The Long And Short Of Penguin
In this short series we’ll look at some of the most important changes in SEO since the Google Penguin update in April 2012. These changes are so significant that they have completely changed the rules of the game and are what we consider SEO golden rules.
The emphasis has been towards natural backlinks, rather than using spammy ones. Basically Google is tightening up things regarding all things backlinks and content. No longer can you stuff with your content with keywords and get away with it, sooner or later you will get penalized for it thanks to the big G’s smarter and more sophisticated algorithms.
This is a good thing, since higher quality results (instead of keyword-stuff ones that don’t make any sense) will now prevail. However, as webmasters and developers, we need to take heed and take care with our SEO strategies as stepping out of line will incur heavy penalties. No longer can you simply pay an offshore team to create you thousands of backlinks, as these will now actually have a negative impact. These gray-hat techniques are especially true if your site is new (or ‘untrusted’): More established sites can enjoy a bit more lee-way, but if you’re just starting out, you’d better stick to very strict white-hat SEO rules.
After the Penguin update, SEO now basically boils down to 4 things:
- Quality Content
- Site Organization
- What is the value to the visitor?
Let’s start at No. 1 (it’s always a good place 🙂 ). In subsequent posts we’ll look at points 2 – 4.
Quizzes, articles, product reviews, videos … these all make for excellent content. In order to play by the rules though, make sure your content always follows these rules:
- The content adds value to the top 10 Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). It has to add something unique to the top 10 collection of pages).
- Cater for the wants of the visitor/searcher.
- Be created for visitors, not for search engines. What does this mean? Your content needs to read well and be natural, not keyword stuffed – or Google will pick up on the fact that keyword phrases have been added purely to help the page rank better – unnatural keyword usage.
In short, the content has to be top notch. Anything else won’t cut it. Ask yourself if your work could be published in a newspaper? If the answer is no, you’re on the wrong track. Get it right though, and you’ll be rewarded.
If you’re using guest blog posts, make sure your content is reviewed, reviewed and reviewed again. Keyword stuffing is a common pitfall amongst guest blogs. Also ensure that not only the posts are grammatically correct and free from spelling errors but also that the facts are correct.
Before hitting the publish button, always ask yourself: Is the information useful to my visitors? Does it provide new information not found elsewhere? (for example if you’re doing a product review does it have new facts not found on the product website or Amazon?).
Often, content written for SEO purposes only (usually by mediocre SEO companies) will have a way too large keyword density. They over-use a ‘target’ keyword phrase so much so that the text no longer sounds natural.
What is the right keyword density? There is no definitive correct answer but the best target is: Whatever density occurs naturally when an expert on a subject writes an article.
Very often, top 10 ranking pages for a certain term do not even contain that term ! This is because of advanced algorithm updates whereby Google’s bots can classify content according to related keyword phrases – so you might do a search for ‘pet minding services’, but the results that appear more commonly contain the phrase ‘pet sitting’ (because the Penguin updates are actually doing a relevancy check and will find that the more common term for pet minding is actually pet sitting.
How does it do that? It looks at the words and phrases in the article, and typically compares this with ‘niche vocabulary’ in the chosen subject. So two articles might share a very similar niche vocabulary (e.g. pet sitting and pet minding), so the higher-ranking pages will get returned, regardless of the exact key phrase searched for.
SEO Golden Rules Content Summary
In Short: Do not fret about keyword density at all. Include the key phrase once (twice, max) in your content and rather focus on good quality, readable content that makes sense and provides the user with value. Make them glad they visited your site!
If you are an expert in the field you’re writing about, you will automatically and naturally use theme words and phrases (niche vocabulary mentioned above) in your content. Naturally, you will need to use these theme words and theme phrases if your content is to look authoritative and make sense.
If however you’re not an expert you will need to do a bit more homework (and hopefully learn some cool stuff in the process!): Find out which keyword phrases make up the niche vocabulary of your chosen topic and use these throughout your article. By sprinkling in theme words related to your topic this will help the search engines to identify the topic. Also, pick a small number of highly relevant theme phrases (2, 3 and 4+ word phrases) and include these in your content. Again, do not repeat a single ‘target’ key phrase over and over in your text!
Be sure to check out Part 2 of this series: Site Organization.
Do you have experiences with content variations on your site? Share your experiences below or feel free to ask any questions,we’d love to hear your thoughts!