Following recent attempts by Google to improve online search results for consumers, SEO.com warned businesspeople this week that it is now more important than ever to understand how to strengthen Internet marketing efforts without offending the search engines.
Google penalized those who used aggressive search engine optimization tactics to improve where their websites ranked in the search results, said Greg Shuey, vice president of client services for SEO.com, an SEO services company.
“Providing high-quality content is key to ranking well in the search engines,” Shuey said. “When a website is built for search engines instead of its visitors, it could be penalized in the search results.”
Tweaks aimed at webspam
The latest tweaks to Google’s search algorithm aimed to target “webspam,” he said.
However, with several high-quality websites dinged by the recent changes, which forced relevant companies off the first page of the search results, Shuey said businesses must understand how to avoid penalties from the search engines when marketing to customers online.
SEO.com says it is helping its clients evaluate their websites and make changes to minimize impacts in the search results.
“We do that by analyzing backlinks and looking for over optimization in the way links had been built to target specific keyword phrases,” explained Claye Stokes, a search engine optimization director at SEO.com.
With its so-called “Penguin” algorithm update, Google targeted websites that had content created solely to manipulate search results, Stokes said, adding that strong content should stress the benefit and value of what the website has to offer.
Content written for search engines often contains lots of keyword phrases and links within the website, he said.
“Our intent is to give the website less of a search-engine-optimized feel and create a natural user experience,” Stokes said.
With the new algorithm update, Google targeted webspam, which consists of pesky, irrelevant sites with weak content that only rank well because aggressive search engine optimization was used to influence online results.
But every website was not hurt by Google’s changes. According to WebProNews, sites like Spotify.com, YellowBook.com and Observer.com saw increases in search engine visibility as a result of the algorithm update. Websites that experienced the hardest hits included SimilarSites.com, CubeStat.com and MerchantCircle.com, WebProNews reported.
Be real, develop relationships
“It’s about being real, developing relationships, talking with your customers and encouraging action,” SEO.com President Ash Buckles explained. “If you’re trying to build a credible business that has long-term visibility in the search engines, you need to balance your content development and promotion, link building, social media and speaking with your built-in audience.”
In a presentation at this year’s South By Southwest Interactive conference, Matt Cutts, head of Google’s webspam team, described the recent algorithm update this way:
“All those people who have sort of been doing, for lack of a better word, over optimization or overly doing their SEO, compared to the people who are just making great content and trying to make a fantastic site, we want to sort of make that playing field a little bit more level.”
Google targeted websites created primarily for gaining front-page exposure in search results, he said.
“Their content is weak, their value proposition is low, they’re obviously to human observers only ranking because of their SEO,” Cutts added.
While Buckles praised Google’s intentions to remove irrelevant content from its search results, he stressed that business owners must realize that not following the rigid new guidelines for marketing websites on the Internet could impact a company’s online visibility.
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