I’m continuing to have a lot of conversations about the devastating impact that Google’s Organic algorithm updates have had on the bottom lines of some businesses. It’s disheartening to hear stories of business owners, online marketers, and webmasters who, many without deep understanding (though some clearly knew, or looked the other way, what was going on to attain such high rankings), followed the advice of non-best practices’ SEO specialists and now have previously top-ranking web pages drowning in obscurity beyond page 3 in Google’s Natural Search Results – with traffic falling to below half of what it once was.
In a previous blog post, we discussed the disadvantages that come with certain “aggressive” SEO strategies. Aggressive strategies try to find ways around search engine algorithms and guidelines to gain an advantage. This results in shortcuts that deliver quick results yet aren’t actually against the rules. As we showed, those types of strategies are usually a poor idea in the long run because they become ineffective once search engine algorithms and guidelines update — resulting in wasted efforts. Therefore, a natural approach to SEO and search engine guidelines is the path to long-term success.
An easy way to tell if you’re on the right track is to ask yourself how much action you’d need to take if Google or Bing announced a new algorithm update. If you’ve done lots of natural link building through a variety of websites, consistently updated your website with useful content, maintained a clean sitemap and URL structure, and basically did all of the hard work of keeping your website running like a well oiled machine, you’re probably not worried about Google tweaking some ranking signals. However, if you’ve spent the past year looking for quick-fixes, trying to build PageRank as fast as possible, or putting all of your eggs in one basket with the SEO strategy that seemed to deliver the fastest results, you might be more nervous — and understandably so.
To implement a natural SEO strategy, you need to stick to the basics and do them extremely well. If all of your strengths lie in things that search engine guidelines will never outlaw — like creating original content and improving your website’s user experience — then your site has a much stronger chance of building rank over time no matter what sorts of algorithm or guideline updates there are.
In an overly-aggressive approach, you can’t focus on the long term because you’re always using resources to learn new strategies when the old ones are no longer effective. By avoiding exploits and shortcuts, a natural approach streamlines efforts and helps you build strength in the areas that matter. Remember that when deciding to implement new SEO strategies.
The end of September and beginning of October 2012 have proved to be busy times for Google. The search giant rolled out several updates that jostled the rankings of many websites. SEOs have also been busy trying to sort out the updates and analyze their impact. Here’s our rundown of the most important updates in chronological order.
Panda Update: Google rolled out its Panda algorithm for the 20th time during Sept. 27-30. Ordinarily, Google runs Panda about once per month to filter through search results and penalize sites with low-quality content. But, Panda’s algorithm was upgraded for this 20th run, which had a dramatic impact on search results. The last several Panda updates only affected about 1% or less of search queries — while this new Panda update affected 2.4% of English queries.
EMD Update: The Exact Match Domain (EMD) update was a brand new algorithm that Google pushed on Sept. 28, which affected about 0.6% of English searches. This update specifically targeted websites that had high rankings by virtue of their domain name being an exact match for search queries. However, this doesn’t mean that all EMDs will rank poorly. Google’s real goal with this update is to penalize low-quality websites that are only riding high because of their domain names. Having an EMD is fine, so long as website is a source of good content. These high-quality websites still have high rankings after the EMD update:
In a way, the EMD update is very similar to Panda — maintaining high-quality content on your website will keep you from being penalized. Google will roll out the EMD update again in the future (possibly every month, like Panda), but exact dates are not known.
Penguin Update: On Oct. 5, Google ran its Penguin update for the third time since it debuted in April. This had a small impact on search results, affecting only about 0.3% of English queries.
Top Heavy Update: Officially known as the page layout algorithm, the Top Heavy update rolled out for its second time on Oct. 9. This also turned out to be a relatively small update, affecting only about 0.7% of English searches.
Since all of these algorithms are being run periodically, it’s important to keep them in mind when modifying the content of your website. To check if any of these algorithms have impacted your site rankings, cross-reference your Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools data with the release date of each algorithm to see if there’s a correlation.
At the end of the day, the rules for SEO really aren’t any different. All of updates are taking aim at weak content and poor user experience. If you continue to create original content; follow best practices; and maintain your site with users first in mind, search engines second, then the quality of your site will be rewarded in search rankings.