Many websites and blogs that are completely legitimate have been hit hard by Google’s Penguin and Panda algorithm updates. There are quite a number of websites that have been de-indexed completely, while others have been relegated to the back pages of search results. Many legitimate websites have been the victims of shady SEO companies that were hired in good faith to get high search rankings.
Many website owners are not aware of the spam tactics employed by many SEO companies that can result in more harm than good. Keyword over-optimization, such as using the same anchor text many times in an unnatural way is considered spamming and has been severely punished by Google’s penguin update.
Organic search results from Google and other search engines constitute around 50 percent of all internet traffic. Losing a large part of web traffic due to SEO spamming techniques can be devastating to internet entrepreneurs and bloggers. There are several things that can be done to recover from the latest Google algorithm changes. It does, however, take time and effort to accomplish this task.
Top reasons for Google penalties include:
* Having an unnatural Backlink profile that consists of lots of poor quality links, such as those obtained through blog networks and article spinning.
* Lacking in quality, fresh & informative content. Articles put on your website five years ago that have not been refreshed with new content or at least updated will not keep your website at the top of search results.
* Over optimizing your websites internal link structure for search engine robots instead of concentrating on supplying a quality user experience for humans.
* Some website owners have not implemented the basic SEO techniques such as creating a valid site architecture devised from your keyword research. Accessibility is also a huge issue if not executed correctly. Thousands of your websites pages can be kept out of the search engines index by basic errors such as telling Googlebot not to crawl or index sections of your website in the robots.txt section.
* If your website has no social buzz from Web 2.0 properties, you are not doing enough to use this powerful medium to boost your web presence. If no one else notices your website, there is no reason to suspect that Google would think your site is worthy of being on the first page of search results.
* Duplicate & thin / boilerplate content issues can also cause major problems. Make sure that your website is not targeting the same keyword on multiple pages (keyword cannibalisation) and make sure that paragraphs of text are not duplicated on template driven sections of your website. Remember Panda is designed to target low quality pages and we know Panda is a sitewide penalty which can be caused by one section of your website underperforming. The solution is to find the problem pages. Finally, does your sites content get crawled and displayed on other sites via RSS feeds for example? If so, make sure you make use of the rel=”canonical” tag which informs Google which the authoritative source is. Also place at least 1 back link in each article or blog post to your sites internal pages.
Steps that should be taken to help your site recover:
* There may be one or more reasons why your website has tanked in the search results. Performing a full SEO audit of your website is an important first step to find out the likely culprits. Use Xenu Link Sleuth or Microsoft’s IIS Crawl Report to identify technical issues with your website. These reports will provide detail on how best to clean up HTML issues, highlight duplicate content problems and possible redirect errors on your site. Google WMT is also a good place to look for site issues. If you haven’t registered your site with Google WMT do that now!
*Google WMT will inform you of whether any malware has been detected on your website. If this is the case resolve this as soon as you can.
* Use Seomoz’s OpenSiteExplorer to find out if you have backlinks that could potentially be considered as spam. Spammy links stand out a country mile. Are there thousands of spam comments in blogs, forums, or message board profiles with a link to your website? Have you obtained many links from article spinning software or link wheels? If so, try to remove as many as possible, although this may be very hard to do if the links were created by an SEO company who no longer have the webmasters contact details. The process of cleaning up your sites backlinks is incredibly time consuming but worthwhile.
*To recover from Panda & Penguin you need to make drastic changes! Little changes here and there will not help your cause. Remove forums if they are hardly used and contain spam, de-index sections of your website that you think could be causing the problem, move any intrusive advertising from above the fold to a more natural home, update or remove old articles that no longer have any value, make your internal linking structure appear more natural and user friendly, add in rich media to you internal pages such as video and images. There are lots of potential causes but the above covers most main points. Remember to make one large change at a time so you can eventually identify what was causing the issue so that it doesn’t re-occur.
* Step up your game and add well written, researched, informative & quality content to your website. This ensures that visitors get an amazing experience and if they like it enough, they may even promote it on social websites which has so many benefits. Quality over quantity is the rule here. Quality content / linkbait creates legitimate links that can soon outnumber the amount of shady backlinks your website has accumulated.
* Using common sense can get you a long way. Start thinking from a user’s perspective and not trying to over optimise everything you can. Increasing your sites average loading speed and increasing conversion can also have an effect of combating penalties. Use software such as Clicktale to see how users are navigation your site and at what points they are exiting. Just look at your site as an outsider and ask yourself some serious questions. Does this look natural etc?
* When link building use natural anchor text such as your brand name, domain or “click here”. Again focus on building relationships and the quality links will come from the most natural of sources. There are no shortcuts anymore so STOP buying links that look crappy.
*Lastly remember that Google Panda & Penguin updates are algorithmic penalties and not manual ones. You’ll only recover when an update occurs but from past case studies when you do recover you’ll notice a big spike instantly. Good luck and keep on the right track!
This article has been produced by Louis Rix, Head of Marketing at Netcars.com, the UK’s fastest growing used car classified website.