Well Folks! It has happened again.... Google had another update! Has your site been effected by the new Penguin update that took place on April 24,2012?
Google decided to change their algorithm on how they rank websites in the search engines. They have always valued valuable content on websites but with the new update they value it even more now.
There has been a ton of speculation regarding Google’s Penguin update. Not many know exactly what the update does or how it works exactly. From what I can tell, the update is trying to get rid of spammy sites or sites that use keyword stuffing, spamming or horrible link farm scams.
Below is a snippet of what Matt Cutts says about the update:
“While we can’t divulge specific signals because we don’t want to give people a way to game our search results and worsen the experience for users, our advice for webmasters is to focus on creating high quality sites that create a good user experience and employ white hat SEO methods instead of engaging in aggressive webspam tactics”.
“The change will decrease rankings for sites that we believe are violating Google’s existing quality guidelines.”
“We see all sorts of webspam techniques every day, from keyword stuffing to link schemes that attempt to propel sites higher in rankings,” he said.
I think this means that this the new update is not just about keyword stuffing, and bad link schemes but everything in between as well.
Here are a few things you need to make sure you are not doing that are against Google's guidelines:
Hidden Text and Links : Most website owners that I know do not do this but just in case you may have read to use this technique and are thinking about doing this. DONT! Google can scan sites to find this type of Black Hat tactic and your site can be removed from Google's search results if found.
Keyword Stuffing : This is a BIG one. When optimizing your site, make sure you are not using your keywords over and over and over again. This means that you do not want to have one keyword repeated over and over again in the content of your webpages or in your meta tags. You want your content to sound as natural as possible not only for the search engine spiders but more important for your users.
Linking : Stay away from using link scams or buying thousands of links from spammy sites or sites that promise you thousands of links for pennies on a dollar. If you are link building make sure you are using white hat tactics. Build your links naturally. You would be amazed at how well you can do with ranking just by getting 20 to 30 links to your site each month. You really don't need 100's or even 1000's of links pointing to your site each day or month in order to rank for your targeted keywords (unless your keyword is beyond competitive).
Duplicate Content : Last but not least, make sure that you do not create multiple pages, subdomains or domains with the same content. This is a big no, no. A lot of people buy website domains with their keywords in mind and create the same website content on each domain just for ranking purposes. This is against Google's guidelines as well.
Google lists the following as steps you can take to address any duplicate content issues you may have:
- Use 301s: If you’ve restructured your site, use 301 redirects (“RedirectPermanent”) in your .htaccess file to smartly redirect users, Googlebot, and other spiders. (In Apache, you can do this with an .htaccess file; in IIS, you can do this through the administrative console.)
- Be consistent: Try to keep your internal linking consistent. For example, don’t link to http://www.example.com/page/ and http://www.example.com/page and http://www.example.com/page/index.htm.
- Use top-level domains: To help us serve the most appropriate version of a document, use top-level domains whenever possible to handle country-specific content. We’re more likely to know that http://www.example.de contains Germany-focused content, for instance, than http://www.example.com/de or http://de.example.com.
- Syndicate carefully: If you syndicate your content on other sites, Google will always show the version we think is most appropriate for users in each given search, which may or may not be the version you’d prefer. However, it is helpful to ensure that each site on which your content is syndicated includes a link back to your original article. You can also ask those who use your syndicated material to use the noindex meta tag to prevent search engines from indexing their version of the content.
- Use Webmaster Tools to tell us how you prefer your site to be indexed: You can tell Google your preferred domain (for example, http://www.example.com or http://example.com).
- Minimize boilerplate repetition: For instance, instead of including lengthy copyright text on the bottom of every page, include a very brief summary and then link to a page with more details. In addition, you can use the Parameter Handling tool to specify how you would like Google to treat URL parameters.
- Avoid publishing stubs: Users don’t like seeing “empty” pages, so avoid placeholders where possible. For example, don’t publish pages for which you don’t yet have real content. If you do create placeholder pages, use the noindex meta tag to block these pages from being indexed.
- Understand your content management system: Make sure you’re familiar with how content is displayed on your web site. Blogs, forums, and related systems often show the same content in multiple formats. For example, a blog entry may appear on the home page of a blog, in an archive page, and in a page of other entries with the same label.
- Minimize similar content: If you have many pages that are similar, consider expanding each page or consolidating the pages into one. For instance, if you have a travel site with separate pages for two cities, but the same information on both pages, you could either merge the pages into one page about both cities or you could expand each page to contain unique content about each city.
Don’t block Google from duplicate content. Google advises against this, because it won’t be able to detect when URLs point to the same content, and will have to treat them as separate pages. Use the canonical link element (rel=”canonical”).
Note: there are reasons why Google might skip your Canonical link elements.It’s important to note that Google doesn’t consider duplicate content to be grounds for penalty, unless it appears that it was used in a deceptive way or to manipulate search results. However, that seems like one of those areas, where an algorithm might leave room for error.
The bottom line is to make sure you are not doing anything that may jeopardize your site being listed in Google's search results. Take a minute to read their guidelines, if you haven't done so already. If you are not sure about a certain tactic you are considering using in your SEO strategy, it doesn't hurt to consult with a search engine optimization specialist.