Search Engine Optimization Trends and Keywords
As most everyone who is actively involved with search engine optimization knows, Google initiated two very important updates to their algorithm over the past year. If your website formerly appeared on the first page and has fallen back significantly, you aren’t alone. Technically, Google updates its algorithm or search criteria several times each day. Most of these are trivial, but these two were certainly not.
The initial Panda update (named after Navneet Panda, one of Google’s lead engineers) occurred on February 24, 2011. There have been 23 Panda updates since then, most recently on December 21, 2012. Another update called Penguin initially occurred on April 24, 2012. There is some overlap to these two, but just remember that combined, they are designed to eliminate keyword stuffing and cloaking; spam; link farms; duplicate content; high advertising-to-content ratios, etc.
To make a really long story short, the direction of these changes has been an attempt by the three primary search engines, including Bing and Yahoo, to reduce all attempts by website owners and search engine marketing professionals to game the system. Much of the focus of that crackdown is on keywords.
When Keywords Were King
The core of any strategy for effective e-marketing is the ubiquitous keyword. In the early years of search engine optimization, Google et al rewarded the website with the highest density of keywords with the highest ranking. Seems logical enough that the more frequently a keyword was mentioned the more relevant the copy would be to that search term.
Along came the gamers who made a living from reconstructing perfectly readable and interesting website content into keyword infused gibberish, solely for the purpose of obtaining higher rankings. Google realized the error of its ways years ago, but correcting these issues has been problematic for even this I.Q.-heavy group of geeks. They want to reward websites that provide the optimum “user experience,” but how do you create a machine algorithm to measure human comprehension and enjoyment?
New Keyword Construction Techniques
Penguin attempts to encourage theme-based writing and eliminate “keyword engineered” content. Only a year ago, a search for a the term “Greek yogurt benefits” would have resulted in all ten first page results showing those three words positioned next to each other in meta title (top line) and/or meta description (the two lines beneath the URL) in the search engine results. Today, not one of the first page results displays those 3 words consecutively. The second result doesn’t even include the word, “benefits.” Keep in mind these rankings may change daily based upon geographical location and other websites moving up or down.
When you think about it, writing any sentence that uses “Greek yogurt benefits” is cumbersome. Using something like, “the benefits of eating Greek style yogurt” encompasses the concept much more effectively. Today the website that incorporates any exact term even three times for every one hundred words of content gets penalized, not rewarded.
Penguins Eat Duplicate Content
If your website contains any content previously published on another site, sooner or later you will be in trouble. The problem is, many website owners have no idea that their blog post, generated by a supposed professional SEO firm, was simply copied from another website.
You can very easily check this yourself. Copy up to 32 words of random content from your website, “put it in quotes,” and run a search on it. If there are more results than just yours, it is plagiarism. As fast as possible, rewrite or completely remove it.
Articles and Press Releases
Up until last year, publishing articles on websites such as GoArticles and Ezine Articles would result in a rankings boost. Panda has since reduced the authority of these aggregate publishing sites to the point that many websites have fallen off the first page if they relied heavily on those efforts.
Matt Cutts, the Google rep who disseminates information to those of us who read up on these issues, has offered up an interesting tidbit in this forum. Links within press releases will not in and of themselves benefit search rankings. This is not to say that press releases are a waste of time. It’s just that the goal of a press release should be to get the information in front of human eyes, not search spiders. Well positioned links in any publication will encourage readers to click onto a relevant landing page on your website.
Put yourself in the place of someone who arrives at your landing page for the first time. How does it “feel?” Try to write all onsite and offsite content with the primary goal of providing useful and interesting information to the reader. Don’t ignore keywords: they will always be essential to any plan for strategic e-marketing. If you write naturally with a theme-based approach, those keywords will be there and the engines will find them.