Small Business owners, big brand companies and marketing pros are reeling from the aftershocks of Google’s recent updates, Panda and Penguin (code-names).
Launched in February 2011, Panda began to enforce Google’s SEO guidelines using artificial intelligence in new ways. Google’s longstanding SEO “rules” were beginning to change and Panda just was the tip of the iceberg. Lazy SEO managers who didn’t pay attention to this warning would soon be in for a rude awakening.
If Panda was just the tip of the iceberg, Penguin’s release in April was like the whole damn iceberg that sank the Titanic! That’s exactly want happened to the traffic of millions of websites, as they seemingly overnight saw their website traffic sink!
So what happened?
The Google Penguin and Panda updates “humanized” the way the search engines view your website. The new standard focuses on legitimate and quality content, originality, and the overall user experience. The message to marketing pros and website owners is very clear… stop focusing on tricks and “technology” to dupe the search engines, and start focusing on people. Obtaining generic backlinks or content, keyword stuffing, or pursuing affiliate “traffic” will do little for your website. It may likely even hurt you. If your website appeals to a real person, it will appeal to Google’s new algorithms too!
You may saying to yourself, “okay, so I’ll just make sure I update my site regularly with good original content, and I’ll appease the Google gods!” If only it were that simple. The Penguin and Panda messages go much much deeper. With this series of changes, the search engines are openly acknowledging that a website isnt’ the only place online that the Brand needs to maintain a responsible presence. Big brother is watching and indexing everything you do online with regards to your website. That means social media interaction, engagement with customers, and how well your website content is received and shared online, all factor into this new ranking.
For those of you who had a well optimized website prior to the releases, pay attention! Brand’s can no longer rest on their laurels and expect to earn the attention of Google. You must be actively updating your website and engaging with customers and viewers. The “set it and forget it” mentality is ancient history.
How do I move forward?
1. Know the State of the Union of your site.
I suggest in researching and investing in a qualified online marketing expert to help you evaluate your current SEO situation. This requires viewing the analytical history of your website prior to the update releases and comparing it with your current statistics. By analyzing this data you’ll be able to determine where to begin on your quest to participate in the new SEO world order.
2. Is what you have to say worth listening to?
Look at the content you have on your website. I’m not referring only to blog posts or articles, but the page content. If you were to share a given page with 10 real people in your industry or potential consumers of your product, would they find it interesting or informative? Would they be compelled to forward it to a colleague or another potential customer? If not, then the search engines won’t place high value on it either.
3. Does your site read like a book? Or a stack of old newspapers?
Duplicate page content, broken or inactive links and redirected pages will kill your chances at ranking. Your site structure determines how engaged your customer is with your website. In analytical terms this is referred to as bounce rate. If your customer is leaving your site seconds after they arrive, the search engines know this and push down to the bottom of the rankings.
4. Are you encouraging interaction with your customers or trying to hide it?
For years we’ve known that more than 80% of internet users will research reviews on a product or website before they make a purchase. Now the search engines are taking this into account. Product reviews, testimonials, and customer feedback are golden with the new SEO rules.
5. Does your Brand exist outside of your own website?
If not, you’re in trouble! The search engines place high value on those major websites we all know and love like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. If you’re a B2B Brand you should be engaging with LinkedIn, posting and interacting with groups, and sharing links to the information on your website. The search engines index all of this. If you’re a direct to consumer or eCommerce Brand you need to be putting your Brand where your buyers are and doing everything you can to get them to share, comment, and engage with your Brand.
While it may seem like you’re standing at the base of Mt. Everest right now, relax. It’s not as daunting as it seems, and in fact the new SEO is simply taking us back to the days before the internet if you think about it. If you have a legitimate product or service that you can sell effectively and you interact well with your customer or clients and build a honest and positive relationship, you’ll succeed.