I hear a lot of webmasters complain day in and day out about all the changes that Google constantly makes to its algorithm and how they affect our search engine placement.
Let me break it to you: it’s not all about what Google has done and will do to update its algorithm.
It’s about what you SHOULD BE doing.
I am sure we all can agree that Google’s ultimate goal is to help people find the most relevant and highest quality sites in Google’s search results (whether they are any good at it is not the question). They are not putting out all these updates just to mess with you.
So what do I think you should be doing to show Google you mean business and deserve higher rankings?
1. Ask Yourself the Right Questions
As per Amit Singhal, one of Google engineers, these are the question we should be asking ourselves when writing high-quality content for our sites:
- Would you trust the information presented in this article?
- Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
- Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
- Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
- Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
- Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
- Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
- Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
- How much quality control is done on content?
- Does the article describe both sides of a story?
- Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
- Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
- Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
- For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?
- Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
- Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
- Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
- Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
- Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
- Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
- Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
- Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?
- Would users complain when they see pages from this site?
2. Watch Your Ad Balance
On that list is: “Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?”
Who defines “excessive” or “interfering”?
Let’s take a look at this example:
If we take a look at their above-fold content, we see three sections with Google Adsense. Are they excessive? Yes, in my opinion. Do they interfere with the content? I’d say so.
At the recent PubCon in Las Vegas, Matt Cutts addressed the issue of possibly penalizing ad-heavy pages:
If you have ads obscuring your content, you might want to think about it… Do they see content or something else that’s distracting or annoying?
And that they’re testing algorithms that determine…
What are the things that really matter, how much content is above the fold.
Speaking of PubCon…
3. Google Says, We Listen
Once again, it doesn’t matter whether we agree with all the changes Google constantly makes or not. They’ll do it anyway, right?
However, if we listen closely enough, we’ll have all the knowledge we need to build a site that Google loves.
So here’s what Google had to say at PubCon:
1. Google is getting better at communicating with webmasters.
2. Mobile and social are the future.
3. Google is getting better at understanding more of the content that resides on a page – specifically how much content is above the fold.
4. If you have too many ads (not specified as AdSense ads, mind you) that distract from the content, you may have problems.
5. Better understanding of page factors that improve quality is a focus of Google.
6. Layout of the page will matter even more in the future.
7. People using Google Voice and Siri still go to Google when those things fail.
8. Google might roll out some kind of replacement for the “+” operator which was recently changed (in favor of Google+ Direct Connect, as we now know).
9. Google might start communicating with webmasters about certain software being out of date the way they do with WordPress.
11. Google suggests telling Google when you publish content using email alerts and set up pubsubhubbub in Webmaster Tools to help them better see that you publish the content before scrapers scrape it. (Ana’s note: tried to figure out what they are talking about; not-techie enough for that.
12. Doorway pages are a bad idea.
13. High quality content is something you can send to a child and they can learn something from.
14. Google says Panda has been a positive change across all of its known measurements, but they acknowledge that no algorithm is perfect, and encourage webmasters to report issues.
15. Google has an excel sheet of 500 sites from a thread in Google Webmaster Help Forum (presumably the one discussed here).
16. There is a person responsible for false positives.
17. Google says that while they don’t care about brands, per se, there is something about brands that users associate with relevance.
18. Google has spam fighters in 40 languages.
19. Google says you should expect search to become more personal in the coming months.
20. Google will not back off on SSL, but might move forward on it.
21. Links obtained by using press releases are only helpful when people pick them up and create their own stories from them.
22. As Google focus on quality, who wrote it (authorship) and who their friends are (social) are main focuses.
23. Google tries to remove parts of sites that are spamming. Sometimes action is taken on the entire site. Google says it reserves the right to cut parts of sites.
24. When asked about Google not tracking keywords in analytics, and why they’re not providing more detailed query data in Webmaster Tools due to the SSL feature, Google says you can get the top 1,000 queries and 96% of sites get all queries . To give it to the other 4%, would increase their data storage by 4 times. They are looking to upgrade it via download or APIs.
4. Social is the Future
I am sure you’ve heard it before, but it’s time to take it to heart: who and how many people you know online matters!
Notice what Google said at PubCon:
As Google focus on quality, who wrote it (authorship) and who their friends are (social) are main focuses.
How does social come into play?
It’s becoming more and more obvious as Google Plus is claiming its fair share (and then some) of social media.
Let me give you an example.
I was doing some work for a client who was trying to rank for a highly competitive term “start a small business“.
I started by simply googling the term to see who was listed on the first page.
Lo and behold, my friend Gail Gardner of GrowMap.com was right there at the top along with established sites like SBA.gov and Entrepreneur.com!
Why did I see her listed there?
Since Gail and I are connected through every imaginable social network out there, Google decided that showing her listing for the keyword I was searching for might be more relevant TO ME.
As you probably have guessed, in actuality Gail’s blog post is not listed anywhere close to the first page for this particular keyword…
Tip: if you want to see the most accurate Google rankings, use Google Incognito.
Bottom line: who your friends are matters and here’s where you can learn more about how your social media reach influences your Google rankings and what you can do about it.
We all want higher search engine rankings.
However, we need to show Google we deserve them first.
If your site doesn’t look like what Google might consider a “quality site”, if you lack social activity (comments, social media sharing), backlinks, if you are trying to make a quick buck by overwhelming your readers with ads, what do you expect?
When Google talks, we listen.