Archive for March, 2012

Tackling Google Over-Optimization Penalty

As if Panda and the news of deindexing weren’t enough, SEO companies and clients now have to contend with another vague and mysterious warning regarding over-optimization penalty.
As is the norm, whenever Matt Cutts announces anything, SEO industry sits up and takes notice.

This time Matt Cutts made an announcement on over SEO update

Matt Cutts hinted what he and his team meant by what over-optimization is when it comes to SEO. The main culprits are keyword stuffing and over the top link exchanges. Even if he had not mentioned these SEO tactics most SEO consultants may have guessed it correctly.

Let’s try to understand why these 2 particular tactics were mentioned by Matt:

Keyword Stuffing: For too long, SEO practitioners have been focused about keyword density. Even though there was no official word regarding it, even industry experts bandied out percentages which were accepted by SEO noobies as the holy grail of SEO. Everyone use a stuffed a keywords inside the tags and contents of their pages. No one even cared to question these figures. Gradually the stupidity has died down, but still we see websites stuff with keyword. Google has been quietly targeting pages which it thought were stuffing their pages with keywords.

What we will see now is much vigorous effort by Google to clean up the internet by targeting websites who have little content beside keywords.

Link Exchanges: Link exchange had outlived 3 years back but still many not-so-bright SEO companies have been persisting with this approach. Why? Probably this is a no-brainer activity which can be done by anyone with no skill set. Link exchanges evolved as one way link exchanges, two way link exchanges and three way links exchanges.

Google had stopped giving it much weightage in its ranking algorithms but now it seems that it will specifically penalize sites indulging in link exchanges.

Likewise, Google will also be targeting websites which are violating its guidelines for webmasters. It will keep an eye for signals which will indicate sudden increase in links, exact anchor text and artificial link profiles. Such signals are flashed when link buying and link exchanges are pursued vigorously.

So, if Google is tightening the screws for SEO companies and webmasters what are the options for them? If you ask me, I will suggest going back to basics.

One of worst things about on-page optimization was that we had to read keyword filled content which made no sense for a human reader. If one has to avoid this new penalty from Google, then he should make the content for humans and not bots.

This is perhaps the simplest SEO strategy one can use and which can never go wrong. Enhance the experience of your user with improved web design and content and you will notice gradual changes in your Google rankings.

The purpose of SEO was to optimize a website for human readers. Sadly, even the best intentions go horribly wrong. Till now, search engine bots have been fooled by keyword stuffing but the things are changing. Google is changing and evolving. Now, only the websites with relevant and human readable content will be recognized by Google. Though, this update can take many months, one thing is for sure – spammy SEO tactics won’t last long

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Panda 3.4 is here

Google has announced over twitter that Panda 3.4 is happening as of now.

Panda refresh rolling out now. Only ~1.6% of queries noticeably affected. Background on Panda: goo.gl/mTKCH

— A Googler (@google) March 23, 2012

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Deindexing of blog networks and its implications for SEO

Last night, I got a newsletter from some “SEO Guru” whose entire blog network has been wiped out. Needless to say he was furious and disappointed. Not a single day passes by when we hear about people getting messages from Google about “unnatural links” and blogs getting deindexed.  If this was a trickle earlier, now it’s a flood.

SEO experts are in a panicky mode. If there was one easy and sure shot way of getting links and good rankings in the least amount of time, it was buying truckloads of links from blogs.

Many blog networks sprung up where one could place links with anchor text with absolutely no hard work. No SEO company big or small was shy of using these tactics.

Yes, sure on respected SEO forums, big guns of SEO industry always preached good content and blah, blah, blah, but the fact was that these SEO companies were not averse to buying links. In fact they were the worst culprits because they had big money to buy links. Soon, link selling and buying became an industry in itself.

So now that Google has started cracking the whip, SEO experts have to look for ways to gain rankings. Can the SEO industry continue to persist with link buying?

I am of the opinion that, while wholesale link buying and selling will come down drastically in next few years, it won’t be eliminated. Google will eventually downgrade links in their ranking algorithms but nevertheless they will remain an integral part of the any SEO strategy.

What other options does a SEO company have? How can a SEO company get good rankings for a website without endangering a client’s website? Here are few ways:

1)      Make a good website: Not everyone can have a website with killer looks but what matters is that it should be user friendly. Its navigation system, content layout and architecture should be such that human users as well as search engines bots can navigate a website easily. Hiring a web design company in India should be your starting point.

2)      Create Great Content:  Now, it gets difficult here. Not every industry or business is tailor made for great content. For many website it is difficult to get a whole lot of good content. But, a website anyway should have original and relevant content. Keyword stuffing is not an option nowadays as Google will soon be coming down hard of over-optimized sites also.

3)      Create a Blog: Creating a blog and posting regularly not helps in only gaining authority but also gets good visibility, traffic and inbound links. One has to be regular with blog posts. Blog posts should be insightful, thought provoking or at least help readers with their problems.

4)      Guest Blogging: Since, Google is deindexing blogs indulging in link selling, one has to be careful with this aspect also as there is very little to distinguish a guest blog posts from a paid blog post. Still the benefits outweigh the risks if the blogs are selected carefully. Guest blogging on reputable blogs which have very little or no paid links will benefit any website over a period of time in more than one way.

5)      Article Submission: While article directories have been hit hard from last year’s Panda update, they are recovering with more stringent editorial guidelines. The links from articles have been devalued a lot but they still are beneficial.

6)      Social sites: Social signals are now being counted as a ranking factor. The effects are still very limited but if the trends hold out then they are the way to go. Google SERPs are already including results from Google plus.

7)      Link buying: Link buying will stay for a long time to come. Blatant link buying with same and exact anchor texts will stop in next 1-2 years and it will evolve a bit more.

SEO experts will have to be sophisticated in their approach. As always Google is always changing and reinventing itself. If you are in SEO business then this is one thing you cannot escape. To keep yourself relevant, you have to adapt to the changing landscape around you or else PERISH!

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