Business owners keeping track of their website rankings in Google this year no doubt noticed some changes. For one, the Penguin update in April targeted websites considered spammy. Subsequent updates to Penguin and Panda targeted duplicate content, keyword stuffing, and links from untrusted or non-valuable sources.
While it’s become easy to blame the search engine for drops in rankings and traffic, it’s a good time for site owners to evaluate their on-page content and the off-page work they’ve done. Since the hits just keep on coming, here are a few tips on how to keep your site in tip-top shape against the march of algorithm updates.
Sites with duplicate content took a big hit this year. Even if you’ve combed your site making sure no two sentences are the same, there is still a chance that you’re being hit for duplicate content. One of our clients is meticulous about content and posts a few times a week. This much original content usually helps a website, but their site was heading the other direction in the rankings. After going through the clients Webmaster Tools, we found that the issue was in the blog. While the content was original to their site, some of the paragraphs were being taken from other areas of the web, which confuses search engines as to which content is the real source. The solution was adding rel canonicals to the pages of the blog to alert the search engines to the source of the content. Since we were dealing with a WordPress site, there is a handy plugin called “Canonical Urls”, free to download, that we installed to fix the issue. Duplicate content is a target for these recent updates, so start with Webmaster Tools and see if your site is at risk for a hit, and take care of it before you get nailed.
A big part of traditional link building over the last few years has been finding the balance between strategic keywords and the official business name in anchor text in links across the web. These updates have made this balance even more delicate. In fact, an excess of links with keyword anchor texts can actually harm the site now. Sites that have taken a hit are sites that have a ton of links pointed to their homepage exclusively, with link anchor texts containing the keywords they were trying to rank for. So if this was your strategy before, hopefully you’ve already adjusted it. It’s a better practice to have anchor texts read the business name, and as a rule, have links pointing to other pages of the site. Your website will benefit from stronger inner pages.
Of course, the Google algorithm is constantly changing. The SERP looks completely different today from how it looked a year ago. You can learn about each of these changes here. Evolving Interactive does our best to stay ahead of each change by following best SEO practices, which makes these changes less jarring when they happen. If your site needs an SEO makeover, contact an analyst today at 312-454-4550. And stay tuned for more news from the Evolving Interactive blog.