If you’re a small business with a web presence, you know how important Google can be for helping to drive traffic to your site. Over the last year or so, Google has released two updates to their search algorithms designed to demote sites that are using webspam tactics to boost their traffic and to remove low-quality sites from the search index. These updates, called Panda and Penguin, have caused a bit of controversy because some small business owners claim that the updates are penalizing them. You need to know what these updates are looking for so you can ensure that your site is ranked properly and that Google is driving traffic to your website.
First, what are the Panda and Penguin updates looking for? The Panda update, which was released last April, targeted what Google calls “low-quality” websites. Basically, if a site does not have a lot of unique or useful content, or if there are too many broken links or product pages with no information, Google now realizes that these pages are not very helpful to the user and deems them low quality. Also, Google’s algorithm now has a more sophisticated understanding of language, and can more easily find duplicate content, even if the content has been slightly tweaked. This duplicate content is another flag that lowers your page ranking in the search index.
Penguin’s update is more focused on curbing web spam. Examples of web spam are links to your site from blog comments or free-for-all directories. One of the reasons that businesses are upset about the Penguin update is that Google has not given clear examples of practices that will affect page ranking. Some possibilities are exact-match domain names and too many backlinks from too few domains. Although these kinds of tactics used to help you rank higher in the search index, they now seem to be hurting sites that use these strategies.
So what can you do to make sure your site isn’t targeted by these updates? Your website needs to be seen as a high-quality site full of useful information for your users. There are lots of ways to do this: the main thing to do is to make your site clear and user-friendly, with relevant page links and descriptions. Cleaning up your site to remove broken links and making sure that product listings and blog posts are up-to-date and informative is essential too. One resource that will prove to be invaluable when updating your site is Google’s Webmaster Academy, which will provide you with what you need to know in order to improve your site according to Google’s standards.
Obviously, you can’t rely on Google as the sole means of driving traffic to your website. But the fact remains that Google is a big piece of the puzzle when it comes to getting users to visit your site and become customers. As Google refines its search index, your website may need to be tweaked to take advantage of Google’s updates. If you think you want to update your site to make it more Google-friendly, contact us.