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Businesses Crushed By Google Penguin Update

Angry PenguinThis post is written by my wife, who works in Internet marketing and has a lot more knowledge about search engine optimization than I do. I hope it is of benefit to those small to medium businesses who feel that they have had their ethical marketing efforts thwarted by some of the recent changes in Google.

For those of you who rely on the Internet to gain new business you may have noticed in the last few weeks that business has slowed, the phones aren’t ringing as often, and you don’t get as many you e-mail inquiries. If this is so you have probably been hit by Google’s latest algorithm change, which has hit many small to medium businesses.

Before going on I’d like to explain a little bit about Google and how it works, for those of you who don’t know. If Google wants to remain the dominant search engine, which they are at the moment with 66% of the search market, they need to deliver the most relevant results to the searcher. We all know how frustrating it is when we do a search and the top 10 results, are completely and totally unrelated, or are directory listings usually giving directory results for something totally different to what you were searching for.

To deliver the most relevant search results Google uses a very complex set of algorithms. The trouble is spammers and other unethical Internet marketers are constantly trying to game this algorithm and use it to their advantage so Google needs to constantly tweak and making updates to stay ahead of the gamers that are using spam techniques, which is also called black hat SEO.

It is natural for your search results to go up and down a little bit and most algorithm updates have very little impact on ethical businesses however the most recent update, which many in the business are saying Google has got very wrong, has resulted in a lot of collateral damage.

The first update was the latest in many of what is referred to as Google Panda update that happened on April 19 and many sites felt some impact of that. Even more devastating for many small to medium businesses with what is referred to as the Google Penguin update which, it has been claimed, affected up to 12% of businesses.

This update was intended to eliminate spam sites where people have used unethical methods such as keyword stuffing, hidden links, site cloaking and other black hat methods. The irony is that in many cases authentic business sites have been replaced in the top spots by the very sites that Google is trying to eliminate.

So what to do about it?

First of all don’t panic. Take a methodical business approach, as you would with any other crisis. First identify the date that your traffic dropped off. You will probably know this by your inquiry rate but it’s best to check in your Google analytics. Whether you maintain your website yourself or have a webmaster the first thing is to look at your traffic statistics. If your site was impacted by the Penguin update you will notice a substantial, plummet on 24 April. Many experts in the field believe Google has got it wrong with this update and that that they will be making several algorithmic changes over the coming months to improve the results so the best step may be to do nothing in the interim regarding SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

  • One thing that you should do immediately however, and this is really just good practice, is to go through all the content of your site and ensure that it is of the highest quality. By this I mean check for good grammar and spelling, sentence structure and that it actually is relevant and gives value to the reader.
  • Another thing you can do is look at the density of the main keywords on your page. Does it read naturally for human readers or are the keywords repeated too often? It used to be considered good SEO practice to have keyword density of 3% to 4%. Now, however, you really should only have your main keywords once or twice on any given page. To figure out the keyword density of a page, copy the text on the page and paste in a word document. On the lower left hand corner you will see the number of words on the page. Take note of this and count up how many times the keyword appears on the page. You then divide the number of keywords by the number of total words. For example, assume that you have a page with 300 words and you have used the keyword 12 times. To calculate the keyword density take keyword total and divide it by the number of words on your page. So in this case 12 divided by 300 = .04. You have a 4% keyword density on that page which is too high.
  • While you are checking each page look at the anchor text (the words used that, when clicked on, take you to another page) of the links on your site and what page they are pointing to. Several top SEO experts have been running tests since this update and all indications are that if most of your internal links go to your home page, especially if they are using the same anchor text, that this will disadvantage your site. As a general rule of thumb no more than 40% of the links should point to your home page.
  • The same holds true for external links pointing back to your site. If they are all using the same anchor text or if they are all only pointing to one or two pages of your site that will ring alarm bells with the search engines. If this is the case for you start building more links using diversified anchor text. Use links with words that are related to your main keywords but different.
  • Also, amazingly, there are already many businesses cropping up offering high priced Google Panda and Penguin solutions. Be wary, as no one, not even the top experts really know the long term effects of this latest change and you could waste your money. The general consensus is that Google will be making updates over the coming month or two. If you make sure that you have taken steps to ensure that your site is of good quality of value to the reader I believe that a ‘wait and see’ approach is the best thing for the present.

I hope this information is of help to any of you that may have been adversely affected by this update. If you have found it beneficial please like, link or share it, and I will write more articles on this topic as more information comes to hand.

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