguin 1.0
- 05/25/2012 – Penguin 1.1
- 10/5/2012 – Penguin 3
Go to Google Analytics > Traffic sources > Search > Organic and choose “Keyword” as the primary dimension.
I usually choose landing page as the secondary dimension (to check on specific pages that might have been penalized) and set my date range from Feb 2011 to the present date.
Find out which keywords dropped in traffic. You can use a Google Chrome extension called “Chartelligence” to help you visualize dates on your analytics.
You can also use the Penguin Tool, which will provide you with a similar overview of your analytics.
In the screenshot below, it clearly shows how our own website and blog have “survived” the Panda and Penguin updates.
If you need assistance and guidance on how to deal with the Panda and Penguin updates, you can contact us and we’ll let you know how we can help.
We have successfully revived, regained and maintained rankings and traffic for our SEO clients and here are some of the strategies that we have implemented in order to maintain market dominance for most of our clients.
The New SEO Approach for Small Business Owners
(Post Panda and Penguin)
Google is always after a high quality website and relevant user experience for their searchers. Last May 6, 2011, they’ve released an article on what they consider as a high quality website. (View the original document here)
On Site Optimization – SEO Basics
Target Long Tail Keywords
If you want your website to rank in the search engines, you should start focusing on long tail keywords, instead of broad searches.
Long tail keywords might have less search volumes but they convert highly.
An example of a long tail keyword is when you’ve added Geographic locations to your terms.
Start optimizing for these keywords because they would be easier to rank in the search engines and they would have higher conversions than generic search phrases.
Increase User Engagement and Improve User Experience
The search engines, particularly the Panda updates are looking for factors that help determine if a site should rank high in the search results or not.
Factors like average time on site, pagespeed , pages per visit, bounce rates and click through rates must be closely monitored in order to avoid algorithm penalties.
Web design, user experience and usability are very important. Avoid making the mistake of hiring an amateur website developer, because your search engine traffic will be affected.
Ask us on how we can help you have a website that the users and search engines would love.
Write Epic Content
As Denise Gervais has coined, EPIC content stands for Engaging, Personal, Intelligent and Converting.
Write content for the users and not just for the search engines.
Find the biggest problems of your customers and blog about it. We don’t randomly create content for the sake of beefing up your website’s pages. We’re actually creating content that will be beneficial to readers. This will increase engagement because these are the articles and blog posts that your readers would love to read and would likely share across their social networks.
Off Page Optimization – Link Earning instead of just Link Building
SEO is not dead and link building is definitely not dead.
As long as Google relies on backlinks and algorithm factors to rank websites to the top of the search results, seo and linkbuilding will be present.
Paid links, link schemes, and black hat techniques, are still working and it will be a constant struggle between the search engines and people who utilize these methods.
But is it a risk that you are willing to take?
SEO is such a lucrative source of traffic that even big brands like JC Penney, Overstock and even Google’s own Chrome Website have all been involved in some sort of paid link schemes (this is against Google’s terms of service) and they were all penalized.
Lately it was Interflora (an online flower site) that was recently involved in some paid and “spammy” link building methods. They worked, until Google gave them the ban hammer.
Interflora’s rankings are now back after 11 days, but Google will not comment on it.
As a small business owner, what are your chances of getting your rankings back if you have been using “spammy” link building techniques? My guess is very low.
That is why here at WSI Milton, we are doing link earning campaigns instead of the standard link building campaigns.
The old methods of link building like article submissions, bookmarking, press release submissions are still working to a certain degree, but most small businesses are doing the same. That is why we are focusing on “link earning” for all of our clients.
What is Link Earning?
Link earning is the really the old way of link building.
Before article directories and before any press release submission service became mainstream, the internet was connected with links from relevant websites, friends, colleagues, acquaintances and industry relevant links.
People would link to your website because they’ve known you, found your content useful, and shared it with their readers via links.
The idea of link earning is that in a world without SEO, you would still want that link because it’s useful and beneficial to your readers and website.
Here are several examples of link earning methods that we employ for our clients.
1. Local Directories – If you are located in Canada, and the website is a Canadian directory, we want to be listed in that local directory.
2. Memberships and Industry Associations – Are you a landscaper, a home remodeling company, or a flooring retailer? There are several industry websites that list their members and their website’s contact details. These are highly relevant and useful links not only for the search engines but also for the users as well.
Note: Not all industry and membership associations provide an SEO benefit. Our SEO process determines the best industry and membership associations that have a beneficial effect to your website’s rankings.
3. Niche Bloggers – In every industry, there are several niche bloggers who are very passionate on what they do. If you have a home improvement company, you might want to connect with Mommy bloggers who might benefit from your home improvement tips.
Connect with them via Facebook, Twitter, or simply send them an email and share your home improvement tips with them. If they found it really useful and beneficial with their readers, they might blog about it.
Link earning is a continuous and evolving process in our Search Engine Optimization strategy. Make sure that you’ve subscribed to our updates to receive the latest updates on these methods.
Summary: Google SEO Guide for small Business owners
1. The search engines are evolving. SEO is not dead but the search engines are really determined to remove low quality websites in their search results.
2. The search engines are releasing 500+ algorithm updates each year, and two of the most widely known updates are the Panda and Penguin updates.
3. The Panda updates started in Feb 2011 and are targeting websites that have low quality content. The Panda update is concerned with the content on your website. Find duplicate content, low quality pages and thin content. Remove them to get out of the Panda penalty.
4. The Penguin updates started in April 2012 and are targeting low quality and spammy link building techniques. Avoid paid link schemes, black hat techniques, and spammy link building methods because they can get your website penalized just like what happened to big brands like JC Penney, Overstock, Interflora and Google’s Own Chrome website.
6. User metrics are important for ranking websites and maintaining rankings.
7. Write Epic Content – Engaging, Personal, Intelligent and Converting.
8. Start using Custom Link Earning Methods instead of the traditional Link building packages.
That’s over 1500+ words of SEO Guide for small business owners.
If you are not getting free search engine traffic to your websites, then you are missing on a lot of leads and sales. If you have been hit by the Panda and Penguin updates, you need to start fixing your site to get back in the search results.
If you don’t know where to start, you can contact us and we’ll be happy to help you.