This week Google announced that changes to their algorithm were coming soon in the form of further Penguin and Panda “adjustments.” But if you’re creating good content — onsite and offsite — you have nothing to worry about. That’s because these adjustments are all about devaluing sites that use artificial means in order to rank well in the search engine results.
When we say “artificial,” we mean poor-quality content created in order to manipulate search engines. This is done mainly by keyword stuffing — onsite and off — and using unnatural language in order to rank for a particular keyphrase.
Remember that Google’s primary goal (as far as search is concerned) is to deliver the best possible user experience. To achieve that, they want to rank content that also delivers the best possible user experience. Content that is thin, overly simplified, or that uses unnatural language in order to achieve rankings, is out. Content that is original, helpful, and written for humans is in.
The best thing that you can do for your site — beyond creating excellent, search engine optimized, content — is to make sure that you don’t appear as a spammer to the search engine bots. Because Google is changing the definition of “spammer” all the time, there is a certain art to this.
We will still — and probably, always — have to target keywords. And that’s a good thing. Keywords and phrases help guide content creators to the best possible ways to reach their audience. If you didn’t do keyword research, you might never know that potential customers are searching for a particular product, a particular way.
It’s what we do with those keywords that’s important.
As of now, overusing the same phrase — without variations — is out. Using natural language is in. Go ahead and use your keyphrase in your title tags, description tags, and in your H1. From there, vary your language — sometimes using your target phase, sometimes using a variation. Write the way you wrote before you wrote for the internet, varying your language and using synonyms, with the primary goal of communicating an idea — not landing on page one.
Do this and you have a good chance of creating content that will survive any algorithm update.
Marketers and webmasters are using more of their time to evaluate their link portfolios and looking for areas of improvement. For now, you can’t control who links to your site (Google has future plans to launch a “disavow this link” tool, which will tell Google to ignore certain links to your site), but you can learn some key things about other sites to determine if a link from them is going to do you more harm than good. By being prudent about where your links are coming from, you can avoid penalties and build a catalog of back links with lasting value.
The best links come from websites that follow ethical practices and have genuine character. From an ethical standpoint, you wouldn’t want a link from a site that links to several other low-quality sites, or that has a bunch of low-quality sites linking to it. Such underlying link schemes are usually on the verge of a penalty at some point. If you have a link from that site, it won’t hold value for very long. Conversely, a link from a site that boasts its own strong link portfolio will better resist algorithm updates and have long term value.
Sites with genuine character and motivation are also important. Is the site maintained by real authors with credentials? Is the content updated with topics relevant to the site’s audience? A site that languishes without updates or that doesn’t have any clear ownership will only lose link value and page visits as time rolls on.
Just as your site is high-quality — updating with original content that prioritizes user experience — it should link and be linked to by similar quality sites. It’s that type of reciprocation that has the highest link value. When it comes to SEO, “like begets links.”
Google’s Penguin update back in April caused a scramble in the SEO world as everyone reevaluated the tools and channels that they use to build ranking in the SERPs. Since Penguin primarily targeted SEO spam tactics and shady link portfolios, link building methods came under particular scrutiny.
For the most part, none of the rules had really changed. Compelling content on authoritative websites with relevant links back to your site is still considered good link building. However, website authority was being questioned more rigorously. There is also an unwritten rule of SEO: links that you must work harder to build are more valuable (which is why quality link building programs often turn into full-time jobs for some companies). With those two ideas, critical eyes turned on Squidoo.
Squidoo is a quasi-popular content site. Although it doesn’t get the same level of buzz as Tumblr or Facebook, it does get millions of hits and its articles (called “lenses” on the site) can rank highly in search results. Squidoo allows users to create content-rich multimedia pages on virtually any subject. Ordinarily, this makes it a great channel for building links. However, there is no barrier to entry — anyone can make a Squidoo account and start posting content. In light of the Penguin update, SEO experts speculated that Squidoo was a gaggle of spammers reposting or repurposing scraped content to score some links. In other words, Squidoo had no authority and was a quick way to get some easy links — low-value SEO in every way. Since many websites that were penalized by Penguin had Squidoo links in their portfolio, it was a compelling argument. But is that really the case?
Links and lenses are only granted visibility on the site for a limited time. After a lens goes live, Squidoo may soon change it into a “Work-In-Progress (WIP) lens. Lenses are given a WIP status when they lack visitors or haven’t been updated with new content after a period of time. Although the URL for the lens is still valid and users can reach the page via a direct link, WIP lenses don’t appear in Squidoo search results or outside search engines. In other words, once a lens becomes WIP, all of its link value is lost.
Currently, there’s no way to tell to what degree Penguin has devalued links from Squidoo. However, with the frequency Squidoo assigns WIP status, it’s doubtful that links from the site have any negative impact since they only come from active lenses. From a link building perspective, WIP lenses are a double edge sword. On one hand, would be spammers aren’t able to derive much benefit. On the other hand, real link builders might get more work than they bargained for. Building a successful lens requires a combination of design aesthetic, compelling copy and an interesting theme. Keeping that great lens from becoming WIP requires fresh content and updates, plus promotion on blogs and social media to keep visitors coming.
Then again, good link building is supposed to be challenging. Squidoo or otherwise, if you create original content through a variety of channels, your link building efforts will be successful.