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Earlier this year, Google’s spam team lowered Google’s own Chrome page’s PageRank with a manual 60-day penalty. The Chrome team had hired a marketing firm to create and place ads for the search king’s browser, but the firm took it one step further and ended up paying bloggers to review the software with one of their bloggers linking back to the Chrome page. Because of Google’s official policy against paid links, an investigation was conducted, and the site was penalized. This shows how serious Matt Cutts, Google’s spam king, is about penalizing black-hat SEO and how good his team is at weeding it out. With that in mind, here are some approaches to keep your site out of Matt’s crosshairs and see rankings soar over the long haul.
Always Be Specific
Whenever you’re working on anything SEO-related, from planning to cross-channel marketing, be as specific as possible. Everything should be clearly defined and thoroughly explained to the point where there’s no ambiguity and everyone involved knows exactly what’s expected of them at each step of the process. This will make each step longer and more intensive, but it will increase the gains seen and make communication easier since everyone will be on the same page and everyone will know the goals, how to measure them, and how to attain them.
How are you going to get somewhere if you don’t know where you’d like to be? Setting goals is another one of those steps that should be used with every aspect of your SEO strategy. Evaluate your current position in rankings and strategy, then analyze that information so you can make informed goals. Use every tool available to collect data that helps you discover where you are in search engine results pages (SERPs), what your link profile looks like, your main referral keywords and the browsing actions of your site’s visitors. Once you have all of this information, determine where you want to be, making sure each goal is SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely). Doing this will put you on the path toward fulfilling your goals more easily.
Because your goals are now SMART, you need to measure everything you’re doing along the way. Use the same tools you used before you set your goals to evaluate how you’re doing in your pursuit of them. Further, keep track of some aspects of your site/strategy you’re not changing so you can perform A/B testing. Perform multiple variations of strategies so you can see what’s working and what isn’t, and so you can gauge how much you need to change to see your desired results.
There are a lot of things to do when you’re optimizing, which can make it tempting to start off small. If you only do one or two things, such as optimizing your meta tags and cleaning up your site navigation, you’re not going to see the kinds of results that make an impression. If you run an online store and want to optimize the landing page for your couture handbags, definitely optimize your tags and navigation, but also put some great content on there, include clear calls to action, put up user reviews, and even go so far as to optimize the alt text for every image you use. The key is: if you’re going to optimize for a keyword or product, go all the way.
It seems like everyone’s talking about producing well-written copy in the wake of Google’s Panda and Fresh updates, but there’s good reason for all the hype. Google’s addition of new cogs into their ranking machine gives you even more opportunities to distinguish your website from the competition. Checking for proper grammar and spelling are simple tasks, but having original, engaging content is more difficult. Doing so, however, will carry many benefits beyond the normal higher rankings via Panda; if your content prompts users to respond, ask questions, share via social media and link to your page, you’ve reaped benefits far beyond your initial investment.