Establishing an online presence can be a challenge for some companies. But it’s an undeniable fact that most people, when searching for something online (i.e., “Googling it”) don’t scroll past the first page of search results.
I know I don’t. To me, if I can’t find what I’m looking for on that first page, it just doesn’t exist. I type in different search criteria.
This has led to companies fighting for those coveted top spots using a strategy that’s known as “Search Engine Optimization,” or SEO. Search results are determined by mainly two things: 1) you’ve paid Google for a “sponsored” spot, or 2) there’s a whole lot of stuff on the Internet floating around with your company’s name on it. That’s the SEO part.
Companies try to get items on the web with their name included, and as many links to their website as possible. Seems like fair game, right? Well, it’s not entirely so. Companies and spam sites have learned to take advantage of SEO by linking keywords to sites that are unrelated to the article, which pulls their name up higher in the search results, and that creates skewed results.
What is Google doing about it?
Google’s entire claim for its services was that it could provide accurate and succinct search results. They couldn’t have spam websites coming up in their feed.
So they created what’s called “Google Penguin.” This is an algorithm designed to weed out those companies who have been taking advantage of SEO tactics and using what are called “black-hat SEO” techniques.
Some of these techniques include using unrelated keywords over and over throughout an article. Click here to find great shutters. (See what I did there?)
Anyway, those unrelated keywords and phrases link somewhere that the readers don’t have any interest in following, given that they’re reading about SEO and not shutters.
So, problem solved?
Not exactly. In May of 2013, Google Penguin released its 2.0 version, which is still engaged in the pursuit of delivering high-quality websites in Google search results. With this Penguin program, it’s possible for users to report others to Google for sending spam.
The 2.0 program is more comprehensive and goes deeper into the webisphere to make sure users aren’t being conned. They’re also working on removing spam-filled practices from their site, like payday loans, online faxing, and “adult” websites. These are hot-topic areas for spam, so Google cracked down on them.
But wait … this could hurt your average small business owner, right?
A lot of small businesses were hit particularly hard during the economic downturn. Many of them might have turned to the Internet in order to supplement their business, and beefed up their website to bring in more revenue.
Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, oh my! What if they were accidentally tipping off Google that they were not “reliable”? Well, obviously Google didn’t want that to happen. Google isn’t in the business of shutting down people with honest intentions, so the search giant provided a guidebook for how to use SEO properly so small firms would not violate their rules and get their butt kicked by the Penguin.
The Webmaster Guidelines outline all the best practices for SEO, and they can help those who are new to SEO get a sense of what to do. However — and I’m just throwing this out there as a suggestion — if it’s at all possible, I would consider hiring an SEO company to help out, at least in the beginning.
So now what?
If you’re just an average Internet search engine user, continue expanding your quest for knowledge or Internet memes or recipes, or whatever you happen to be in to. Enjoy the fruits of Google’s labor and know you’re getting quality results.
Quality is determined by a couple of different criteria, namely:
— Does the link work? Obviously we want to make sure that the links work. We don’t want someone to click a link and get the “Page not found” screen. That’s a big no-no.
— Does the link go to a quality site? I know the term “quality” can be subjective, but what Google is looking for is that the site links to another website that isn’t going to install a virus on someone’s computer or try to sell them a product that doesn’t work.
Relevancy is two-fold, as well:
— Is the keyword or anchor text relevant? Remember at the beginning of the article when I threw in that random sentence about shutters? That would count as not being relevant. If I had put in a link with that phrase, that would get a red flag.
— Is the link relevant? Here’s the deal. Everyone knows that when you’re on a website and you see blue text that is underlined, you know it’s a link, right? You can follow it to a useful website. If your blue, underlined phrase says something like “spinal decompression” in an article about ways to alleviate back pain, the link the reader follows had better explain, in detail, what spinal decompression can do.
Keep in mind your use of keywords/anchor texts as well. Don’t clump a lot of keywords together, and don’t intentionally try to work in your keyword. Let it arise organically within the text; don’t force it.
If it’s not natural, the reader will see through this, and so will Google Penguin. Try to avoid jargon or medical terminology, unless, of course, that’s what you’re trying to refer your reader to.
To conclude …
If you notice offending links on your pages, do your best to remove them.
And don’t try to buy links; Google also looks at how quickly you acquired your hits. If you have something go viral, this will draw attention to you and your processes. If you pay for links in an effort to fool the system, you’re going to get caught by the Penguin.
So glance over your sites and make sure you aren’t going about SEO the wrong way.