"The Latest Google Update And What It Means"
The latest Google update, at the time of writing, was Penguin. Or BobAJob. Or Wildebeest. It doesn't matter. The effect is always the same: dodgy sites go down and kosher sites go up.
I define a kosher site as one that is sending lots of signals to Google's dumb algorithm that it is particularly relevant to a query or set of queries. A dodgy one is one that has faked these signals a step too far.
It works like this:
A small businessman does his own SEO or hires one or more guys to do it for him. He reads forums and blogs and gets some clever ideas about how to push his page up the Google SERPs. So do the guys he hires. This works fine as his niche isn't so competitive. His competitors either have little knowledge of SEO or have some but are too scared to push it too far.
So he starts to move up the SERPs for his keywords. He learns a new trick, applies it, he goes higher. Instead of concentrating on making his product enticing on a pure word-of-mouth basis, he now starts deforming his site with tangential pages, watered-down content and unnatural-looking backlinks. He makes it more for the Google algorithm and less for human customers.
Now, this is fine for a throwaway site. They go up, they go down, no biggie. But it's not fine for your main site.
The businessman gets a shock when Google changes its algorithm and his page(s) are now outside the boundaries of what the Google algo sees as a good return for a query. The tricks which Google previously favoured are now signs of spam.
Cue rage and despair.
It can be a shock to realise how much of your income was dependent on the free traffic Google was sending your way. So, how to get it back? Here are some ideas:
• 1. Read webmaster forums to get clear ideas as to the cause(s). Heed the older members, not the screeching newbies. Wait until you're sure of the cause(s) before doing anything;
• 2. Remove or obfuscate the tweaks now causing the red flags;
• 3. Smother your signs of spam with a greater intensity and number of signs of quality;
• 4. Look for other avenues of traffic; Google is big but it's not the only source;
• 5. Or start again with another site. Or three ;)
The best approach of all is to:
- Make a site which answers a pressing need. One which people will naturally recommend to others because, "Hey, Jerry, you can get that doohickey you want here".
- Then make it easy for people to get what they want there.
- Then good SEO can amplify your greatness so that your site gets where it belongs; on Google's front page.
IMPORTANT: Google mods may inspect your site. Your competitors definitely will. Try to make it so that there's nothing obvious they can try to get you penalised for.
Whatever is onsite or offsite should at least not throw up any obvious red-flags to a nerd. Can you really justify what you've done in terms of promotion or content?
If it looks OK to a human and it looks OK to a bot, you're home free.
Some webmasters go on forums, whine that Google has penalised them, give their URL and then the other members show them in detail why their site deserves to be canned. In short, their site is, well, pretty cr*p, but like a mother with an ugly baby, they defend it.