Google’s newest search algo draws flak anew

| Google Algorithm

What your webmaster should avoid doing in your site

Google’s announcement of another search algorithm update – called Penguin update – drew negative comments from webmasters around the world with some claiming that the updates have taken a lot from them.

On April 24, 2012, Google’s Matt Cutts announced via Twitter the launch of what was called then as the Webspam update.  The update was later called Penguin and was reportedly aimed at addressing Black hat webspam.

While Google provided a venue for voicing out complaints of unjust damage due to Penguin update, others are expressing their sympathies to a petition calling for Google to kill the update.  The owner of the site said that no blackhat SEO was done on his high-ranking site.  He added in the petition seeking 500 signatures that the update “wiped out” his business which is supporting his family and some three employees.

Due to the Internet’s seemingly infinite capabilities, tech savvy people are continuously discovering the potential income generating activities online.  In other countries, where SEO is already a multimillion industry, Google updates resulted in several changes in many companies.  Reduction of workforce is one.

Where is the problem?  What is Google trying to change through this update (one of several updates)?

The Reason being

In an entry to Google Webmaster Central Blog, official news on crawling and indexing sites, an article posted 24 April 2012 tells about “Another step to reward high-quality sites”.

Matt Cutts said “The goal of many of our ranking changes is to help searchers find sites that provide a great user experience and fulfill their information needs,” adding that they want the “good guys” get rewarded.

It can be recalled that Google earlier launched Panda changes to sift website contents and it “successfully returned higher-quality sites in search results.”  Cutts added in the post that Google launched earlier this year a page layout algorithm to identify sites that don’t make much content available “above the fold” and make them learn a lesson by reducing their rankings.
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Web spamming

Google’s latest Penguin update is aimed at promoting White hat SEO.  Anything that is opposite what a White hat SEO does is called Black hat webspam.  Webspam refers to techniques used by some webmasters to attain favorable ranking results while sacrificing the service or information received by site users.

While Panda updates are aimed at producing quality search results and quality contents, Penguin update is designed to teach sites violating Google’s existing quality guidelines a lesson.  Both Google algorithms are designed to work hand-in-hand to solve website quality issues.

Google provided a list of webspam tactics that every responsible webmasters needs to avoid.

  1. Hidden Text or Hidden Links. Putting a “hidden” text, link or any piece of information on your website is one forbidden practice.  Such pieces of information that are made invisible through a) using white text on a white background b) putting texts behind an image c) using CSS to hide text/ making texts smaller are incorporated in a website so search engines see them and give the site a favorable ranking.
  2. Keyword Stuffing/Cloaking/Spamming. This one can be committed intentionally or inadvertently.  But the lesson is basic: use only keywords that are related to your post in one way or another.  Google advises the use of proper keyword density to produce SEO rich contents.  Google Toolbar can help you analyze the density.
  3. Automated Queries. Google made it clear on their Terms of Service that sending automated queries to their system using unauthorized computer programs if prohibited.  Sending queries to a website or a webpage’s ranking on various queries may be allowed if prior permission from Google is done.
  4. Duplicate Content. Google defines duplicate content as “substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar.”  Contents can be duplicated in two forms: non-malicious or malicious content duplication.

Google lists examples of non-malicious duplication:

  • Discussion forums that can generate both regular and stripped-down pages at mobile devices;
  • Store items shown or linked via multiple distinct URLs; and
  • Printer-only versions of web pages.

Now, Google makes periodic filtering of contents and once they spot a duplicate content and perceive it as having intent to manipulate search rankings, expect changes on your website’s ranking.  Don’t worry though.  If your site contains “multiple pages with largely identical content,” you or your webmaster may notify Google of your preferred URL through canonicalization.  To know how to set preferred domain, check Google’s official blog (http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=139066) .

  1. Pages with Malicious Behavior. Installation of harmful software or viruses upon visiting of a website is one thing Google hates the most.  Aside from potentially affecting search engines, such act also damages visitors’ computers.  Deleting pages with malicious behaviors before Google detects them is advised.
  2. Doorway Pages. Doorway pages, defines Wikipedia, are pages that are created for spamdexing by inserting results for particular phrases with the purpose of sending visitors to a different page.  To be redirected to a senseless webpage for the sole advantage of a webmaster or his employer’s business (in some cases) is frustrating on the part of the user.  That is why Google prohibits the use of doorway pages to impress search engines.
  3. Affiliate Marketing. According to Wikipedia, Affiliate Marketing is a performance-based marketing in which a business rewards affiliates for their efforts resulting in purchase.  In line with Google’s campaign for quality web contents, it recommends sites to produce excellent contents first before participating in this kind of marketing.
  4. Black Hat Link Building Techniques. Getting search engine exposure through Black Hat link building techniques are punishable.  This includes an explicit agreement of link exchanges and careless link building.
  5. Buying/Using Cheap SEO Services. Similar to buying substandard necessities, buying low-priced SEO services can be risky.  You get discounted fare but end up realizing how unworthy the service that was provided.

At iConcept SEO, we treat SEO as a process requiring considerable time and effort to study your site and implement strategies to help you attain your goals.

Google has a simple advice for webmasters.  “Our advice for webmasters is to focus on creating high quality sites that create a good user experience and employ white hat SEO methods instead of engaging in aggressive webspam tactics.”

For tips on how to create a good user experience through your website, please read our next posts.