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How Quality Articles Affect Your SEO Position

English: Opening chess position from black sid...

English: Opening chess position from black side. Français : Jeu d’échecs en début de partie, vu depuis le coté des noirs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With the new updates that Google has implemented, it seems as people’s rankings dropped quite a lot – what can you do to get your website back to the top and how do you improve your SEO position?

SEO Position – Improving it is Not That Hard

Improving your SEO rankings is not that hard. Google has made it loud and clear that authority websites will always have the upper edge. The saying that content is king has yet to be proven false, and will probably remain so for a long time.

Writing good quality and unique content has been somewhat hard to do for many website owners, and many of them even outsource this tedious process. Hundreds and thousands of dollars go to writers every day, and to no surprise it seems, as quality content is that really helps improve your SEO position.

Is there no coming back after the latest Google updates? Many of you might think so, but that is hardly the case. Links can always be removed and articles can always be updated. Google loves fresh content, and there’s no better time to update your content than after the Penguin and Panda updates.

Is Unique Content that Important?

Is sure is – many experienced webmasters make the mistake of disregarding content and just throw whatever spun content they can find up on their website. Search engines do not go for quantity, they mostly want quality. Think about it, would you read a blog or an article that is mostly gibberish? Even if it had articles thousands of words long, even if it had hundreds of articles, all that wouldn’t matter to the average reader.

It’s all about your audience. Do not ever think your SEO position is not affected by your audience. That bounce rate you see on your analytics profile is something Google also takes into consideration when calculating your rankings. It’s common sense really – if people like your site it’s natural for them to browse through it, and even come back if they truly find helpful information on it. Google knows this, thus web pages with a lower bounce rate are usually the ones ranking in first position.

How can you get your audience hooked? As mentioned earlier, people like quality content. What is quality content? Well, if a piece of information helps me, then I consider that to be very valuable, thus increasing its quality. There isn’t much to this really; if you just rewrite redundant articles and throw them up on your website, don’t expect a large readership, as redundant and obsolete topics are not that popular.

Research is super important

Nobody can lecture on topics they have no clue about. If your selected niche is something you have no clue about, then you’re going to have a hard time. However, you can always find information about any subject, making it somewhat easier for you to write unique articles. Your Google rank will improve if and only if you provide your readership with valuable content and articles.

How to do your research thoroughly and how to make sure you don’t just copy older articles? Well, research is somewhat tricky. Original research involves going to various websites and skimming through their articles, noting down everything that might be useful and even drawing logical conclusions yourself. Connect the dots and voila, you have yourself a small guideline on how to write a great article.

Let’s say you want to write about dental insurance, but you have no knowledge on this subject whatsoever. Well, worry not, as any information you might need is just a click away. Do a quick search on Google about this subject and you can easily find out what you need.

Here’s a small list for what to look for when doing your research:

  • For products, look up their cost. Whether it’s a stuffed teddy bear or dental insurance, look average cost median of the product. Readers generally want to know how much a thing costs, so adding it to your articles will only add value to your website.
  • Guidelines: People love reading guidelines, so during your research try to incorporate them in your articles. How to obtain a product, how to improve your grammar, how to make money from home, etc. are all things that people want to know.
  • Don’t just visit one website for research. The more websites your visit, the more information you obtain, and adding all this information up will result in one hell of an article, thus increasing your SEO rank.
  • Always take note of interesting things. Whether in notepad or in a simple textbook, always make sure you note down everything you find and deem useful. Nobody expects you to remember everything you read, so having a notepad near you will be very useful.

Your SEO Position is Bound to Increase

Think about what other websites do to achieve those high rankings. Look at CNN, Wikipedia and Amazon; what do all these websites have in common? They are all high authority websites, of course, but not just that. They all provide people with a valuable service.

A valuable service can be anything from information to selling quality products. If you aren’t planning on selling anything on your website, then think about how you can add value to it through your writing. Pass on your knowledge to others, try to find topics that interest people and answer their questions on said topics. Wikipedia has been around longer than ever and is still ranked high, and that is because it is a renowned authority website that provides great content on merely any subject.

Webmasters should perhaps stop thinking about how to improve their SEO position for a second and try to focus on offering a great service for their audience. Quality websites are not built in a day, so make sure to be patient with yours, as it won’t get on the first page of Google in just one day.

Look at what other websites are doing and try to learn from them. How the sites are structured, what kind of service do they offer and what makes them indispensable? Try to answer these questions for each and every website and then figure out what your website should be offering. Keep in mind that people want information that is helpful and easy to understand.

Recovering from Spammy and Bad Links

Humbolt Penguin at Whipsnade Zoo.

Humbolt Penguin at Whipsnade Zoo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pandas and penguins used to conjure up memories of nice, interesting animals…but now – for the SEO minded people, those names are now code names for two of Google’s algorithm updates, which dramatically changed the answer to the question: how do I rank number one in Google?

When and How to fix Bad Links?

The Penguin update in particular (rolled out in 2012) hit those sites that presented an “unnatural” linking profile. Paid links, links from low-post blogs, meaningless directories, blog networks, or from unknown forums or rambling comments on blogs – with a vast majority with sharing an exact keyword match anchor text: Google took all this catalog of low quality backlinking techniques and made them useless in one fell swoop.

The result was a drop of ranking for many sites, with the inevitable consequences of huge loss of traffic and in turn a huge loss of  income.

What to do?

If you are one of those webmasters who saw their sites hit by Penguin or one of its updates, the first thing not to do it panic.  First make sure all your other tings are up to par – take our free SEO check, if you have questions about on page SEO to make sure.

Once you have identified the spammy links, the first tool you need to use is patience.  It will take time to get this “back to normal”.  Just like it took you a long time to get back into the upper ranks, you will not build a solid link profile in a day – recovering from spammy links will take weeks or months.

Even if you manage to clean most of the low quality links – it will be hard to climb back to the top, but at least you will start with a clean slate.

Phase 2:  Link Building

I know – right, that’s what got you into this mess.  Kind of…we’re talking real linking building – white hat links. This is something you should do anyway, and considering you might never get rid of all the bad links, then the good must outnumber the bad.

Link Undoing

Gather all the bad links and put them in a spreadsheet.  You want to try and ask for these links to be removed…send an email to each webmaster, asking to remove them. You will succeed, but you will also be ignored and even asked to pay money to have the link removed, but try and go through the whole list before you move on to the next step.  Even if it is a simple form letter – it will be better than nothing.

I hereby Disavow You

For all the links that you can’t get removed, we need to disavow, using the tool which was recently introduced by Google. With this tool, you are practically asking the search engine to consider that backlink as no-follow, a word of caution though – Google doesn’t like shortcuts and this is no exception.

Google has a strong warning – and this is very important to note when disavowing links:

This is an advanced feature and should only be used with caution. If used incorrectly, this feature can potentially harm your site’s performance in Google’s search results. We recommend that you only disavow backlinks if you believe you have a considerable number of spammy, artificial, or low-quality links pointing to your site, and if you are confident that the links are causing issues for you.

On the page of the tool it says:

If you believe your site’s ranking is being harmed by low-quality links you do not control, you can ask Google not to take them into account when assessing your site. You should still make every effort to clean up unnatural links pointing to your site. Simply disavowing them isn’t enough.

This is why – back up in “Link Undoing” we ask you to do every effort you can to get them removed manually…it is just not always possible.  The words are chosen carefully and notice Google’s statement “you cannot just enter the bad links in the tool and consider it done, Google wants them removed from the internet” – they will be aggressively following up on the sites you identify, so be careful.

Conclusion

If you have a huge list of links you want removed, the email outreach route will be a long, probably mind-numbing task. Yet, it’s necessary to make sure that the next close encounters you will have with a penguin will only be at the zoo.  Good luck and let us know how it goes – what works and what doesn’t.

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Is It Actually Possible To Recover A Website Hit By Penguin?

Penguin

Penguin (Photo credit: jaci XIII)

Just in case you haven’t been paying attention, there was a Google update named Penguin that was released a short time ago. This update was part of Google’s aggressive campaign to put a stop to SEO marketing techniques that were used to manipulate Google search rankings.

 

While Penguin didn’t quite catch every site that used SEO, it caught enough that quite a few sites saw their Google search rankings plummet. This event caused a bit of a panic in the SEO industry and there were a lot of people who claimed that Penguin was the death of SEO.

 

Google Only Wants to Help

 

While this feeling is understandable, the fact is that Google isn’t at war with SEO, they simply want people to follow practices that are designed to keep Google search results relevant. For Google to remain the dominant search engine on the internet, it has to make sure that the search results are as accurate as possible. While some people in the SEO industry decry Google’s release of the Penguin update, what they don’t realize is that SEO is not dead.

 

Google could not survive without the actions of the SEO industry and they know it. The release of Penguin wasn’t about stopping SEO as much as it was about returning relevance to their search rankings. What Google wanted to get rid of were sites that were simply piles of keywords that had no real relevance to the search terms and this is exactly what Penguin did.

 

Keyword Stacking is the Enemy

 

While Google wanted to get rid of sites that were simply stack upon stack of keywords, Penguin did snag quite a few legitimate sites as well. It was these sites losing their hard earned ranking overnight that led to the panic in the SEO industry and left many of us wondering if SEO was no longer a legitimate marketing technique.

 

The answer is that SEO is still just as valid as it ever was but that it has to be done according to Google’s best practices. While this means the days of keyword stacked sites are probably gone for good, this actually presents a new opportunity for the SEO industry and the people who rely on those techniques to compete with the massive websites like Amazon.

 

Study Google Harder for Recovery

 

If your site was one of the many sites hit by Penguin, then you need to take a look at how Google wants you to work. Read their best practices and get to know what it is they are looking for. Google doesn’t have a problem with SEO, they just don’t want it to affect their search result relevance. While this means that we all have to learn a different way of using SEO, it does not mean you can’t still use it.

 

The principals behind SEO are still the same, but in order to achieve and maintain a high ranking on Google you have to follow their best practice guidelines. The great thing about this (and yes there is a big upside) is that if you read those best practice guidelines you can learn everything you need to know about how to get a high ranking.

 

 

Sally Frain is a website designer and freelance writer who has studied much about Google and Penguin. She has worked with many to make a website recover from this update and get back to where they were, and in many instances better.

 

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A Brief History Of Link Building Strategies

In the early days of the Internet, link building was easy. There were no rules, and you could do anything you wanted to try to gain visibility. That has all changed, thanks largely to Google’s war on subversive link building practices and bad site content, but let’s take a look at what life was like way back then, in the frontier days of the Wild, Wild Web:

Link building strategies in the 1990s

Back in the mid-1990s, unscrupulous site owners quickly discovered that all they had to do to get high search engine rankings and therefore high visibility was to have lots of links to their sites all over the Internet. Although many honest folks tried to get links honestly by sticking with relevant link swaps, there were no rules, so the “bad guys” generally had a leg up over the good guys.

Google’s impact on link building strategies beginning in 1998

Search engines began to develop more complex algorithms that couldn’t be manipulated easily, but it wasn’t until Larry Page and Sergey Brin developed pre-Google incarnation Backrub and then Google, in 1998, that algorithms truly began to be used to put a damper on humans’ attempts to artificially manipulate site rankings through dishonest link building strategies like bulk link swapping.

In the early 2000s

Link building strategies began to really take shape in the early 2000s. The following once-popular practices have fallen on hard times thanks to Google’s Panda and Penguin (see below), but were great ways to link build until site owners’ abuses knocked them out of the running:

Directory submissions

Directory submissions were once considered a great way to provide quality links to owners’ sites, but as with previous link building practices, they fell out of favor thanks to site owners’ abuse and Google’s subsequent crackdowns.

Article directories

Article directories accepted what were supposed to be good quality articles from site owners in exchange for linking to authors’ sites. Again, although the directories began as a great link building strategy for authors, quality began to drop as unscrupulous “authors” decided that they could simply submit low-quality content, with an author bio box attached that linked back to the author’s site. In their heyday, free and paid directories sprang up everywhere, but as the article directories filled with junk instead of useful content, they lost value with users. Too many site owners were using them just to improve ranking (exactly what Google wanted to avoid), and as a result, article directories are now largely deemed “low quality” sites by Google (even previously vetted sites like Wise Geek). Article directory search engine links have largely been dissolved since Panda’s inception, making them useless in link building practices.

Reciprocal links

Reciprocal linking was historically the means by which to website owners would simply exchange links with each other in hopes that each would benefit from the exchange with increased visibility. Today, although non-organic reciprocal links are banned, they’re still used in practice as natural occurrences when bloggers link to external resources, etc.

Blogroll links

When blogging came into favor, bloggers boosted visibility by posting “blog rolls” of links to other blog sites that they endorsed or read. Again, although this is not a problem if done as a matter of true interest to the blog owner, as with reciprocal linking, it’s a practice that can be easily abused, and Google generally frowns on it.

Forum links

Forum links remain popular, whereby an anchor is optimized within a forum poster’s signature. Historically, these have worked because the more a particular user posts on a given forum, the more links will appear in that particular domain. Natural links within text are still valued, but anchor-optimized links within forums will likely be deemed artificial and eventually be banned.
Enter Google Panda and Google Penguin
Google Panda and Penguin continue to tighten link building strategy controls for site owners:

Google Panda

Introduced in 2011 and first updated in 2012, Google Panda’s purpose was to weed out so-called “content farms” with artificially high rankings but low quality or “thin” site content so that high quality sites would regain their deserved high page rankings, rankings currently being crowded out by content farms. Originally said to impact as much as 12% of the content on the Internet, the last public update in 2012 only affected approximately 0.7%. (As of March 2013, Google has stated that it will simply roll Panda updates into general algorithm updates and will no longer confirm them.)

Google Penguin

First announced in April 2012, Google Penguin is an algorithm meant to catch and thwart sites participating in”black hat” SEO techniques such as keyword stuffing, buying links, using invisible text, and deliberately duplicating content. Notably, sites that have remedied their spamming practices may be able to regain rankings, rather than being permanently blacklisted by Google.

Chris Countey is Senior Digital Marketing Specialist for Delphic Digital, a Sitecore certified partner in Philadelphia. Chris covers topics a wide range of inbound marketing topics.

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