As the industry search engine leader, Google continues to refine its search parameters. If you have a web site, of course you want it to pop right up at or near the top of Google’s search results page. We’ve given you lots of advice about web site content in previous articles. But since it’s a brand new year, why not take a brand new look at your web site content so you can maximize your search results? Here’s the news you can use in eight simple steps.
- Panda and Penguin: it’s a zoo out there! In early 2011, Google launched its Panda update. Panda was designed to filter low quality content out of Google’s top search results. (In case you were wondering, it was named after the Google employee who developed the filter.) It’s called an “update” because the filter “updates” the search results every time the program runs.
Penguin, launched in the spring of 2012, is an important addition to Panda, designed to target at webspam, also known as “keyword stuffing” or “over-optimization.” When Penguin detects these tactics, it will flag your site and you’ll drop to the bottom of the rankings until you clean up your act. So what’s a savvy web site to do?
- Use your keyword phrase only once. Or twice at the very most, and use it as close to the top of your page or article as you possibly can. For example, let’s say your keyword phrase is short sale expert. Your homepage headline might be Meet Gary Jones: Boston’s Short Sale Expert.
- Then forget about keyword proximity. In the old days, we were taught to use the keyword phrase exactly as it is, and use it as often as possible. Not anymore. That’s “stuffing,” and it can get you zapped by the Penguin, right to the bottom of the list. Once you’ve used the phrase, use the words, but not always together and not in the exact order. For example, Gary Jones makes short sales happen where others have failed.
Some additional examples: leader in short sales, short sale specialist, leading short sale professional. A longer sentence, where the words are not in direct proximity, is equally effective: Gary’s effectiveness at closing short sale contracts has made him the state-wide industry leader.
- Be synonymous with success. Here’s the real secret: Penguin and Panda can now recognize synonyms just as quickly as they recognize the original word or phrase. So you can say the same thing, using different words, and avoid that “stuffed” feeling. A house by any other name is still a house. Try home, residence, dwelling, or building. Panda has expanded its semantic capability to recognize similarities, such as condo, multi-family, four-plex or co-op.
- Use stemmed words. Variations on a word are as effective and recognizable by Panda as the words themselves. So when you’re talking about a property, you can use house, houses, housing, or household.
- Do what comes naturally. Don’t adjust your content to accommodate keywords. Write first. Think about keywords later. Your copy should sound natural and flow easily. Write like you talk, rather than struggling to repeat the same keyword, phrase, or idea over and over. Vary your sentences and avoid repetition at all costs.
- Communication is a two-way street. Another factor that’s important in future Panda/Penguin updates is how long the visitor stays on your site and what they do while they are there. Google favors the sites that its users find valuable, so pay attention to things like number of page views, visitor comments, subscribing to a newsletter, or posting a question.
- Get a diagnosis. Panda, Penguin and all their future offspring are here to stay, so your 2013 marketing strategy should include a review of your Google analytics first, to see where your web site stands now. If your traffic has fallen off suddenly and drastically, you might have been bitten by the Penguin, so devise a plan to clean up and re-optimize. Take a look at your content. Does it content serve a purpose? Does it serve the reader, not the search engine?
The plain truth is this: the ordinary small business web site (like yours) is not what Panda and Penguin are targeting. No one with a quality site is likely to be tagged by one of their updates. So don’t panic. Instead, see this as an opportunity to upgrade your site with high quality content and the little black and white animals will send traffic straight to your door.