At the end of April, Google’s Webmaster Blog announced further changes to their ranking criteria that are designed to target “over optimised” websites and to benefit those that offer unique content and comply with Google’s guidelines. As part of their ongoing efforts to improve the relevancy and quality of results for users, Google’s latest changes could shake up the rankings for some sectors of the market.
Google says that they don’t outlaw search engine optimisation as a practice – in fact they say that effective SEO can make a site easy to index, more accessible and easier to find. “White hat” search engine optimisers – the term often used to define ‘ethical’; techniques that comply with Google’s guidelines – are seen to improve the usability of a site, help create great content, or make sites faster, which is good for both users and search engines.
However, Google has always targeted “black hat webspam” and is continuing to do so with this latest update to their ranking criteria. Sites that use these techniques are targeting higher search rankings, possibly as a short term gain, and use techniques that don’t benefit users, since the intent is to look for shortcuts or loopholes that would rank pages higher than they deserve to be to be ranked. The type of webspam techniques that Google targets includes keyword stuffing or link schemes that attempt to propel sites higher in rankings.
Google’s success relies on continually providing good results for searchers. It’s therefore also their policy to try to reward the “good guys” making great sites for users, not just algorithms, to see their effort rewarded. The recent “Panda” updates over recent month have been focused on returning higher-quality sites in the search results and removing low quality or duplicated content. They have also introduced a page layout algorithm that reduces rankings for sites that don’t make much content available “above the fold” (on the screen before the user needs to scroll down the page).
Google has now just introduced a new algorithm change that targets webspam more intensely. The change will decrease rankings for sites that Google believes are violating their existing quality guidelines. As usual, Google doesn’t divulge the specific signals so there will be much testing and comment by SEO practitioners over the coming weeks as to what factors are being targeted. Google’s advice is still to focus on building high quality websites that create a good user experience and employ white hat SEO methods instead of engaging in aggressive webspam tactics.
At the Web Marketing Workshop, we’ve always focused on developing good SEO techniques for websites that won’t fall foul of Google’s penalties. If your site has been affected by these recent changes or you’d like to know more about the likely impact for your business, please contact us now for more information.