Saturday, 6 October 2012

Google Panda and Penguin: Implications and Effects on Your SEO

In an effort to ‘reduce the rankings of low-quality sites’, Google has made certain changes to how its search engines functions. And while quite a large number of changes have been introduced as part of this effort (you can view the Google Algorithm Change History here), the two major ones have been dubbed the Panda and Penguin.

As a result of these changes, the SEO industry has been in a bit of an uproar. A lot of websites and blogs were affected – some for totally justifiable reasons, and others for not-so-justifiable ones (at least according to the owners of these sites) – and these changes also had a profound effect on the rankings of these websites.

And while a lot has already been said on how these changes affect websites, how the unaffected websites can protect themselves and how the affected ones can recover, here are a few things you, as a blog owner or a webmaster, might need to consider:

1. Avoid buying links, at all costs! The websites that were the most severely affected by Panda and Penguin were the ones which use paid-methods of building backlinks. Google is not stupid (well, at least it isn’t any more), and have too many paid or spammy backlinks will most certainly have an adversative effect on your SERP. Instead, invest your time and resources in other, more natural ways building quality links.

2. Avoid stuffing too many links in specific parts of your posts or pages. Stuffing links in your website’s footer or sidebar, for instance, is obviously manipulative and hence risky and will most certainly have your blog penalized. Instead, when linking (externally or internally), be as natural as possible, and try adding links naturally. Add links into your content, footers, sidebars, and in images.

3. Add a variety of different links (external links) on your blog. Don’t link to the same websites (or the same URL, to be precise) in all your posts, and don’t put up the same links in many different posts (aka. overusing exact-match domains), for instance. Include all kinds of links – social links, images, links to websites and blogs and so on. For link anchor text, rotate and switch between different kinds of keywords, such as site name, the URL, anchor text in the form of a phrase, or a generic anchor text (e.g. click here).

4. Likewise, try to get a variety of different links (inbound links). And make it a priority to get links from quality sources; a single quality backlinks is better than 10 low-quality links. Try getting content links, images links, footer/sidebar links, and social media links. Never prioritize do-follow links over no-follow ones, try getting both. It should look (and be) as natural as possible.

5. Keep your content clean of blackhat SEO techniques. I’m talking stuff like keyword stuffing, cloacking, and putting up duplicated, spun or copied content deliberately. Avoid keyword stuffing (read up all about it on Google Webmaster Tools). This is quite self-explanatory. The Penguin update affected a lot of sites that were using this technique. Needless to say, stay away from stuffing particular keyword(s) in your copy. Avoid copying content or posting duplicate content off other blogs at all costs.

6. Patience is key here. If you’ve been affected by either one of Penguin or the Panda, it might take months – maybe years – for you to recover. It is unrealistic and impractical to expect results immediately. If changes are made right now, expect to see the results at least a few (maybe more than a few!) months down the road. Play it safe and do what feels natural. If it seems suspicious, it probably is. 

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