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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!

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.

16 Responses to “The 5 Deadly SEO Sins in an Age of Penguins & Pandas

    Panda update is fine as this update punish only spam sites whereas penguin update make people to point finger on Google as penguin penalize over work site which mean that anyone can harm your site by doing over work for you

    September 20, 2012

    I would also add one more point and that is to “ignore bad backlinks to your website”. For medium established website, it has became a necessary evil. Clean every shitty links that you either SEO compnay created.

    September 20, 2012

    Hi Derek, This is right Panda and Penguin Google’s latest update for many sites quality and unnatural linking. you can see my web site if any problem with this site please reply me. thanks for this post

    September 20, 2012

    I am no ‘techy’, I spend a fair amount of money each month on SEO so try my best to at least understand what the SEO guys do. This article is easy to read, understand and apply. Really appreciate someone explaining it all in simple terms.

    September 20, 2012

    Pretty much everything you have listed here screams out that your articles must be written naturally, be informative, interesting and helpful for your chosen topic. I don’t disagree with any of the points made, but I still struggle to see how the search engines can truly identify the topic relevancy without primary keywords that indicate exactly what the topic is about.

    Bounce rate for example, why someone might leave is because the search engines pointed the visitor to a website that didn’t have the relevant information for the search conducted. The information could have been very high quality, but if the person that arrived there wasn’t interested in that specific topic they would just leave again.

    Just because a lot of people ‘like’ a page, it doesn’t mean it covers the topic of interest. Especially if webmasters leave the search engines to decipher a topic rather than stating exactly what the topic is; in the title for example.

    September 20, 2012

    Thanks for the info. I’m just starting the SEO of my new site and must admit that I’m liking these changes. It does mean that I can keep my site looking natural, with the visitor in mind, instead of learning all the tricks etc. to target the search engines.
    Special thank you for the tip not to focus on search engines – I will take that to heart.

    September 20, 2012

    Great post. Now I learn much more about the role of Google panda and Google penguin in seo. I will also change my strategy for the other sites of my client accordingly. Thanks for sharing this useful article.

    September 20, 2012

    Thanks for sharing about Panda adaption rules. Your suggestion is good for web site seo.

    September 20, 2012

    the role of Google panda and Google penguin in seo. I will also change my strategy for the other sites of my client accordingly. Thanks for sharing this useful article.

    September 20, 2012

    Great tips and well explained, gone are the days when you could put up any old site do a load of spammy seo and get to page one in google, hopefully now it will be an even playing field for everyone.

    September 20, 2012

    Thanks for the article. We were really hit by the Penguin update. We over optimized our website when developing it – trying to shortcut the SEO system – losing our Google page one rankings over night for a host of keywords. Our business was instantly transported from the High street in a City center – to a back street in a village! Google have now made it very difficult to fool their new SEO algorithms. My advice is ignore the fast track methods to trying to get your website to page one of Google. Rather just ensure your content is regularly updated and interesting to your audience. Try to develop the design of the website and create a good layout with a variety of media – like photographs, video, animations and maybe interactive elements to the website – not just blocks of dull text. Meta tags and Alt tags for images – need to use a variety of keywords which relate to the webpage or image – and not long lists of the same keywords. Create a Blog – and write Blog posts as often as possible – again make these interesting with expert tips or industry news.

    Don’t worry about keyword stuffing your articles – the everyday words you use in your particular sector – will be picked up by Googles LSI bots. This refers to Latent Semantic Indexing – the algorithm Search engines are using to analyse your text. Basically looking for a variety of words relating to the same thing – for instance – rather than just keep repeating the word ‘Design’ using words like creative, create, develop, imaginative, ideas, devise or conceive in our subject article. We do this naturally in our every day speech – so why not in our articles? These words will all point to a similar subject and when read in context are more effective as search engine optimization techniques.

    The main thing we have found is that there is no quick fix anymore. Google are wanting interesting and informative websites to be found on the top pages – it takes much more effort now – but good results and high search rankings can still be achieved.

    September 20, 2012

    Very well written article and you made it very simple to understand. Google wants to be the best in providing content, help Google to provide quality content and Google will help you in delivering good ranking.

    September 21, 2012

    Hi i am considering doing my own SEO work using IBP software however i know nothing at all about SEO, is this product easy to use? any advice please?


    September 21, 2012

    Derek your post has really opened the eyes of those who follow herd instinct in SEO. More than many still focus to bring majority of traffic from search engines. Meta description, meta tags, meta title and bla bla bla has killed the organic way of internet marketing.
    Once again thanks for very informative posts.

    September 22, 2012

    In other words Google is moving towards an algorithm that actually promotes companies that do real company stuff.. :-) and NOT anchor based link building..

    so long small & medium sized businesses… unless they get it… and do it.. :-)

    September 22, 2012

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