Almost all talk among SEO professionals these days revolves around the last Google search algorithm updates. These updates, bearing cutesy animal names like Penguin and Panda, have upended the entire SEO field almost overnight. Half the SEO “professionals” out there found themselves out of a job; the other half were scrambling to deal with the fallout from the newest algorithm updates.
Google exerts tremendous influence on how we search and consume information. Launched into a crowded search market in the late 90′s, Google’s superior PageRank algorithm made it the most effective search engine available at the time, consistently producing the most relevant results. Google quickly dominated the competition, and today is responsible for nearly 80% of all unique search-engine queries in the world. Like it or not, Google has become the defacto gatekeeper of information on the internet.
The company’s near-ubiquity in the search engine market, however, meant that webmasters have ruthlessly targeted Google’s search engine algorithms to gain the upper hand in site rankings. As marketers became more and more efficient at manipulating Google’s search engine algorithm for favourable rankings, the quality of the results began to suffer. Low-quality sites with spammy content start outperforming high-quality sites with original content thanks to the underhanded and shady tactics employed by many webmasters.
The engineers at Google are well aware of this and have been working diligently to update and improve their search engine algorithms in an effort to promote original, high-quality content and discourage heavily-optimised spam sites. Needless to say these updates were not welcomed with open arms by those in the SEO community, many of whom made huge sums of money promoting sites by ruthlessly exploiting loopholes in Google’s PageRank algorithms. Many top sites lost their rankings and several SEO “gurus” boldly declared Google killed search engine optimisation for good.
All the wailing and gnashing of teeth in the face of Google’s Panda and Penguin updates comes mainly from webmasters and online marketers who have had it far too easy for far too long. SEO still exists, only the tactics have changed. The old tricks of raising a site’s PageRank by creating thousands of backlinks or stuffing it with keywords will not work any more. Google’s Panda and Penguin updates penalise sites that employ such tactics, and rightly so.
The two main areas targeted by the Panda and Penguin updates are on-site and off-site over-optimization.
On-site over-optimization involves webmasters overloading sites with targeted keywords and keyword phrases. They would stuff keywords in the titles, meta-descriptions, headings, in picture tags and anywhere else where it might be noticed by a search engine spider. The problem with this tactic is that content suffers as webmasters create pages upon pages containing little more than the same keywords repeated over and over again. To combat this, Google search algorithms now penalize sites that have a keyword density greater than 5%.
Offsite over-optimization occurs when webmasters create literally thousands of backlinks containing the same targeted keywords pointing to a single URL. This resulted in millions of no-content spam sites all over the Internet whose sole reason for existing was to provide backlinks. Google’s update penalized sites that utilized such blatantly fraudulent backlink schemes.
The silver lining to all this is that sites with high-quality content and organic links from other relevant sites are not affected by these updates. In fact, their rankings might even improve as the low-content spam sites gradually lose their search engine rankings. The best way to optimize a website in a post Panda/Penguin age is to have natural diverse content while maintaining a 1% keyword density.
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