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The 5 Deadly SEO Sins in an Age of Penguins & Pandas

If you’re new to the world of SEO, you’re bound to have heard of the mayhem that Google’s two most recent updates, namely the Panda (originally rolled out around Feb 2011 with many re-releases) and Penguin (released April 2012) updates have caused within the organic search industry. Understanding these changes is essential to the success of any SEO campaign. Here’s an overview:

Google Panda

The key target of the Panda update was low-quality, thin (and often spammy) content. People generally dislike and mistrust websites that look and feel “spammy,” thus Panda was built to detect particular signature traits of spam sites. Panda looked for high bounce rates, excessive keyword use, and many other “on-page factors” that indicate questionable content with a view to sort the good from the bad in this noteworthy update.

Google Penguin

The Penguin Update stepped into target websites that were “over-optimized” from a link perspective. A key trait of “unnatural” link profiles is the high percentage of commercial anchor text based keywords, relative to the profile as a whole (i.e., 90% of anchor text being commercially oriented). Natural backlink profiles on the other hand generally feature many different variations of keywords and phrases and, for the most part, lean towards brand terms. Analyzing these elements, Penguin stripped hundreds of thousands of websites of their coveted rankings, most of which had spent a fair amount of money effectively “paying” for those rankings (through the use of link
networks, etc).

The 5 Deadly Sins & Fixes

With these two updates in mind, here are five deadly sins (and fixes) that you should follow or at least keep in mind when engaging in any SEO efforts:

Sin #1: Gaining the Majority of Your Traffic from a Single Source; i.e. a Search Engine

The Fix:
Broaden your base. Establish a social media page, invite guest posters and reviewers, guest post on other websites, include a website link in your signature for emails and forums, and seek out ways to exchange links with others in order to drive traffic from multiple sources.

Key Takeaway:
Diversify your traffic sources.

Sin # 2: Ignoring Your Website’s High Bounce Rate

The Fix:
Give visitors a reason to stay; create a contest, add some videos, add a few mini-games, create more engaging content – whatever it takes to keep users on-site. Also keep in mind that oftentimes, bounces are caused by conversions (i.e., an external thank you page). Ensure that you’re keeping converted visitors on your site, even if it means using an iframe for external content.

Key Takeaway: Review and improve your analytics metrics, with a key focus on bounce rate.

Sin #3: Chasing the Commercial Anchor Text Backlink

The Fix: Keep your anchor text natural and link the way that “real” publishers would. From this point on, vary the wording of anchor text. Don’t be afraid to use brand terms – brand links are your friend!

Key Takeaway:
Link naturally – forget about constantly attaining commercial anchor text links.

Sin #4: Crappy Internal Linking

The Fix: Plan and create your internal linking with a view to improving user experience. Does it make sense to link from X to Y? Does it add value to your user’s experience on the site? Would its purpose be questionable in any way? Let your standard navigation links guide spiders, while contextual linking assists users.

Key Takeaway:
Let your standard navigation and sitemap guide search spiders, while contextual links assist users and improve UX.

Sin # 5: Focusing on Any One Point to the Exclusion Of Others

The Fix: While each if the above Sins and Fixes are important in their own right, it is equally imperative that you combine this information and take a “big picture” view to ensure success. As with all things, a healthy balance is incredibly important.

In Summary

The days of search engine abuse and manipulation are rapidly coming to an end and it is imperative that you focus on value adding activities that benefit users. A solid website that provides true value will naturally attract links and social signals over time – it’s a win win… Good luck!

About the author:
Derek Jansen heads up Search & Social Strategy at Sekari Dubai, a leading SEO firm in the Middle East region. Join Sekari on Facebook for a well curated summary of the latest SEO news, views and opinions.

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