If you depend on Organic website traffic for new and returning business, it’s important to understand the effects that search engine algorithm updates can have on your web traffic. Usually run to prevent search spam and improve the SERPs, search engine algorithm updates can be confusing for web masters and interactive marketers. Learn about the latest algorithm updates and what they mean for your website.
Google announced a new algorithm update on January 19 that it will start applying to search results. Simply called, the “page layout algorithm,” it’s having only a small impact so far (less than 1% of searches, according to Google). Still, the new update is causing a bit of buzz and confusion.
The page layout algorithm looks at websites and examines their ad content. Sites that have too many ads above the fold receive a penalization in Google’s search results. The philosophy behind the update is that pages with top heavy ads obscure the content of a webpage — negatively impacting user experience.
In a few ways, the page layout algorithm is similar to the Panda update. Like Panda, the page layout algorithm is more like a ranking factor, in that once you are penalized by the page layout algorithm, you will have to wait until Google decides to run the algorithm again to have your site reconsidered — the penalty will not disappear right away.
Because the penalty applies to the entire website, not just the particular ad-heavy page, many webmasters are nervous. However, there are reasons why this new update is only affecting less than 1% of search results. For starters, pop-ups, pop-unders and overlay ads are not counted by the page layout algorithm. In addition, Google recognizes that the top of the page is valuable space for advertisers and is important for the revenue of many sites. You can still place ads above the fold without being penalized. Google is only looking to punish websites who take their ad placement to excessive levels.
As such, there is a good chance this update will not affect you. Just be sure to layout ads on your web pages in a responsible manner that keeps the user experience in mind.
In a previous blog post entitled “Latest Google Algorithm Update – Now People Panic!”, as well as in the latest MoreVisibility YouTube Video, I discussed the Google algorithmic changes named “Panda” and how to address certain aspects of your site to ensure that a site-wide penalty isn’t incurred due to low quality content.
Here are some tips on what to avoid so that your link building efforts remain in line with Google Panda:
Remember, the Panda Update penalties will impact your whole site and the effects can be drastic, so ensure that your link cultivation efforts aren’t thwarted because of submission to one or two low quality directories. Major websites have been penalized for their link building practices due to Panda, including JCPenney, so no one is immune.
Relatively speaking, Google’s +1 button is a new feature in search. However, it has already begun to affect searches in a big way. So much so, people have been trying to make, sadly, an unscrupulous business out of it.
Lately, sites have been springing up that offer to sell +1’s for your website. For a fee, you can get any where from 50 to several thousand unique clicks for the +1 button on your site — a practice which goes directly against Google’s quality guidelines. In the biz, its something we refer to as “black hat SEO.”
While tactics like this may be tempting, and can even provide some short term benefit, they can become detrimental or disastrous in the long run. In the case of buying +1’s for your site, there can be a number of ill-effects.
You may receive a penalization at a later date — Google prides itself on providing quality search results, and it doesn’t take kindly to those who try to game the system. If future algorithms can detect your purchased +1’s, you will have wasted your money and seriously harmed your website’s ranking in Google search.
It’s a spamming technique, and lowers quality — Consider what the +1 button is: a relevancy indicator to enhance social search. By paying a few hundred unrelated, non-relevant users to +1 your site, you can hurt your ranking in the long term and obscure your brand’s overall message to consumers.
It can mess up your analytics — The “audience report” in Google Analytics tells you the demographic and geographic information about users who’ve +1’d the pages on your site. It’s a great way to learn about your audience so you can cater to them better. Paying for a large amount of unnatural +1’s will skew this data and ruin your chances to find and target your actual, converting audience.
All of these negative aspects have the potential to harm your site. For long term success, you should always follow the best practices guidelines and stick to “white hat” SEO techniques.