Editor’s Note: SEO is an everchanging field, which is why we update our beginner’s SEO guide every year. Check out this guide to learn more about what works in SEO today.
For many people, ranking in Google was a lot easier a few years ago. There were many SEO tricks that could get your site on the first page of Google quickly. These SEO tricks worked great until Google changed the rules, beginning with Panda in February 2011, and followed by Penguin in April 2012. So, what works now, post-Panda and post-Penguin?
This article will cover some of the popular old methods as well as what you need to know to succeed with your SEO initiative today.
SEO Tricks from Years Gone By
Paid Blog Networks
Wouldn’t it be great if there were an easy way to automate posting hundreds of high-quality backlinks per month? A few years ago, several groups formed blog networks (Build My Rank, Linkvana, etc.) to meet this demand. Some blog networks even supplied the writers, so you could place your order and they’d take care of the writing and post it to blogs across the Internet.
For a few years, many website owners used blog networks to easily post content to many sites for backlinks. They worked so well at improving rankings, that Google took action to kill their effectiveness and prevent search engine ranking manipulation. In March 2012, Google took action against blog networks and removed some of the major networks from their search index. At that point, those blog network backlinks became suddenly worthless.
As a result of this, some websites lost thousands of backlinks overnight and their search engine rankings on Google plummeted.
Link spam, also known as spamdexing, is a deliberate attempt to influence search engines. There are several different methods used, and all of them are considered to be black-hat and should be avoided. Some examples of these are:
Spun content is a method typically used to create backlinks by taking unique content and changing certain words, sentences, and even paragraphs, to create a new version. By rewriting existing content and replacing elements, an article spinner is able to get a certain percentage of unique content.
This method was used extensively by black-hat SEOs for years. Unfortunately, much of the content that was created using this method had terrible grammar and in most cases was simply unreadable. Since Google realized this was becoming a real problem, it is believed that grammar checking is now used as a signal for ranking.
Once cheap SEO providers realized that they could use spun content to create link spam, it was only a matter of time until link wheels became a tool in their arsenal. Link wheels are a pattern of links created to help promote the rankings of a website. They are typically used with a mixture of links that funnel their link juice to a single page.
There are good indications that Google is getting more adept every day at recognizing link wheel schemes. Many methods that used to rank sites using link wheels have been abandoned and new methods are being created to take their place.
Automated Blog Commenting and Forum Posting
Automated blog commenting and forum posting was a favorite technique of black-hat SEOs for quite some time. Several tools popped up on the market to help people get large numbers of low-quality links quickly. The problem is that these comments were typically generic and provided little to no benefit to the conversation. Google has not only devalued the quality of these links, but also has lowered the ranking of sites that have them.
Google Panda was first introduced in February 2011. The goal was to remove low quality and thin sites with poor or duplicate content from Google’s index. Google Panda was said to have affected around 12% of search engine results.
Google Panda was designed to fight problems with content scraping and copyright infringement that allowed sites to get higher rankings without having original content. The Panda algorithm has received many updates since it was initially rolled out as Google continues to refine the algorithm.
Google Penguin was released on April 24, 2012. While Google Panda was designed to remove websites from the index that had poor or thin content, Penguin targeted websites that had achieved their rankings by manipulative link building techniques.
Black-hat methods such as link schemes, duplicate content, keyword stuffing, and cloaking were addressed.
Google has said that Penguin affected 3.1% of websites in English and about 3% in other languages. Penguin 1.1 was introduced on May 25, 2012 and another update, Penguin 3, was introduced on October 5th of 2012.
As Google continues to refine their algorithms, it’s doubtful that the old methods of ranking (above) will continue to work for long.
Most of the time when a site gets hit by Penguin, a bad link profile is the culprit. Have an SEO professional do a backlink analysis (or do it yourself) to figure out which sites are providing your inbound links, as well as which ones may be hurting your rankings.
What Works Now
Now that Google Panda and Penguin have been released, Google search engine rankings will never be the same. The old methods won’t be reliable in the future. While some of these methods may still work, Google is continuing to update its algorithms.
Here are some white-hat methods that professional SEOs are using to get sites to rank today:
Guest posting has become more popular since Google made these changes. It’s basically when an author is allowed to write content on another person or company’s website. Guest posting can be a great way to get traffic and backlinks.
Unfortunately, some unscrupulous people often try to post low-quality content as guest posts. In most cases, the website owner rejects low-quality content as it may endanger their website and incur the wrath of Panda.
Your best choice is to write extremely high-quality content that will have readers follow the links to your site after reading the article.
- Make guest blogging a regular part of your daily routine; don’t just do one and think you’re done. As readers continue to read your guest posts, your level of trust with them will grow and they will be more likely to follow the link to your site.
- Take the time to read the site before submitting a guest post and match the writing style. Also, make sure the site doesn’t already have articles written on the same topic.
- Participate on the site before posting. This may sound like a simple suggestion, but in reality few people do it.
Most of us use social media on a daily basis, but are we utilizing it in the best ways for our brand? Social media marketing is the process of gaining traffic and attention through social media sites.
It can be a great opportunity to build trust if used properly. Please keep in mind that social media should be used fundamentally to help people and not as a way to directly market your products.
- Make the most of your social media: post high quality, interesting content that people will want to share.
- Create a hook in at least some of your posts to keep your readers interested.
- Educate your readers. The more you can teach them, the better. This is not a place to “sell” your brand.
Content marketing has become a buzzword in the past year, but what does it mean? In short, content marketing is communicating with your current and future customers without trying to promote your products.
It’s a method of helping your customers by teaching instead of selling. It could also be a great way to improve trust and loyalty. Think of this as an umbrella term, which covers several types of content: articles, blogging, social media, videos, images, infographics, eBooks, and more.
- Create compelling content that will be shared.
- Be careful when you promote your brand. Instead of advertising, create interesting pieces that teach.
- Use a narrative voice whenever possible.
- A great story can create readership and promote sharing. Use it often.
There are many steps to a successful SEO campaign. As long as you’re not still practicing the old methods and have embraced the evolution and changes within the SEO industry, work hard and smart and your SEO initiative will yield the positive ROI you’re looking for.
Panda photo courtesy of Kevin Dooley
Infographic courtesy of Krzysztof Urbanowicz