Google’s search results are ranked by a combination of hundreds of different factors that are arranged into an algorithm which is being constantly changed and monitored. Recently, there has been a major update to the algorithm that has sent the SEO world into a spin and that update is named Penguin.
Of course, I have always advocated blogging for business by attracting customers through Google searches naturally rather than employing black hat tactics such as purchasing links. However, I do think the game has changed a little and there are reasons why innocent web designers could get caught up in the crossfire between Google and webspam.
The (un)importance of anchor text and URLs
High up in the ranking factors for websites is the amount and quality of the links pointing to the sites. And, following on from this, the anchor text (the text in the link) is also of extreme importance.
<a href="http://robcubbon.com">This is anchor text!</a>
Another of the ranking factors that is important is the keywords that existed in the actual domain name and URLs of the links. So, if you are searching for “blue widgets”, the site www.bluewidgets.com will have an advantage.
So, it was for these reasons that I advised web designers to consider purchasing a domain with “web design” in the title. I’ve also said that you should try to get links pointing to your site with “web designer [blank]” (where [blank] is the name of the town or area you live in). I no longer believe this is good advice. Or, at least, I don’t think you should try to manipulate anchor text – however much it might help users!
Web designers were uniquely placed to be able to set anchor text as we could add credits to website footers. For example:
<a href="http://robcubbon.com">Web design by Rob Cubbon</a>
I now think this is not a good idea. I now think it’s better to build the link with company name. Google have devalued these footer links anyway.
Web design by <a href="http://robcubbon.com">Rob Cubbon</a>
Where it is possible, vary the anchor text in the links that point to your site as much as possible.
This update has only affected 3% of searches so it’s not a big deal. However, I don’t think it hurts to note what practices have been hit in this update. So here’s a list of don’t's:
- Don’t buy links! I know this should be obvious but I thought I’d put it in here anyway!
- Don’t comment spam! Don’t put keywords in where your name should go when commenting on blogs. (If anyone does that here, I delete them. )
- Don’t have lots of links back to your site with the same anchor text! This is what Google has really penalized.
If you’re interested in this there is a great article here by Glenn Gabe on the effect of this Penguin update and what to expect in the future.
Remember what we’re here for
Create content and articles that are useful to the end user rather than written for a search engine. That goes for the content on your sites as well as the content you create on other sites, social networks, web 2.0 sites, everywhere.
We are doing what we’re doing because we love doing it! The most important thing is to create great websites. Always spend more time on creation rather than promotion. And be happy!
What you can do
Take a look in your Google Analytics or web stats package. Can you see a reduction in organic traffic on April 24th? If you can it means you’ve fallen victim to a Penguin attack. Use Open Site Explorer to check the incoming links and their anchor text. See if you can change or kill any inbound links that look spammy.