How to Prepare For Google’s Summer Algorithm Plans

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How to Prepare For Google’s Summer Algorithm Plans

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On Monday, May 13, 2013, Matt Cutts released a very interesting video to the Google Webmaster Help YouTube channel. The video, titled What should we expect in the next few months in terms of SEO for Google?, covered a lot of ground, including upcoming changes to Penguin, Panda, SERP clustering, hacked sites, and Author Authority.

Give a look to the video for yourself below:

With so many areas being affected, let’s look at the best ways for you to insulate against the upcoming changes.

Audit Your Links

The original Google Penguin update hammered sites that had aggressively built links in the past. Most of those websites have not yet recovered, and some of them never will. By labeling the next major update as Penguin 2.0, Matt is purposely refusing to split hairs. This has the look of a significant upheaval for anyone still trying to game the system with any link they can get. He alludes to going “a little deeper” and it “having a little more impact.” Don’t let the word “little” fool you – this is “a little” deeper than something that caused ripples across the internet.

Paid link schemes are clearly a target for the next round. Google showed a modicum of constraint in the first wave by only penalizing obvious schemes such as BuildMyRank (recently renamed as HP Backlinks).

Now, they have had over a year to root out anyone else playing the same game. Common sense suggests that they will set their sights on a much wider range of paid link services this go around.

The smart webmaster is pausing any paid link acquisition efforts and doing a detailed audit of their existing link inventory.

Will this slow momentum? Yes, temporarily.

But will it help avoid further headaches? Probably, but it’s best to be safe.

Most of all, hold your SEO provider’s feet to the fire. If you don’t already know how they are acquiring links on your behalf, have them share and defend their link acquisition strategy. Be sure you are both comfortable that this strategy is in line with white hat SEO practices and Google’s quality guidelines. As Matt says in the video, the best way to avoid penalty is to play by the rules.

Get Off Spammy Directories and Blog Networks

Although it was not overtly stated, we can be pretty certain that Google will penalize or deindex more blog networks and low quality directories. This is not a tidal wave you want to be caught up in. Keep in mind that this piece of the original update was a manual penalty. I don’t know how long they had been working on it before it went live, but we do know that they have now had at least 13 months to identify additional sites to penalize.

When auditing your links, pay special attention to directories and blog networks. Start the process of removing links from low authority, spammy sites that have no vetting process at time of submission.

If you find one that charges a fee for being listed but has no approval process, move them to the top of the list for removal request, and later disavow if needed. This is the exact profile that Google went after last April.

Change Your Link Building Practices

With Penguin 2.0 looking like a very big deal, force the issue on link building practices today. As Matt advises, follow the rules and you should be fine. We have seen many columns about Link Earning rather than Link Building. This approach takes much more effort and time, but it also insulates you against surprises such as a major slap from Google.

Once your domain is penalized, it is likely too late. The best course of action is to avoid it altogether.

Embrace Quality Content Marketing

The backbone of Link Earning is a hot topic today: Content Marketing.

Yes, you need site authority. But that is nowhere near the end of the story. Google is extending authority to authors and even publishers, both of which go beyond the website to the entity.

In preparing to kick off a content campaign, be sure to have the necessary markup in place to establish yourself as an author or publisher.

When starting to generate original content, hold yourself to the highest standards. Look at what keywords might drive good traffic. Take time to brainstorm high interest and engaging topics.

Write with passion and tell a story. Make us want to read your work!

If you replace old school link building with content marketing, there are multiple benefits.

  1. Avoidance of penalties and surprises.
  2. Increase in the number of pages indexed with the search engines.
  3. Rapid expanded keyword coverage, which will increase search queries for which you will earn impressions.
  4. You establish yourself and your brand as experts in your chosen topic or field.

Clean Up Any Existing Problems

Just to be safe, be sure you are aware of any problems on your site that need to be addressed. Google never outlines every single detail of their algorithm updates and penalties in advance. The safe way to go is to get everything in order before the updates hit.

Review every section of your Google Webmaster Tools account. If there are issues, take care of them now just to be safe.

  • How many pages are indexed?
  • Is your XML sitemap working right?
  • How many crawl errors are the spiders logging?
  • What keywords are you ranking for now?
  • Who links to you? Are they relevant and reputable?
  • What content is receiving these links?
  • Is your page load time and overall site performance acceptable?
  • Is there a list of HTML improvements that you should be fixing?

These are problems we should all be addressing anyway. It never hurts to have the technical SEO aspects all in order. This shows the search engines that you take your site, it’s code, and the overall performance seriously.


Matt mentions multiple times in the video that this could be an interesting summer for black hat SEO practitioners. In other words, time is very short. For those of us with years of effort in fringe or questionable SEO efforts, it may already be too late to remediate. For everyone else, get it in order before problems hit you. As we have seen with many of these algorithm updates and penalties in the past, digging your way back out of the sandbox is slow, cumbersome, and often ineffective.

Tommy Landry
Tommy Landry has 20 years of experience, with a deep understanding of Social SEO and Online Demand Generation. Operating out of Austin, TX, he consults with clients of all sizes to improve their website performance and lead flow via his company, Return On Now. Find him on Twitter: @tommy_landry.
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  • Jamie Anderson

    Hey Tommy,

    I agree with you about the link earning. If there was ever a time to let go of the dated, spammy link building techniques it’s definitely now.

    • Tommy Landry

      Thanks Jamie. I have always been a fan of doing this the right way, and now Google leaves very little choice. Return On Now has landed a list of clients who have been burned by old school link building, so the problem is rampant.

  • Travis B.

    The one thing that always gets to me in these articles is the part about creating great content. Even if you make the best article in the world, nobody is going to know about it if you do not promote it, unless you already have fans and followers.

    How is a new website supposed to gain traction if they should not build links to content? It seems to me that the Google updates are just making it even harder for small businesses to gain traction solely through SEO.

    Am I just looking at this the wrong way?

    • Carmen Rane Hudson

      Quality links would never be a problem. If the link is really relevant you’ll get organic traffic from that link regardless of what Google is doing. But I don’t think Google is going to target anything high-quality, like guest posts.

      • Tommy Landry

        Completely agree with Carmen. If you are resource constrained, focus your content marketing efforts off site (e.g. guest posts or syndication of original content from your own blog) or find a good and efficient way to repurpose content into other formats. You can get a lot of run from a single concept, if you just take a creative approach and go get it.

  • Deepanker

    Now we have to take care of SEO more than content creation 🙁 I hate it

    • Tommy Landry

      Hi Depanker,

      Yes, Google is certainly complicating the situation as we go. That said, I see the direction really starting to make a difference. Our own services are all white hat and heavily dependent on great content, which is the crux of any reputable SEO campaign.

      Black Hat still works sometimes, but the clock is ticking on them. Play it straight and you’ll come out on top in the end.

      Thanks for the comment,

  • Sahil

    Its very important to have a great site in terms of design & usability, to have a clean link profile (no spam links), stop building links and to start earning them (even social media shares are links/votes) and to have a great content strategy that will be of great help to the users in the niche. If all this is followed consistently Google will love the site, elevate it in the search rankings and more importantly starts trusting the site to make it an authority and reputable.

    • Tommy Landry

      Agree completely with one caveat – the quality of the content actually matters even more than the content strategy, When executed in tandem, coupled with all the items you listed, the only thing left to fail on is technical and performance. Thanks for the comment.

  • jossef

    I think the answer of today SEO is not focusing in SEO at all, for example if you are a blogger it is better to focus on the content, the quality of posts you are writing. writing content that force readers to share your content and link to your content. Then finding where your niche readers hangout, and trying to place a link there not for SEO but to attract those readers to your blog to read your content.

  • trofo

    The only new thing that I’m seeing is the author authority. All other tips/strategies are in the webmasters guidelines ever since it was published.

    Bottom line is: create quality content that users what to share, bookmark and come back to.

    • Tommy Landry

      Yes, much of this is standard, but people keep getting burned. I believe that the repetition of “be responsible” and “Follow the guidelines” is starting to sink in more widely. The Q&A we are seeing in business development discussions are much more insightful of late, which is encouraging. Thanks for the comment.

  • Sumit Dass


    Such a great post..

    yes know i prepare to this algorithm changing
    thanks for sharing tommy landry

    • Tommy Landry

      Very glad you found it useful and informative! There are multiple algorithm changes at play, so you really need to get the entire site in order ideally.

  • Shania Brendon

    Its all about bringing our posts to the people which is not an easy task for the small companies, lets wait and watch what other things Google bring in.

    • Tommy Landry

      Hi Shania,

      Completely feel your pain with the small business concerns. We work with companies of all sizes, and aside from the obvious “big brand” concerns, there is still ample opportunity for smaller outfits if managed properly.

      Here are some tips we pulled together back in April on exactly this topic. The post remains relevant even with the upcoming changes from Google:

      I hope that helps,

  • Stephen Moyers

    Hi Tommy! I’ve gone through your post and must say that it’s really helpful, easy to understand and essential to know for every webmasters that what is happening with Google and how you should design your SEO campaign & digital marketing strategy. I agree that sometimes small companies or small brands suffers a lot due to this algorithm changes but what I personally feel the formula of success is just produce the great sharable content to your site, have clean navigation, avoid stuffing of keywords, link back to reputed sites related to your niche, have social media presence for your brand and engage with your customers socially and design your site for end users not for search engine bots as day by day Google is refining it’s results in such a way that it would be more helpful to users.

    Though this is a long term practice but I am sure that after following this you need not to worry about being penalized by any algorithm change or any data refreshes.

    Thanks again for such a great post Tommy.


    • Tommy Landry

      That pretty much sums up what you need to do to be a White Hat SEO, that plus earning quality links from sites in your niche. Thanks for the comment, and best of luck in the SERPs!