Every smart online business owner and Internet marketer knows that search engine optimization (SEO) is a huge part of ranking high in search engine result pages, which ultimately leads to more traffic. However, there are good ways and bad ways to go about optimizing your site. The recent Google Penguin update shows us that bad SEO techniques will no longer be tolerated. To stay ahead of the game, you need to avoid the temptation to use bad SEO techniques, and concentrate on ethical SEO strategies.
So what is the Google algorithm update? In February, 2011, Google rolled out the Panda algorithm update. This update changed the way that Google ranked webpages, so that they could watch and control spam. The goal was to reward high-quality websites in the search engine results pages, and get rid of the low-quality sites that were simply trying to make money and not tell and entertain site visitors. Google estimates that the Panda change affected about 12% of websites on English language search pages. On April 24, 2012, Google released the Penguin update, which cracked down even harder on spam sites and websites that used bad SEO techniques to manipulate their rankings in the search engine searches. Google says that a further 3% of websites got written off as a result of this update.
What exactly is bad SEO? Bad SEO techniques involve using unethical methods to rank higher in the search engine results. This type of SEO makes a website look more important and useful than it actually is. It can also mislead web surfers so that they inadvertently end up at a website they were not searching for. Bad SEO also involves posting poor quality web content that has no value to site visitors just to get back links. There are a few poor SEO techniques to avoid. Such as keyword stuffing, this involves taking a highly searched keyword or phrase and inserting it into web content at a very high and unnecessary density just so you can rank for those terms.
Another method is through spinning articles. many people believe that measure trumps quality when it comes to content on a website. Some people resort to using spinning machines or poor rewrites of existing content to bolster the content on their website. Another poor method is buying links. It is a well-known fact that Google looks at the links pointing back to your site and ranks your site through this. However, if those links are coming from poor sites or back link mills that you paid for, you will most likely be penalized. Misleading anchor text. The keywords in your link, also known as the anchor text, should match the topics in the content, and they should also match the content on your website. If you use keywords that point back to your site that have nothing to do with your site, you are essentially spamming.
Although Google does prefer people creating original, compelling content that will naturally draw people to their sites, they do not mind people using ethical SEO strategies. This is because they understand that SEO is marketing, and that is just good business sense. If you are going optimize your site, use white hat SEO techniques. These include posting regular, unique, and useful content, using social media marketing to draw people to your site, and gaining organic links from high quality websites.
There are countless “service” providers out there who’ll encourage you to part with substantial amounts of your cash with promises of soaring rankings and greatly increased traffic but the truth is that nobody can guarantee results. The main reason for this is that the people at Google are constantly ahead of the game. At any given time all that anyone has to work with is a snapshot of what the Google team was doing a number of months ago. Almost all SEO methods are past their sell-by date and, as such, shouldn’t be on sale. Indeed some will force you down the search engine rankings or even get you banned. There are, however, two methods which are positively encouraged by Google, which constantly get results and which you can easily use yourself without spending a penny.
Method 1 – Onsite SEO
There are various methods by which your web designer can, and hopefully will, optimise your search engine visibility during the creation of your site however there is no substitute for original, relevant content.
As well as user manageable areas within your site (into which you can upload your own material) it’s useful for you to have an onsite blog which you can update whenever you like. This is an easy but invaluable way to build exactly the kind of onsite content that Google is looking for.
You can use your blog to write about almost anything relating to your business. It’s a good idea to start by working through your products and/or services one entry at a time and then move on to such things as regular updates and commentary about your industry in general. Just one blog entry a week will build to fifty inside twelve months giving you a substantial, relevant and highly visible web-presence.
You may also wish provide your customers with the opportunity to post comments on your blog entries. This generates more interest, increases traffic and creates even more search engine friendly content. (You should be able to set your blog to ask you, by email, to approve any comments before they appear.)
Method 2 – Offsite SEO
The second important factor to address is in-linking. This is the placing on other sites of links back to your own. Many purveyors of SEO services (with varying degrees of integrity) will try to sell you links by the dozen from “high ranking, high traffic” sites. It’s fair to say that most won’t suggest to you that any traffic generated by these links will be of any use to you at all, the point is supposed to be that Google spots these links and grades your site’s importance accordingly, but it’s also fair to say that it will probably have little or no effect on your ranking.
The out-and-out best way to build your in-links is to do it yourself and there are various ways you can do this. Here are just four –
Google loves blogs.
There are various sites on which you can quickly and easily set up your own offsite blogs for free. Copy entries from your own blog (remember to make slight alterations – Google frowns on repetition) and remember, at all times, to link everything up. Blogger is particularly easy to use and the results can look very professional. As an example to my clients of what can be achieved with minimal web-skills I’ve purposely used one of Blogger’s own templates for our blog and haven’t applied any customisation other than removing a couple of facilities we didn’t require.
Become active on a couple of relevant forums (especially the ones that allow you to post a permanent link in your signature) chat about your business, post links to your site and your blogs (onsite and offsite.)
Exchange articles with other businesses which aren’t in direct competition with yours. Remember to include links. Google likes links within articles but isn’t too keen on lists of links. Gail’s Nails could swap articles containing links with the local tanning salon giving each site demographically and geographically relevant content and linkage.
Use your knowledge within your chosen field to write articles about the different aspects of your business and post them on sites such as this one just as I have done here. Links from large, busy sites like Ezine are particularly valued by Google.
So there it is. The only honest and, consequently, effective approach to SEO. Everything I’ve talked about here is easy to do and 100% free. You can do all of the above in a couple of hours a week and remember that your work will remain permanently in place. You’ll be building a solid, genuine, future-proof web presence that will grow and grow, it won’t cost you a penny and Google will love you for it.
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