There have been a multitude of changes in the way Google analyses websites in the past year. The major aspect is that Google now applies a range of aggressive penalties against any websites that it considers are in breach of its Webmaster Guidelines. There are 3 main penalty areas, and (at least) 2 other aspects you must address;
1.) Panda Algorithm Penalties:
Analyses the website itself and evaluates content quality, assesses a variety of elements for over-optimisation;
- keyword stuffing
- hidden text
- excessively long Titles and Descriptions
- inappropriate use of Keywords tag
- excessive keywords in URLs / page file names
- excessive content duplication
None of these were a big issue 2 years ago… Severe penalties are most often automatically applied by algorithms, and are reversed when problems are resolved. A manual penalty is less common and more severe – if you have a Google webmaster tools account, you would be notified of a manual penalty via an account message.
If you have had your website “optimised” in the past, the chances are high that many elements within your site could trigger over-optimisation penalties!
I am able to conduct a Website SEO Audit for you, to assess the potential for problems.
2.) Penguin Algorithm Penalties:
Penguin 2.0 examines your incoming link profile, and penalises sites with unnatural links profile including;
- low quality sites linking to yours
- over-optimised anchor text (keywords in link titles)
- unusual percentage of links to internal pages (deep links)
- run of site links
- paid links, or participation in any schemes to boost links
Links that once boosted your rankings 5-7 years ago may now be crippling them! Combinations of the transgressions are hit hardest e.g. links from a low-quality site with exact-match keywords in anchor text linking to internal pages!
VERY severe penalties are automatic, but unlike Panda & Phantom, it may take many months before they are reversed – and only then if significant and demonstrable remedial efforts have been undertaken.
Examining your incoming link profile is possible via data available from both Google and Bing Webmaster Tools. This is an important assessment, because penalties are harsh and unrelenting.
3.) Phantom Algorithm Penalties
Phantom reviews sites for;
- thin content such as holding pages or stub pages with no content
- small pages with trivial amounts of content
In a blog / content management system context, care must be taken with Categories to ensure that they don’t over-duplicate content. These must be constrained to useful / valid categories. Tags are a common area where problems can arise! Many site owners do not understand that every tag generates a page… usually a trivial, duplicated content page!
Severe penalties are automatic, and are reversed when content issues are addressed.
The New Normal
The last year has seen a paradigm shift across the SEO landscape. Not only does almost everything we once did not work anymore, in many cases penalties are now automatically applied where indications of previously acceptable SEO efforts are found! Everything you thought you knew about SEO has been turned on its head!
What once worked FOR you is now more likely to be actively working AGAINST you!
The User Experience
In addition to that, for a long time Google has made it abundantly clear that sites which offer the best user experience will be rewarded. The converse of that is obvious, but many site owners do not understand the implications of that.
Website Design: It’s become more important than ever to address this issue in light of Google’s insistence that sites ought to be designed to accommodate that rapidly growing “mobile” sector of the internet webscape. Therefore, a website really must be designed as “mobile responsive” to thrive in the new environment, even if items 1 through 3 above are squeaky clean!
Mobile-responsive means that regardless of the device (PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone) the website’s display should adjust to the screen size automatically.
Social Media: regardless of our respective opinions on the value of social media, Google et al continue to place a growing reliance on the quality signals they receive from participants. Ignore it at your peril – at the same time, it’s a trivial process to set up 4 primary SM accounts (e.g. Google+, FaceBook, Twitter and LinkedIn) to an adequate level.
What Can You Do?
In the overall scheme of things, there are priorities AND an ideal sequence to address those. In my opinion, addressing website redesign first facilitates the required architectural / technical improvements.
Site Redesign: by converting an older static HTML site into a modern content management system with a mobile-responsive design, you are also easily able to automate several important elements recommended by Google. Auto-generation of both HTML and XML sitemaps and update notification to search engines etc
At the same time, it allows you to easily address the usually missing but quite important system files;
robots.txt – this is supposed to tell search engines What the sitemap’s file name is, and Where it is located!
custom 404 error page: – redirects visitors who encounter a 404 error to a page with a menu so they have a chance to find what they wanted
Redesign of a site requires great care to preserve existing rankings, see:
Off-Site SEO: Addressing Potential Google Penguin Penalties
A full review of all incoming links is required, to identify any potentially harmful links. This requires access to your Google and Bing Webmaster Tools data. The usual process is for me to provide you with 2 verification files, each of which is uploaded to the site’s root directory. If the inward link data has not previously been requested, it may take a week to appear.
Following that, I load and combine both sets of links into purpose-built software, and use that to determine the anchor text associated with every link. I also get the link status; link found, link not found, page not found, site not found, nofollow, noindex etc. Armed with that, I can then tell you what’s good, bad and indifferent, and propose a plan of attack accordingly.
Often, its necessary to use 3rd party assistance in running a link removal campaign, which I can manage on your behalf. Once demonstrable results of removal efforts are available, I can then file Disavow Links requests on both Google and Bing Webmaster Tools for you.
On-Site SEO: Addressing Potential Google Panda Penalties
This requires a manual SEO Audit review and assessment of the site’s structure and content to establish what areas are problematic. Then, I can prepare a prioritised plan of action for you, with options and indicative costs.
For most people, the problems will revolve around;
- Titles & Descriptions not meeting current webmaster guidelines
- excessive keywords in Keywords meta-tag
- excessive use of keywords across pages
- hidden text
- excessive keywords in Image Alt texts
On-Site SEO: Addressing Potential Google Phantom Penalties
As part of the SEO Audit process, I will highlight pages / section of the site where there is insufficient textual content. For those using CMS systems, this is often;
- inappropriate uses of Categories and Tags
Basically, if a page is to appear on your site with the intention of having Google et al index it, it MUST have contain some material of inherent value… Otherwise, its a pointless item that should be either deleted, to at least marked as “noindex.”
Its no longer acceptable to create a bunch of lightweight pages which vary only in one or two keywords in an effort to rank for searches for which you have no decent content… As a general rule, 500+ words is considered the bare minimum to adequately describe a topic…
WordPress Search Engine Optimisation Consultants
The WordPress SEO Guy NZ is a specialist New Zealand WP search engine optimisation consultant with years of experience in Tech Support, site migration, security and maintenance services.