SEO

3 Post-Penguin Online Marketing Tips for Small Businesses; Focusing on the User!

image0014 3 Post Penguin Online Marketing Tips for Small Businesses; Focusing on the User!April 24th 2012 is a day that will be remembered as the launch of one of the biggest attacks against Webspam by Google’s Search Quality Team: the Penguin Update. Although Google claims that only 3.1% of the search queries were affected, many webmasters believe that this update has caused more damage than the Panda update (which allegedly affected 12% of search queries). With the Penguin Update, Google’s message is clear: it will not tolerate any form of SEO that is not 100% Whitehat. Call it black, grey, blue or pink hat; it all comes down to the same thing for Google: manipulation.

Many small business owners that were hit by this update are now asking: “I lost all my traffic! What now? Is my business ruined?” . The short answer is: not necessarily! Fix your issues, “whiten your hat” and most importantly diversify your sources of traffic. As Matt Cutts stated, Google penalties are NOT forever.  If you fix the underlying issues that are causing problems, there is a good chance that your website will pop back into the rankings when the next update is rolled out.

Let’s talk about traffic diversification for a minute here… if you’re relying entirely on Google to provide you traffic, you have a flawed business model. It’s that simple. Putting all your eggs in the same basket can be a costly business mistake. Depending on your niche, there are several sources of traffic that you can take advantage of; Email Marketing is one of them. Social Media is another one. Do your diligent research and figure out where your potential customers are hanging out. Anyways, that shall be the topic of a whole new blog post!

I decided to write this article to provide some key online marketing tips to the small businesses out there that have been hit by the Penguin Update. If you include these 3 elements in your SEO strategy this year (while avoiding any shady link building in the process), you will not only increase your overall web traffic but ensure that future Google updates are rewarding, not penalizing. Here they are…

Tip #1: Improve your UX

UX stands for User Experience. When you put so many efforts in attracting visitors to your website, the last thing you want is them leaving your site prematurely, either because they didn’t like your content, layout/design or simply because they were confused with your navigation.

Both Google Panda and Penguin updates have been cracking down on websites offering a poor user experience. Remember: with every update, Google’s #1 goal is to please the search users. Google considers that a web page with high bounce rates is not answering the user’s search queries, so it will eventually push it down the rankings!

I recommend you take a look at your Web Analytics stats for the past 2 or 3 months. If you notice high bounce rates on specific pages or a low “pageviews per visitor” ratio, consider revising your content. In some cases, going as far as re-structuring or re-designing your site might be the best option. You want to make sure your website is not dull and boring. Consider including some multimedia content such as videos or infographics.

In the end, you want your bounce rate to be as low as possible and your pageviews per visit to be as high as possible. If you lack ideas on how to improve your UX, you can always take a look at what your Top-10 competitors are doing for some inspiration. Brainstorming with your partners/colleagues is also a great way to ignite the creative fire.

Tip #2: Develop a Long-Term Content Strategy

When it comes to online marketing, your website WILL fail if you’re not providing valuable content on a regular basis. It’s really that simple. Both the Penguin and Panda updates rewarded websites that produced high quality content for their users. You simply cannot go wrong when providing useful content.

image0024 3 Post Penguin Online Marketing Tips for Small Businesses; Focusing on the User!image003 3 Post Penguin Online Marketing Tips for Small Businesses; Focusing on the User!Blogging is a must! However, I have seen too many companies that did have a blog page on their site but when you clicked on it you realized that their latest article is over 6 months old. Not good. Not good at all! At the very minimum, you should be blogging once a week. If your traffic grows and your audience is receptive to your content, consider increasing the frequency to a couple times a week or even daily. There is no secret formula when it comes to blogging frequency; it’s all about A/B testing. Analyze the numbers and adjust accordingly.

Outsourcing your content creation to India for $10 an article is not a good solution either and can actually hurt your company’s reputation. If it was really possible to get quality content for that cheap, everyone would be doing it! It takes time and effort to produce quality articles, but it’s all worth it in the end. Quality articles get Liked, Tweeted and +1′d, giving you extended visibility and SEO benefits. (Social signals are now a big part of search engine ranking algorithms)

Depending on the type of business you’re in, I would also highly recommend creating short videos to support your blog. It can be in the form of short tips, howto’s, product reviews or client testimonials. Make sure you publish your videos on major video social networks like YouTube and Vimeo for additional exposure. People are more likely to consume videos than plain textual content.

Tip #3: Get Social. More Social!

Have you noticed the amount of changes & updates that Google+ has undergone in the past couple of months? This alone should have given you the hint that Social is a big part of Google’s future plans.

image0044 3 Post Penguin Online Marketing Tips for Small Businesses; Focusing on the User!image005 3 Post Penguin Online Marketing Tips for Small Businesses; Focusing on the User!How much does it cost to set up a Google+ business page, a Facebook fan page and a Twitter account? Nothing. That’s the beauty of social media marketing. You can start it all off with zero dollars. However, let’s be honest: if you do want to take it to the next level, you will most likely have to put your hand in your pocket.

Depending on the nature of your business (B2B or B2C) and your target audience, you should be present on at least 2-3 major networks (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or LinkedIn).

Getting social doesn’t just mean opening accounts. It means putting up the efforts to grow and engage a fanbase over the long term. Here are a few SMM tips that can help you build traction:

  • Consider Social Advertising: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn all have their self-serve advertising platforms. The beauty of their advertising models is that you have a variety of targeting options. On Facebook Ads, for instance, you can target users by location, age, sex, marital status, interests and more! This helps you pinpoint your target audience and make sure that every click you’re paying for is coming from a potential customer.  I highly recommend launching an ad that is tied to your fan page instead of your website. This will help you increase your fan count. More fans = more likes/shares = more SEO benefits.
  • Launch Contests/Giveaways: it’s no secret that people love contests and freebies. If you want to make your fans feel special and appreciated, consider launching some contests, quizzes or giveaways every once in a while. This not only increases your engagement rate, but it also helps you retain your fans and minimize “Unlikes”.  Twitter retweet & hashtag contests, for instance, are a great way to generate tons of natural inbound links.
  • Share Useful Content Daily: It’s nice to share your blog posts, articles and company updates, but your shared content doesn’t always have to be your own! In fact, it will eventually hurt you to be too self-promotional. If you come across a fun video or picture that relates to your audience or industry, by all means go ahead and share it! It will generate Likes, +1′s, Shares, Retweets and help you spread your brand name across tons of profiles through the “viral effect”.

Finally, I would like to say that online marketing is no rocket science. It is all about trial & error. Don’t be afraid to try new things (legal things! J). If you fail, learn from your mistakes and try again. If you put in the right amount of effort, you will succeed.

 3 Post Penguin Online Marketing Tips for Small Businesses; Focusing on the User!
Amine Rahal is the founder and CEO of IronMonk Solutions, a Social Media Marketing and SEO Agency that provides complete online marketing services to small and medium businesses worldwide. Amine has been working in the web industry since 1998 and has occupied different senior level roles in small agencies and large-scale organizations across the United States, Canada and China.
 3 Post Penguin Online Marketing Tips for Small Businesses; Focusing on the User!

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26 thoughts on “3 Post-Penguin Online Marketing Tips for Small Businesses; Focusing on the User!

  1. White hat…White hat…White hat!!!!! That’s all people say is White hat!!! What if you do too much white hat is it still white hat? Why don’t someone explain to everyone online what exactly is white hat? Can you please indulge us on white hat link building, please?

    1. Anything that is against the guidelines of a search engine is considered as black hat SEO. Go through the webmaster guidelines as suggested by Nick and you’ll have a fair idea as to what it is.

  2. @ Jerry and Garavi,

    White hat stands for all ethical ways that we should follow for Seach engine marketing. All we need to read is Google marketing guidelines before market any business over the internet. Above blog is lucrative as I liked the #3 – Get more social.

  3. I was amused by this statement – “Twitter retweet & hashtag contests, for instance, are a great way to generate tons of natural inbound links.”

    Isn’t that an oxymoron?

  4. Very well written article. These updates really need to be moved into the algorithms so we don’t have to wait months to see the results of our work.

  5. thanks for the post Amine. great points especially on developing a long term content strategy.

    With your points on publishing videos to major social networks, I think that folks should definitely leverage social platforms and get as much free engagement as possible. The problem is that you’ll mostly be engaging the folks that are already part of your community.

    It’s hard to get scale behind your efforts on these platforms and getting some SEO juice can take a long time.
 It’s worthwhile considering paying a CPC to get your content recommended across most of the leading publications online. That way you are engaging readers on major publisher sites and driving that traffic to your own… there’ll no longer be the question of “where’s my traffic gone?”

    That means you’ll be able to decide on how many people will get to your content on a daily basis, instead of just hoping for it.. You can learn exactly how to do it on this video: https://vimeo.com/40741124

  6. thanks for the post Amine. great points especially on developing a long term content strategy.

    With your points on publishing videos to major social networks, I think that folks should definitely leverage social platforms and get as much free engagement as possible. The problem is that you’ll mostly be engaging the folks that are already part of your community.

    It’s hard to get scale behind your efforts on these platforms and getting some SEO juice can take a long time.
 It’s worthwhile considering paying a CPC to get your content recommended across most of the leading publications online. That way you are engaging readers on major publisher sites and driving that traffic to your own… there’ll no longer be the question of “where’s my traffic gone?”

    That means you’ll be able to decide on how many people will get to your content on a daily basis, instead of just hoping for it.. You can learn exactly how to do it on this video: https://vimeo.com/40741124

  7. ‘if you’re relying entirely on Google to provide you traffic, you have a flawed business model. ”
    Completely agree with this and am constantly telling my clients the same thing. You never want to rely on one source of traffic as it leaves your site vulnerable.

    And for those that are wondering what constitutes white hat SEO, I would start with the Google Webmaster Guidelines and SEO starter guide (http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=35291). This is getting the rules of white hat SEO directly from the horses mouth.

  8. The more I read the more I liked. I have been a long-time supporter of every point this article covered. Great well-rounded advice to small business for a sound Internet marketing strategy.

  9. I just forwarded your post to a client who is panicking because of what the penguin allegedly did to her rankings, traffic and sales… basically, pulled the plug on all of them. But when I look at her site’s content, it simply isn’t giving visitors what they need to make a purchase decision.

    Maybe Google has finally found a way to recognize user-unfriendly websites and give them a wake up call? I find as a web content writer that these days I spent almost as much time educating people about the importance of the user experience as I do on high quality content. One without the other just doesn’t cut it any more. If it ever did.

  10. Thanks for all the comments guys!

    Everyone has their own definition of whitehat. I personally define this way: Acquiring links by providing VALUE.

    It’s really that simple. When you provide valuable content, people will link to you naturally and will share your content on social networks. That is the purest form of SEO/Link Building. Sure it takes a lot of time and effort, but at least you don’t risk getting slapped by future updates.

  11. This whole thing about penguin is crazy. I wonder why a giant like Google should not test their algorithms well before launching it. I am a supporter of quality but we have seen highly reputable sites with professionally written contents being hit.

    If your site gets links which you can’t control, should your site be punished for that? I can hear malicious individuals laughing their heads off since this may be a way to destroy competition.

  12. White Hat Techniques are more important for the success factor of the website because though it time consuming process, but would bear you the results in long term process. In current trend, Social Networking is playing important role in driving more traffic to the website and one has to monitor bounce rate to ensure things are on track.

  13. After the Google Penguin update, one thing we have to consider is to vary anchor text in hyper links. Now, Google hate exact match anchor text in our keyword rich hyper links.

  14. Keeping all your eggs in one basket is accurate when it comes to Google organic search. I recently had a website lose 50 to 75 percent of traffic due to a Google Panda update in April of 2012. I have now started giving out information on Youtube.

    I had already been using Facebook and Twitter. Google + is my next foray, once I test out getting traffic on Youtube.

  15. The Penguin update has penalized a lot of websites that have been put together very artificially by outsourcing content that is thin or keyword stuffed. The practice of buying links for SEO is another thing that has become Black Hat SEO. Many businesses would have spent money on web design that built their ranking on these strategies rather than valuable content and a good user experience. They are now paying for their shortcuts.

  16. To many small and medium business owners, Google is the internet. The idea of spending time on social media, YouTube etc. at the expense of not appearing in the top couple of positions in Google search results is difficult for them to get. From their POV, they are paying for x number of hours of SEO a week and want that to be focused on being #1 in Google.

  17. Maybe in upcoming days only three things would work for SEO. 1> Fresh content for your all sharing 2> Relevancy to your each back links and Brand visibility.

  18. I supported all Google updates till Penguin one because I was thinking they all eliminated the cheaters and appreciated the work of real sites and real people.
    This penquin update damaged the search result quality big time. I know some of you just thinking “ohh another victim of penguin update is complaining”
    Let me give you one example ..I know a company utilizing partial black hat SEO has 4 spots on the first page with a very competitive search terms. 2 Spots they have on organic rankings from the same domain name and 2 spots from Google place (one is a fake location). This site is not an authority in its industry. No decent link backs..

  19. These are awesome tips and I completely agree with you. Think outside the box and leverage those social media sites out there for your benefit. i truly believe that SEO for a site is something you need to work on daily. It’s not something where you wave a magic wand and you’re done. That’s what makes it fun and competitive.

  20. “Outsourcing your content creation to India for $10 an article is not a good solution either and can actually hurt your company’s reputation.” – That’s an incorrect statement. Many Indian writers are awesome and pen your articles with much depth, understanding and mature perspective. Cheaper rates are relative to the fact that their currency is highly depreciated and conversions actually yield to higher rates in local market.

    I do agree with your social media marketing idea. Yes, even if you promote your business on your FB or Twitter account, it definitely attracts lots of customers. I have seen many local businesses booming due to FB announcements – not advertisements!

  21. Google is a joke. They keep changing things to make it harder to achieve high ranking, thus forcing businesses to use their paid advertising. They claim it makes their system better. HogWash! The only thing a business can rely on is having a domain name that people recognize, remember and will type into their browser.

  22. ^^ I feel you @ Drask. I HATE Google. I had a terrific website that was performing well, and Google totally destroyed it. If anything, Panda/Penguin have turned me from a white hat entrepreneur to a black hat one. I mean just look at all the garbage sites ranking. It’s clear that the dark side is the only way left, lol, and I’m not being sarcastic!

  23. I liked your article. It made sense, except for one little part – where you mentioned outsourcing for $10 articles in India was a bad idea. You should never forget that talent exists all over the world. And just because people have an exchange rate that allows them to work for $10, thus making it affordable for them to do so, doesn’t mean that they aren’t good enough for the job. Trust me, I’ve been working online (as freelance article/content/blog writer) for over five years (started out with $1 per blog post) and have had nothing but good reviews from all my clients. We live in a world that is succmbing to globalization.
    Regards!