Google Algorithm Changes Affect SEO

Google has been one of the leading forces in the search engine industry for several years now and it seems like everything they do tends to set the trend for other search engines. Over the years, they have implemented several new algorithm changes that have effectively slapped webmasters down the rankings when they engaged in things Google didn’t approve of. The latest Google slap dealt with individuals who used unnatural linking practices to achieve higher rankings. Many webmasters in this category have been negatively affected and are unsure of where to turn from here.

Blog Networks

Many webmasters were using blog networks as a way to achieve high rankings in the search engines. A blog network is a system that people pay to be a part of. Once an individual is a member, he can write short articles and include a link back to his own site within the article. Then when he submits the article to the blog network, it is posted on one of the blogs owned by the network. The blogs are all high PageRank sites and they try to give the impression that they are legitimate sites. This made it look like a page on the webmaster’s site was being linked to by one of the blog sites in the network, which usually helped improve its ranking. Recently, Google decided to de-index many of these networks, which also affected all of the sites that the blogs were linking to.

Notification

Webmasters who engage in unnatural linking practices recently started receiving notices from Google in their Webmaster Tools account messages. The message tells the Webmasters that Google has detected unnatural linking practices associated with their sites and that something must be done to fix this issue within in a certain amount of time.

Affect of Unnatural Links

There has been some confusion and debate about the impact of having these types of links associated with your account. At the very least, Google has discounted these links and made it so that they do not carry any weight in helping other sites rank. In some cases, webmasters claim that having these links actually lead to some sort of punishment by Google. Many of their pages went way down in the search engine rankings and some of them were actually removed completely from Google’s index. Regardless of whether the bad links just lost their value or actually ended up leading to punishment, they definitely had an impact on search engine rankings.

What to Do

If you are a webmaster and engaged in something that Google considers to be unnatural linking practices, you should do your best to alter toxic links as soon as you can by either changing the anchor text or removing them completely. Go through your inbound links report and remove any links that come from questionable websites. While it might be a lot of work, it will help your search engine rankings rise again. This recent act by Google proves that nothing beats high quality, contextual link building strategies to further your site in the search engine results.

Overly Optimized Websites Hurt SEO

In a great article by Barry Densa on his blog MarketingWitandWisdom.com, Barry identifies the concept of Google penalizing, a.k.a. “slapping”, your website for being overly optimized. He also goes into detail about what that means and would be worthwhile to read the entire post.

My (still true) philosophy is creating great content and value on a website that people naturally want to link (vote for) to your website. You can increase site rankings in the search engine if you do this. You can’t trick your way to top anymore and buying links or paying someone to make a bunch of irrelevant posts on other websites is the fastest way to get “slapped” by Google.

Many people don’t understand SEO or are knowledgeable enough to be dangerous. They think they can write a bunch of Title Tags, Meta Descriptions, and add the keyword 5.7% of time on their website. The artistic side to the equation is balancing those tactics with a strategy of adding value to the website visitor. If you’re #1 in the search engine, are driving 100,000 visitors a day, and every single visitor leaves the first page they hit because the content is not helpful. You’re going to eventually get penalized.

The Google “Slap”

Matt Cutts, head of the Google Webspam team said this at SXSW in Austin.

…We don’t normally pre-announce changes but there’s something we’ve been working on over the last few months and hope to release it in the next few months or few weeks. All those people doing, for lack of a better word, over optimization or over SEO – versus those creating great content and a fantastic website – we’re going to level the playing field. We are trying to make GoogleBot smarter, make our relevance more adaptive, and, we are also looking for those who abuse it, like using too many keywords on a page, or exchange way too many links, or go well beyond what you normally expect. We have several engineers on my team working on this right now.