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We recently saw Google's latest update to it's algorithms which govern the search engine results pages, so with this mind, this presentation takes a look at what you can do to make sure your SEO strategy doesn't violate Penguin or Panda.
SEO is the acronym for search engine optimisation.It is the practice of designing, building and producing contentfor websites which serves to increase the authority andrelevance of that site; with the equal aim of ensuring it alsoappears more highly ranked on search engine results pages(S.E.R.P’s).The phrase ‘search engine’ largely refers to Google becausealthough there are other search engines, like Bing andYahoo!, Google still holds the largest share of the searchengine market, estimated at somewhere between 65-70% ofthe whole (imforza).
That statistic alonemeans you need toknow yourpenguins from yourpandas if you’regoing to besuccessful inhandling your SEOstrategy.
The Panda algorithm focuseson targeting low quality, thinand duplicate material.The Penguin algorithmfocuses mainly on identifyingand penalizing sites that areengaging in activities likeusing: link spam, paid links,link farms and overlyoptimised anchor text.
Changes to these algorithms are designed to remove‘spammy’, irrelevant or poor quality sites from Google’sS.E.R.P’s, in order to improve the relevance of these resultsfor users and their search queries.These algorithms have a hugely negative impact on sitesengaging in such practices.
YouTube gained visibility with thelast Panda refresh as the siterelies heavily on user generatedcontent which is therefore relevantto users and unlikely to beduplicated or unnatural.Wabauto.de is a site that also sawan increase in visibility after thelast Panda refresh, they recordeda rise in visibility of 132.77%(Orchid Box).Interflora lost visibility in 2013,and no longer ranked in Googlefor their own name, let alone theirmost valuable keywords (MartinMacdonald)! It later transpired thatInterflora’s SEO team had beenacquiring paid links through themethod of sending a free productto bloggers.This is a classic example ofengaging in unnatural or “BlackHat” back link building whichmeans it was the Penguinalgorithm that Interflora fell afoulof.
The distinction between White Hat SEO and Black Hat SEO iswidely debated and has even led to the suggestion of a thirdtype; Grey Hat SEO.White Hat SEO refers to: a method of search engineoptimisation that is generally approved by search engines.These methods look to improve the rankings of a website inan ethical manner by staying within a search engines termsof service.In simple terms, this means the website is designed, built andoptimised in a way that will naturally appeal to search enginesrather than attempting to deceive them. White hat SEO tendsto produce successful long term, high value and low risksearch engine rankings.
Black Hat SEO refers to methods of search engineoptimisation that are considered to be unethical or thatcontravene a search engines terms of service. Suchtechniques will often create a poor user experience or presentcontent in a different or non-visual way.Examples of this include keyword stuffing, invisible text anddoorway pages. Black hat SEO can be described as a short-term and indeed short - sighted solution to a long-termproblem as websites using such techniques may eventuallybe banned (either temporarily or permanently) once thesearch engines discover what they are doing, making blackhat SEO high risk, short term and low value.
Finally Grey Hat SEO refers to SEOstrategies that (as the coloursuggests) fall in between Black Hatand White Hat SEO.As such, so called Grey Hattechniques can be legitimate in somecases and illegitimate in others(Redalkemi).
To give your our opinion, there is no Grey Hat SEO, penguinsand pandas are black and white as are all SEO techniques.They fall either in to the Black Hat SEO camp or the WhiteHat SEO camp. By clearly distinguishing between the do’sand don’ts of SEO and choosing not to acknowledge the greyareas it makes it easier to ensure your practices are low risk.Back link building has been a large contributor to thearguments for positing the category of Grey Hat SEO.Indeed some definitions of White Hat SEO would state thatfull service white hat SEO includes link building serviceswhich involve:
1. Article Marketing,2. SocialNetworking,3. Online Publicity,4. DirectorySubmission,5. Video Marketing,6. BlogCommenting,7. Local Profiles8. and Blogging.
However, Google’s official position is that back link building isa Black Hat SEO technique, so there are no White Hat backlink building techniques, (SEOhaven) hence the ‘grey area’ ofSEO.So, here’s some guidelines you should apply to ANY linkspointing back to your site:Ensure the links you have to your site are quality.Build a concurrent social media presence that’s strong andwell connected to support your backlinks. Keep Google extrahappy and include Google+.Always produce content for your blog, social sites andwebpages that’s high quality, referenced and original becausegreat content will gain links naturally.
Indeed, content marketing is a growing trend in the searchindustry with 54% of B2B companies intending to increasetheir content marketing spending in 2013 (Content MarketingInstitute).So adapting your content marketing to also include SEO is agreat way to streamline your whole marketing operation andmake content production more successful long term.We recently published our Content Marketing Guide forbusiness which you can access here in full:http://blog.cloudspotting.co.uk/2013/05/02/content-marketing-strategy-guide/
To expand our philosophy of SEO further, we could go as farto say that SEO is not even about “White Hat” versus “BlackHat” techniques; SEO is about low value versus high value,high risk versus low risk and long term versus short termtechniques.
Low value SEO is most commonly recognisable as the use ofSPAM, however a point to note is that not all low value SEOtechniques are illegal and not all are necessarily unethicaldepending on your views, but all low value SEO techniquesare done purely to affect and theoretically benefit an SEOcampaign.High value SEO techniques are those that are employed notonly to serve the need of SEO but to also provide the site andsite visitors with either beneficial material or a favourableexperience.
Black hat tactics certainly, and even some“grey hat SEO” tactics have becomeconsiderably riskier than they once were, thatmeans you need to be able to afford to lose ifyou’re going to make a risky move.With the latest Panda and Penguin updates,affording to lose is a much bigger decisionthat it once was.By sticking to White Hat SEO techniques youare avoiding any behaviour that may proverisky.
Deciding on the difference between using short term and longterm SEO tactics is very much dependent on your business.If you know your business is only functional in the short termfor example if you are targeting a particular trend or eventrelevant within a specific time frame, like Movember perhaps,then you can take risks and use short term, techniquesrelatively safely, that other more long term business can’t.
Generally, if you play the SEO game purely to win SEOpoints, you may win a few rounds, but you will ultimately losethe game.The proof is in the pudding: JC Penny, or rather the SEOcompany they employed, built their SEO strategy basedsolely on short term, high risk and low value techniques.Upon investigating JC Penny’s remarkably successfulperformance in Google S.E.R.P’s, which saw them ranking inthe 1st and 2nd position for a vast plethora of search queries,it was revealed that a vast number of seemingly unrelatedwebsites and webpages were linking back to the JC Pennysite. Equally most of these sites had incredibly detailedanchor text, leading to the suspicion that someone (JCPenny’s SEO team) had arranged for those things to pointback to JC Penny. In a word, it looked unnatural.
The general conclusion drawn from the JC Penny case is thatthey or their SEO firm had bought into a paid link network, ahuge violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines.Thus, Google promptly and majorly dropped JC penny’srankings for all the terms they had previously been rankingvery highly for. Matt Cutts from Google stated that this was aresult of the algorithms and manual action (Search EngineLand).
The lesson to learn: Once Google sets a panda or penguinloose on the low value SEO tactic you’re using you’re dead inthe water. By their very nature, low value SEO techniques donot provide for the future and consider SEO only in isolation.So the best option is to conduct a long term, high value andlow risk SEO strategy because, even if you are affected by aGoogle algorithm change at some point, because your SEOstrategy is focussing on improving the user experience aswell as your S.E.R.P placement, you will be using a diverserange of techniques to do this.Thus whichever one technique an algorithm may pick up onand penalize you for, you’ll have another technique they arenot penalizing you for, essentially ensure you never go backto square 1.
Using Parked Domains with excessive advertising above thefold is not recommended (this is also an issue which tackleslink credibility) So the fold in the point at which you have tostart scrolling to see the remainder of the webpage you’reviewing.To assess whether your advertising above the fold isexcessive of otherwise, Google provided this tool, or rather,grid:
That’s our websiteunderneath that grid,and you can justabout make out, thatwe are doing ok asfar as our ad layout isconcerned.Interesting though,look at this Googlewebpage:
Sadly, the Google AdLayout tool doesn’tseem to allow you totest a Google searchquery page, no doubtbecause if it did you’dsee that there is anexcessive use ofadvertising appearingabove the fold. At aquick glance, about80% of contentabove the fold on thispage is advertising.Just an interestingpoint.
Do not produce low quality/ thin content and consolidatesimilar pages to minimise duplicate content.Move any offending pages to a new domain or 404 them andprovide a site map to help Google index your site and helpusers find valuable content.Create content that is: useful, informative, clear andaccurately described and use your keywords in your on pagecontent, to ensure your site’s relevant to usersUse text not images where possible and ensure ads don’taffect S.E.R.P’s by using Google’s AdSense as its notcrawled.Make pages primarily for users not search engines and makeyour website stand out from competitors.
Don’t stuff title and meta tags, anchor text or navigation linkswith keywords.Vary anchor text again avoiding duplicate contentUse the ALT attribute for images by including descriptive text.Make sure ALT attributes and <title> elements are descriptivean accurate.Check and correct any incorrect HTML.Make sure your web server supports the If-Modified-SinceHTTP header, this will alert Google if your content haschanged since the last crawl.Use the robots.txt file to indicate which directories to crawl.•
Do not use cloaking, it is a form of search engine subterfugewhere visitors are not shown an indexed web page when theyclick on the link to it in Google. Cloaking can work in eitherdirection, e.g. the visitor is cloaked from Google or Google’sindexed content is cloaked from the visitor. Cloaking achievesa high PageRank to content that would normally receive a lowPageRank (SE Partner).Using redirects is a tactic which sends a user to a differentpage from the one they actually clicked on in the searchresults, often the page they are redirected to, is less relevantthan the link they clicked on suggested. (Paul de Sousa).•
Similar to using redirects, doorway or entry pages as they arealso known, send visitors to an entirely different site than thedestination they thought they clicked on in the GoogleS.E.R.P’s. (SE Partner).When it comes to SEO, having affiliates can boost PageRankthrough associations, the least orthodox methods of using thismethod is having affiliates publish product reviews andservices offered by one another. This is similar to thepractices that got Interflora in to trouble.•
Build high quality and relevant links to your site and delete,destroy or dilute suspected low quality links your site.Cancel or remove any unnecessary footer linksBe conservative with internal linkingAvoid or limit buying sponsored links: organic is better.Design and build a site with a clear hierarchical structurecomplete with text links. Every page should be accessiblefrom at least one static text link.Keep links on any given page to within a “reasonable number”(sadly, there is no real, specific guideline for this).Check and repair any broken links.•
Test your siteOptimize load times to give users with the best experience.Don’t deceive usersAvoid tricks to improve search rankAvoid: automatically generated content, link schemes, cloaking,sneaky redirects hidden text or links, doorway pages, scrapedcontent, affiliate programmes without sufficient value, irrelevantkeywords, malicious behaviour like phishing, installing virusesTrojans or other “bad ware”, abusing rich snippets and sendingautomated queries to Google.Monitor your site for hacking and removed hacked contenta.s.a.p. and prevent and remove user generated spam on yoursite e.g. blog comments loaded with links.•
If you would like help or advice with your SEO strategy,get in touch today…T: +44 (0)113 234 1542E: firstname.lastname@example.org