SEO is one of the biggest topics today, and one of the most inexact sciences in online marketing. If you do a search for “SEO” on Google, and it’ll return 576 million results while “SEO marketing” will give you sixteen million.
Search Engine Optimization is big business!
So what happens when Google alters their search ranking algorithms –which they do often– and you find your website and your business are now collateral damage under the sanitized term “metrics.”
This latest update, nicknamed the “Panda Update,” has turned much of the online marketing world on its collective ear. Sift through any number of professional blogging, traffic generation, and online marketing blogs, and most have at least one post mentioning the algorithm changes and what it means for everything from Page Rank to profits.
According to Google, this new algorithm improves overall search quality, as it mainly went after content farms and aggregator/spam sites. These sites were bottom of the barrel types, short articles no better than ads, written with poor quality language skills and scraped from other sites.
However, because of the details of the Panda Update, some very high-quality sites were lumped together with the content farms. And to add insult to injury, most of these small businesses are responsible for their own SEO on their sites and have no idea how to fix it!
What’s a small business owner to do?
I took my questions and headed to the experts. One of the SEO marketing experts I spoke with was Andrew Cross and Daniel Laloggia, Search Marketing Mgr. from Walker Sands Communications, a Chicago public relations, marketing and web design agency.
Have any types of businesses or certain industries been affected worse than others?
The recent update didn’t seem to impact any business type or industry more than any other. This was more about changing how Google looked at different SEO practices than about going after certain types of companies.
How should small businesses combat the change? Should they contact Google or revamp their SEO efforts? Or both?
Unless they think they were caught up in the change on accident, contacting Google won’t help. Identifying what part of the change affected your site can help you identify the best way to recover.
Can we expect future sweeping algorithm changes that have a similar effect?
Google changes the algorithm in relatively large ways several times a year. Sometimes these changes are more subtle or affect things more over the long term than the short term, like this update did.
They’re right, of course. Google updates their algorithm quite often; it’s just not often that one change makes such a sweeping effect the way the Panda did. I also spoke with John Mc Phee of Formic Media Inc., a social media marketing agency that designs special marketing packages for their clients.
He had some really great things to tell me about SEO. Basically, building backlinks is one of the strongest ways to get your site ranked well, and backlinks are the online “vote of confidence” that sites give yours, which lets search engines know that your site is one worth paying attention to.
According to John, there are two types of links: off-site, and on-site linking. On-site would be the inter-linking between pages of your website. Off-site are other websites linking to your site. About 60% of the algorithm focuses on just this type of link building.
The low-quality sites are those sites using tools such as autoblogging, or are building sites for the sole purpose of using AdSense. Sites with such an overflow of ads ranked low and got hit hard by the Panda; does your site have a lot of ads? You might want to evaluate the coverage on your site and see if you need to tone down the ads.
When I asked John McPhee what webste owners could do if they felt the Panda Slap, he had four tips to soothe the sting and make the Panda happy:
- Track the links to your site as well as you can, and request the low-quality sites to take down their links. It’s a matter of negative association, and it’s not worth the backlink!
- In the same vein as #1, focus your attention on cultivating backlinks from very high-quality and reputable sites in your niche, and register with directories with well-chosen keywords.
- Continue with your content creation. Do you have a blog? It’s surprising how many small businesses don’t have a blog attached to their websites or store fronts. Blogs are one of the best ways to keep your site fresh and continually updated with new content.
- Social Media: learn it, live it, love it! Social Media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others are where your audience is now. People would rather connect with a friend online and build relationships with new people than be sold on a product. Share value!
And if that’s not enough, you can always check out a fantastic survival guide on Google’s Panda Update over at Wordtracker.com. It’s jam-packed with a nuts and bolts explanation of how the Panda works and ways to fix your SEO. It’s a must-read for anyone who wants to make sense of how to create a great site designed to be viewer-friendly and SEO-friendly, how to understand how SEO works, and most important: how to make a Panda happy!
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