Latest Google algorithm penalizes web spam

Google has released a new update to their ranking algorithm this week, aimed at isolating and penalizing websites that use particular spam techniques. From the official blog post :

“In the next few days, we’re launching an important algorithm change targeted at webspam. The change will decrease rankings for sites that we believe are violating Google’s existing quality guidelines.”

So what constitutes a violation of Google guidelines? While deliberately avoiding being specific, Google has highlighted these tactics as problematic and likely to be targeted:

  • Duplicate Content
  • Keyword Stuffing
  • Link Schemes
  • Cloaking
  • Deliberate Redirects
  • Doorway / Gateway Pages
  • Unlike Panda, this algorithmic update has no cutesy name, simply the *webspam algorithm update* according to Search Engine Land.

    As much as this update is a slap on the wrist for aggressive search engine optimizers, Google were very careful to endorse the methodology of so-called *white hat* search engine optimizers in their announcement and isolate those “acceptable” tactics from the tactics they will be punishing with this update:

    “We want people doing white hat search engine optimization (or even no search engine optimization at all) to be free to focus on creating amazing, compelling web sites.”

    It’s interesting to see them so eager to support the SEO industry but probably a sign that they’re expecting webmasters to be confused by the changes and the possibility that they might accidently over-optimize their sites.

    The algorithm change has already started to roll out and Google claims it will affect approximately 3 percent of search queries.

    UPDATE 27 April 2012: You know how I said above that the new algorithm revision doesn’t have a cutesy name? Scrap that. Google has now decided to call it *Penguin*

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    Q and A: Why have my Google rankings dropped for my key phrases?

    QuestionHi Kalena

    I’ve contacted you because I feel frustrated. Until last night my site was listed within the second page results in google with the key words “learn Spanish free”. Thanks to the SEO course at SEC and my work , I was proud to see results like this. However for some strange reason this morning (UK time) I am nowhere to be seen with this key words. I have checked other search engines (yahoo, bing) and I am listed there (3rd and 2nd pages). Would you be able to tell if I have done anything to upset google? And if I have what?

    Furthermore, I have checked all key phrases that have brought me visits before and I am nowhere to be seen within google index. (I used to appear on the first page with these key phrases). The only time I am in google listing is when I search the words “Spanish aid” ( the name of my domain) or the full URL of my web pages. I am also appear in google listing with the  word “Spanish colours” under Images. I find this extremely weird as it seem that google has penalised me for something I don’t know of. As I said on my previous email I was progressing and I was happy that I was learning an seeing positive result, now it seems that I have taken a big step back. I hope you can give my an explanation as at the moment I am banging my head against the wall.
    Thanks a lot for your help

    Thank you
    Luis

    Hi Luis

    Fluctuations in your Google rankings are completely normal. Sometimes, they’ll make a slight tweak to their ranking algorithm which can result in other sites ranking above yours and/or lowering your previous ranking for certain keywords. But this doesn’t mean you’re suffering a penalty.

    See some previous blog posts about this, particularly:

    Why is my CMS based website only ranking for the home page

    Why does my website not rank high on search engines?

    Your site is still in the Google index and you rank #1 for your brand name so you haven’t been penalized. I could see nothing wrong with your content that would trigger any alarm bells with Google.

    However, the big problem with your site is the low Google Toolbar PageRank score (1/10) reflecting the very low number of incoming links pointing to your site. Has your PR score always been 1/10? If it has recently dropped from a 2 or something, that might partially explain the ranking drop. While a higher PageRank score is not a pre-requisite to high rankings, it can be a key indicator of your site’s link popularity, which in turn has a strong influence on your ultimate keyword positions in Google.

    The more links you have pointing to your site from related sites and using relevant keywords in the anchor text of the link the better you should rank for those keywords. The best thing you can do for your site right now is to build links pointing to it and to add new content. That will gradually improve your PageRank score and your link popularity – then the rankings will follow.

    If you’re still worried, you can take the steps outlined in these posts:

    How do I fix ranking penalties?

    Why doesn’t Google index my entire site?

    Kalena

    ———————————————–

    Finding that optimizing your own site is a challenge? Download our Free SEO Lesson. No catch!

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    Q and A: Is this a legitimate form of link building?

    QuestionDear Kalena

    So, I’m a freelance writer, cruising through Elance.com, looking for projects to bid on. I see a project for a site called buildmyrank.com. They say they are looking for 150-word blog posts that will be website summaries. I can do this work, but…are these sites legitimate SEO tools or just ways to get around link building that is considered acceptable?

    Thanks for your thoughts!

    Denise

    Hi Denise

    I think your spidey-senses are accurate! This site looks and smells fishy. They’re also hiding their domain registration details, which, while not necessarily suspicious, is a common practice amongst sites employing less than legitimate SEO methods.

    There is a very easy way to determine if they are *white hat*, have a look at their Google Toolbar PageRank. Oh look! A zero PageRank score. If Google doesn’t think they’re trustworthy, that’s a big red flag right there.

    I would avoid them like the plague.

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    Q and A: How can I increase my PageRank to increase sales?

    QuestionDear Kalena…

    I’ve had my online store for 2 yrs now and have been stuck on a PageRank of 2 it seems forever. Since my income from this site is often the only income coming in at times for my family (economy in our area is awful) I’d like to increase my Page Ranking to increase sales. I’d love to be a PR5. I am no computer genius but know enough to improve my site with the right guidance and information. Your help and knowledge would be much appreciated.

    Penny

    Dear Penny

    While there is certainly a correlation between PageRank and high quality websites, there are a few issues if you focus purely on PageRank.

    Firstly, Google may be crunching the numbers behind the scenes but the publicly visible Toolbar PageRank is only updated a few times a year, so what you see may not always be entirely accurate.

    Secondly, a high PageRank doesn’t necessarily mean higher rankings in the search results – I’ve seen some great sites with low PR outrank crappy sites with higher PR.

    So saying you’d like a PageRank of 5 to help increase your online conversions is like going to a car salesman and asking to buy a red car…

    Some people think that red cars go faster, therefore if a car is fast it is most likely sporty and by association, sports cars are often rather sexy and luxurious.

    So in actual fact, what you may want is a lightning fast, motoring masterpiece that’s mechanical brilliance is overshadowed only by its sexy aesthetics… but instead you drive away in a Citroën 2CV – a vehicle that takes the better part of a day to get from 0-60 and looks like a Transformer mated with a toad – simply because you asked for a car that was ‘red’ instead of ‘sporty’.

    The point is – don’t just ask how to increase your PR – ask how you can increase your rankings, traffic and conversions instead.

    So what should you be focusing on?

    The first thing you should look at (from an SEO perspective) are your keywords. You could have a PR8 site and plenty of random clicks, but if you’re targeting the wrong keywords you won’t sell a thing.

    The next thing to work on are your inbound links. Think of an inbound link as a ‘vote’ for your website. The more votes you have, the more popular your website will seem to the search engines.

    Focus on semantically relevant links (ie. links from sites that provide similar products/services or sites that contain information that would be relevant to your users).

    Sure, if you manage to gain a lot of high quality links, it will have a positive impact on your PageRank, but the goal should always be to increase your sites exposure and relevant traffic instead of gaining an extra point on an infrequently updated little green Google bar.

    Once your keywords, content and links are all looking good, the final thing to work on is your website usability. While this may not strictly fall under the SEO banner, there’s really no point optimising a site to gain more traffic if you cannot convert the clicks into sales.

    Hopefully this will help you start focusing on the most effective SEO factors instead of just trying to improve your PageRank.

    Cheers

    Peter Newsome
    SiteMost SEO Services

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    Study Proves Power of Top 5 Google Positions

    Ok, so I know this study is a few years old now, but for some reason, I’m seeing it for the first time this week and the graphic is a powerful one that I wanted to share.

    A few years back, Cornell University ran an eye tracking study using undergraduate students to determine how people interact with Google SERPs. They instructed the students to perform searches in Google for 400 different queries, covering a diverse range of topics including movies, travel, music, politics, local and trivia.

    Here’s the meat:

    The study concluded that eye fixation on the first two listings took up half of the user’s attention span. After the second listing, the eye fixation dropped sharply. Search results 6 to 10 received roughly equal attention.

    In terms of click through, nearly 80% of web searchers clicked on the top 3 search results, with  the top 5 spots receiving 88% of traffic. Most fascinating was that the difference in the number of clicks between position #1 and position #2 was over four times!

    While the advent of Google personalized search, real time search and social search since the study has likely impacted these results somewhat, it still proves the power of holding a Top 5 position on Google, particularly a #1 if you can swing it.

    Having recently attained a #1 position for a highly competitive search term where I’ve sat at position #2 for many months, I can personally vouch for the turbo boost impact of the top slot.

    What about you? Have you noticed any trends that would verify the results of this study even today? Please share your observations in the comments.

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