Last week, Google updated its ranking algorithm in what’s been dubbed the “Farmer Update” because it targeted sites with low-quality content, like content farms which are often manipulated for SEO purposes. According to Google, the update affects about 12% of search queries.
Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land posted a report of the top winners and losers in the aftermath of the Farmer Update.
Google’s algorithm update comes on the heels of criticism from The New York Times regarding the relevance and quality of Google search engine results, and recent penalties for high profile sites like J.C. Penny, Overstock and Forbes, all of which were related to the use of link building tactics Google said violated its webmaster guidelines.
If you publish content online, the Farmer Update should be a wakeup call. Sure, Google’s said it before, but this time it was with a little more attitude. Google’s sick of crappy content (or getting criticized), and it’s going to punish you if it catches you gaming the system. So, it’s more important than ever that as a writer, online publisher or website owner, you understand how to make Google happy.
Tips on How to Make Google Happy & Avoid Penalties
First, don’t panic every time there is an algorithm update. Any experienced SEO consultant will tell you that it often takes weeks for rankings to “settle” following a change. Wild fluctuations in traffic and rankings are pretty normal, and temporary.
Monitor reports, but understand the data is incomplete. Unless your site has been penalized, and you have violated Google’s guidelines, wait until the dust settles before making any changes to your website – even if you experience a sudden loss in traffic. If you’re doing the right things, there’s a good chance you’ll end up rewarded for it. If you overreact by making drastic changes to your site, you may do more harm than good.
With that said, here are 5 tips on how to make Google happy:
- Create unique, quality content – Google’s goal is to provide users with USEFUL, relevant results. According to Google, useful content and information includes original “research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.”
- Work with an experienced SEO strategist – There is a ton of SEO misinformation on the Internet, and following it is one of the biggest reasons sites fall victim to search engine penalties. Search engine optimization is complicated, and requires deep insight and knowledge of everything from code to keyword selection and placement, and everything in between. You’re playing Russian roulette with your search engine rankings unless you work with an SEO consultant with a proven track record.
- Stay white hat – There is nothing wrong with optimizing your website for the search engines. Just don’t use black hat techniques to game the system. If you don’t what that means, click the contact button on your right, and hire me.
- Continuous improvement – Google’s always improving itself, and it thinks you should, too. The search engine favors fresh content, and will reward you for improvements like faster page load times, clean code and proper redirects.
- Please your audience first – Don’t get too hung up on making Google happy. Sure, they are the 1000 pound Gorilla right now. But if you provide a product or service that people just can’t live without, you’ll get plenty of visitors — and Google, and the rest of the search engines, will be right behind them.
Finally, monitor your progress on a regular basis. If you aren’t reviewing your web analytics and search engine rankings on a monthly basis, how will you know if your investment is paying off? How will you identify and evaluate opportunities for improvement? And worse, how will you know if anything you’ve done has resulted in a Google penalty or drop in rankings? (If you need a monthly ranking report, or other business intelligence, you can get it at 3iCreative.)
Ultimately, while these tips will keep Google happy, they will make you even happier, because following them will result in more qualified visitors to your website.