Google’s latest Penguin and Panda updates have webmasters in a frenzy. They are afraid to apply search engine optimization techniques, yet they know they must do something to entice Google to rank their sites.
What to do?
We will never know Google’s exact algorithms so any strategy you implement may or may not produce positive or negative results. But, we do know one thing for sure:
Google is focused on providing users with the most relevant, quality content, and it will not stop until it is satisfied.
For webmasters, this has meant stricter guidelines and over-optimization penalties. What once garnered us high rankings has now been identified as SEO manipulation. Many sites that have participated in widely-accepted techniques (not by Google) have now vanished out of the rankings.
While we will never be privy to Google’s secret formula, we can take a look at some of the research and public interviews with Matt Cutts, head of Google’s webspam team, to devise a formula Google is sure to love.
Here are some of those takeaways:
Metatags are still effective to tell Google what your site is about. They do, however, become a problem when they are over-used. Keep your metadata natural. For example, your title should be a few words or phrases describing your store. It should not be stuffed with excessive keywords. If your title doesn’t look acceptable to a human, it won’t be liked by Google. The same applies to your meta keywords.
The days of writing content to satisfy a keyword count are over. Write your home page content to satisfy your customers. Include a few keywords as long as they flow naturally, but if the copy reads awkwardly, your rankings may suffer.
A few internal links are recommended, but keep them to a minimum. Again, natural is key. Use links on your home page copy to direct your visitors to a few important pages. Once you start adding links for SEO purposes, it looks “spammy” and may result in a downgrade.
Also, be careful with external links. Vary your anchor text considerably and create stellar content so people will want to naturally link to you. Don’t focus on ONLY your keywords for link building, but make anchor text natural with phrases like “your site”, “click here”, “this site”, and “click here to view the site”, etc. Use these natural phrases for many of your links.
Google values links coming from related websites. For example, if you sell red shoes, Google will favor links from sites related to clothing, shoes and accessories much more than from generic sites. After the Penguin update, we noticed Google placing less weight on non-related links and more weight on links from authoritative, related sites.
4. Footer links
Excessive footer links are yesterday’s news and they may negatively affect your site’s rankings. They are positioned too low for visitors to receive any real benefit and Google is all about pleasing its searchers. Keep your footer links to important pages such as About, Privacy, Terms, Contact Us, Blog, etc.
Your home page should appear to visitors as a business they can trust. Include security logos, and any other elements that would help your visitors to feel secure. The more you please your visitors, the more you will indirectly please Google.