Google Penguin & PandaIt’s not breaking news Google has been changing things lately.

A lot. About once a month, in fact.

The old ways of optimizing websites and content for search engine optimization are no longer as effective.

Google has changed it up, and today there are new rules we all should follow.

Personally? I think it’s for the better!

The Way We Were

A few years ago, SEO was fairly simple.

If you wanted your website to rank for the term “Atlanta pest control,” you would:

  1. Optimize your website for that term; and
  2. Publish content (articles, news releases, etc.) around the web with links back to your website embedded in those keywords.

The concept and theory was simple. If the links to your web pages were embedded in specific keywords, Google would realize the page on the other end was relevant to that keyword. These contextual cues pushed your pages up higher in the search engine rankings for those keyword terms.

It was so easy — yet in most cases, your competition wasn’t even doing it. Once you knew what to do, it was like unlocking a secret door leading to a room full of qualified customers.

It became easy for businesses to single-handedly push their sites to the top of the search engines — and that defies the original purpose at Google from it’s beginning.

In short, their goal is, and has always been, to display the most relevant, useful, and popular content at the top of the search results. And while the “relevant” part is determined by the content on the page, and the “useful” part is partially determined by the number of links, the “popular” part needs to be determined by people — and that’s what’s driving the changes.

Pandas and Penguins = Big Changes

Links are a “footprint” in a sense. When people are talking about (linking to) information on a webpage, this is an indicator of the “usefulness and popularity” of a page. But because site owners can produce their own content and link back to it, search engines needed a way to determine natural links from self-generated links.

Recent updates to the Google algorithm look for “unnatural” linking profiles. One effective ways to do this was to evaluate the text in which the link was embedded. It’s highly unlikely the majority of a bunch of random people would just so happen to embed your link neatly into a keyword like “Atlanta pest control.”

In fact, continuing to approach your SEO like this could result in penalties from Google for being a “spammy” marketer. I know I’m not the only one who feels panicked at the idea of being blacklisted by Google!

Here are a few things you can do to follow the new SEO rules, correct old content, and ensure new content gets the green light from Google:

1) Edit your old links. If you have existing articles, news releases, and other types of user-generated content you can edit, now is the perfect time to go back to those pieces and change your linking strategy. Use the Google Keyword Tool (or whatever method you prefer) to identify several keywords or phrases you can target. Change the links in these old documents so they are varied. Linking to your website (or each other) using relevant, but different, phrases.

2) Write new content for the reader, not Google. If content wasn’t king before, it most certainly is now that companies such as Coca-Cola and Ben & Jerry’s are embracing the concept of content marketing. What does this mean for you? With millions and millions of pieces of content being published daily, your content needs to stand out! The best way to do this is to speak directly to your reader.

What types of issues are your customers struggling with? What are the most common questions you field every day? Writers who selflessly answer questions, provide free information, and are genuine online are typically the ones who see their influence grow.

3) Link outside the box. Besides the “obvious” places such as directories and article and news release distribution, where else can you publish content and get links back to your site? One solution is exactly what I’ve done here today: Guest blogging. Find blogs that are relevant to your industry or your target audience and get to know the authors. When you have a topic that you think their readers would like, pitch it!

According to a recent article in Search Engine Watch, links from social media platforms such as Twitter, Google+, or Facebook should also play a part in your current link building strategy. These links come from trusted sources and have the potential to be shared with millions of readers. While the direct effect of these links can be difficult to measure, their potential is undeniable.

Producing quality, engaging and share-worthy content is key to online visibility. But, link building is still very relevant when it comes to rankings! How are you using link building strategies to boost your visibility? Have you changed your strategies based on the Google changes?

Tara Geissinger

Tara Geissinger is an SEO and content marketing expert by day and triplet mom by night. As co-owner of the online visibility firm, SEO Content Solutions, and online news release distribution firm, Online PR Media, Tara has helped thousands of businesses get more visibility online. From helping Macy's optimize their product descriptions to working behind-the-scenes with some of the largest SEO and marketing firms in the world, she is one of the best kept secrets in the online marketing niche.

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