2013 was perhaps the most volatile and active period for anyone involved in SEO. For businesses that have invested a lot of money into their online marketing, it was a trying and frustrating year.
Don’t despair just yet, however. Through Google’s various updates it’s clear that Google is moving in a certain direction. This article provides an overview of the changes that happened in 2013, how you can adapt now that they’ve been rolled out, and how to best prepare your site moving forward.
Beyond Cute Animals: Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird Explained
In 2013 Google rolled out three major updates known as Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird. They each targeted specific ranking factors.
Panda: Quality Matters
If you’ve ever come across a website that reads as if written by a machine, has a bunch of annoying pop-ups and just offers a poor overall user experience, then you know exactly the kind of site that the Google Panda updates (February-March 2013) look to target.
Panda essentially aims to eradicate low-quality websites. Google bots trawl sites to check for value – the search engine giants wants to feed users websites that are worth visiting, rather than sites that are purely built for affiliate sales. Avoid Panda penalties by adhering to the following rules.
Avoid Keyword Stuffing
We’ve known this one for years, but the algorithm has become even more ruthless against websites that purposely try to game the search engines by injecting targeted keywords. DON’T keyword stuff.
Beef Up Your Website
Google no longer likes what’s known as a ‘thin’ site – if your website is low on content and has a distinct absence of images and video, you won’t get anywhere with your rankings.
Penguin Version 2.0
SEO basic training tells us that links are important – without them, you don’t really have much of a chance to rank. However, Penguin 2.0 has ensured that low quality links simply don’t work (at least not anymore). Combat Google’s creature from the arctic by implementing these strategies.
Link Farms Are Bad News
Many business owners fall into the trap of buying cheap links that promise the world. But quick rankings can come at a hefty price. While it’s tempting to drive your site to the top in a short space of time, it will often lead to a permanent Penguin penalty.
That’s why it’s very important that you avoid so-called ‘link farms’ – these are websites that sell links in order to boost up your link profile. The problem with these sites is that they are often low quality (remember Panda?) and are shared by countless other businesses. Google can easily detect these patterns and it’s only a matter of time before your site is punished.
Obtain Links from Real Sites
It sounds easier said than done, but it’s worth the effort to find actual websites where you can drop a link back to yours. The best links are those from authoritative properties that are relevant to your industry. This is how you can get them:
- Create great content that people will link to naturally
- Install social buttons to encourage people to share via Facebook, Twitter, etc.
- Invite authorities in your industry to write a guest post or conduct an interview
While it may take a little longer and you’ll have to invest time to make your content better than average, it’ll be worth it. You’ll get solid links that will pass ‘link juice’ to your site and your site will be kept safe from Google’s penalties.
Hummingbird: Most Powerful Update Yet?
Most people will say that Panda and Penguin were the more devastating updates and while they may have led to more shifts in search engine positions, we nevertheless believe that Hummingbird was a key update to Google’s algorithm.
Hummingbird has given us an insight on what Google really wants. The updates centers on user intent and providing meaningful answers to questions. Google has become much more effective at figuring out a website’s true relevance. To ensure you follow the way of the Hummingbird, just do the following.
Their Question, Your Answer
The question and answer format has become a very effective way of telling Google that you have what people are looking for. More than ever, people are inputting extensive questions into search engines. This is no small part due to voice control and new devices such as smartphones and tablets.
For this reason, you should set up dedicated pages that answer user questions. Each page should be extremely focused on a given topic, ensuring Google catches just how relevant your content is to a query.
Strategies for 2014
Putting all of the updates together, it’s clear to see where Google is going. Focus and quality are the two key items on the checklist that you really need to tick off. These are just a couple of ways you can get your site off to a great start in 2014.
Google+ and Authorship
Google is placing a lot of importance on its properties. While you may cry foul, you’re going to have to play along if you want to rank.
The first thing to do is add Authorship to your website. This ties your content to you as an author, which adds value in the eyes of Google. After all, people want content from real people.
Secondly, you need to invest in Google+. Facebook and Twitter are still key players, but Google+ is quickly gaining traction. Try and be a little more active in Google Circles, giving you a social presence.
Quality is King
Many of us have heard the phrase ‘quality is king’, but it’s only now that it’s starting to become truly relevant. Google is maturing and can tell the difference between something that’s been assembled in 5 minutes and a site that has been constructed with painstaking care and attention to detail.
In addition to fantastic text, add rich images and video with all the necessary meta data to your pages as well. Remember, websites are not just online e-books. Google wants something a little more sophisticated than that.
- Dan Kogan
- January 15, 2014
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