If you’re active in promoting your web site online, there’s no doubt you’ve heard of Google’s Panda update. Implemented in late winter and early spring of 2011, this algorithm update was designed to eliminate low quality content spam from the database, thus improving the quality of results for Google’s search audience.
Whether or not Google was successful in this is a matter of some debate; some very obvious “content farms” are still being prominently featured in the search results, while tens of thousands of webmasters were very obviously incorrectly flagged as false positives. The fallout from the first Panda update is still reverberating across the net.
Now, in early 2012, Google has launched another update: Panda 3.3. This one has had equally devastating but not entirely unexpected results. Panda 3.3 is focused primarily on links and linking building strategies.
As you know, Google has relied heavily on in-pointing links to determine the relevancy of its search listings. While this has worked very well for them, there have been some very obvious issues; the first is that it has been relatively easily to manipulate the search rankings by creating a large number of anchor-text optimized in-pointing links to the web site you wish to rank, and two, there have been several widely publicised incidences that have made Google look ridiculous (probably the most famous is the “George Bush miserable failure” Google bomb).
So it’s not unexpected that Google is now proactively working against sites that have pursued link building SEO (search engine optimization) tactics and strategies very aggressively. Blog networks have been de-indexed (causing the sites that relied on them for rankings to disappear from the search listings), and hundreds of thousands of subscribers to Google’s webmaster tools have received messages warning of “un-natural” link profiles and so on.
In the wake of Panda 3.3, it seems, you can’t stay the course when it comes to building links. Yet build links you must, or you can expect your web site to languish unvisited for who knows how long. So what do you do?
Good question. With that in mind, here are 6 strategies to help deal with the Google Panda 3.3 update…
1. Before you do anything else, focus on delivering superlative quality content to your visitor. If your site does not address Google’s mandate – delivering the highest quality, most relevant results to its users – you can’t reasonably expect them to deliver traffic to it. Even considering a link building strategy prior to addressing this issue is like putting “the cart before the horse.”
2. Be careful when you optimize your anchor text: Google is looking for “natural”, genuine links. Natural links do not often contain highly targeted keywords and phrases in the anchor text. Such optimization is a sure sign of an un-natural link, whose only purpose is to manipulate search rankings. So it is a good strategy to vary your anchor text to include your URL, generic words, like “click here”, less popular variations of your keyword and so on.
3. Obtain links from a wide variety of resources: “Normal” sites have normal link profiles; a couple of directory listings here and there, a few blog comment links, a Yahoo! Answer or two, a few bookmarks, a guest post or two, a handful of forum profile links and so on. A large number of links from a single resource is likely to be flagged by Google.
4. Obtain plenty of low quality links and plenty of “no follow” links: Again, these two strategies do little more than help complete your site’s “natural” profile. Most sites normally generate a lot of low quality links, and a link profile consisting of nothing but “do follow” links smells a bit “fishy.” And remember; just because a link is “no follow” does not mean Google does not know about it. It only means Google does not factor in the value of that link when determining its rankings.
5. Make sure your link building is compatible with your site traffic: If your site receives 25 visitors a day, yet receives 5,000 new links per month, how natural do you think that will appear to Google? The truth is that now more than ever, SEO is a long term venture. You will have to build links slowly and steadily as your site grows and matures.
6. Stay completely “white hat.” While it’s tempting to take short cuts, especially when it seems like everyone else is cashing in on the “ranking manipulation” strategy of the day, any attempt to “game” the system is going to have disastrous consequences in the long run. The folks who relied heavily on the many blog networks that have been de-indexed in the last month or so can attest to this fact. The simplest way to do this is to ask yourself this each and every time you create a new link, “would this link pass the smell test if it were manually reviewed by a Google editor?” (Or in other words, is this link a blatant attempt to manipulate the Google database, or is its prime mandate to provide value to surfers). If you answer “no”, then you probably should think twice about creating that link.
The SEO game is changing. That much is certain. Adapting should not take much – a singular focus on quality for both Google and your visitors, and there is no doubt you should do well. And implementing the above link building strategies too, of course!
Mike Clarke is an author, webmaster, seo consultant and occasional contributor to SchoolGrantsBlog.com, the premier resource for all things related to school grants and college scholarships.