Staying Ahead of Google Updates
If you want to cause panic in the life of Internet marketers, just mention Google updates. While Google has been constantly tweaking their search and ranking algorithms since they day the site went online, the past four years have been particularly hard on marketers. Sites that once ranked well for highly competitive keywords have been known to disappear completely from Google’s index overnight, and every new update seems to invoke terror in marketers, as they wonder whether their sites will survive the next shakeup in the search rankings.
If you’re building your sites correctly, none of these Google updates should present a problem for you. The sorts of sites that are generally thrown out after each update are sites that are not regarded as “quality” sites, and most of them have little or no content or perhaps the content that they have is duplicated from elsewhere. In this post, I’ll offer a few tips that might help you build and maintain your site in such a way that the occasional shakeup in the search engine rankings shouldn’t bother you at all. If you’re lucky, you might even see your rankings improve if sites that rank ahead of you fall out of the listings or see their rankings drop as a result of Google updates.
What Google Updates Are About
Google has been quite aggressive in recent years about removing sites from their index that offer little or no content and many of these Google updates reflect that effort. Their thinking is that sites that are content-heavy tend to be the most useful to people using their search engine. That’s not necessarily the case; a few years ago, I had more than a thousand Websites, in various niches, that had little or no content aside from images and links to eBay listings and auctions. These sites performed well; if someone was looking for a Model XYZ Widget, and my site had it for sale, Google would rank the site highly in its listing and people would come to my site, click the link, go to eBay and make the purchase. I’d get a commission from that.
One day, out of the blue, Google decided that sites like that weren’t useful to people using their search engine, due to lack of content. Overnight, tens of thousands of sites that had little to offer but affiliate links pointing to other sites disappeared. Panic set in in the Internet marketing world, as people began to wonder if Google would tolerate any affiliate links or sites that contained them.
It appears that they will, provided that you’re offering good content, and what constitutes “good content” has changed, too. Two or three years ago, you could get away with blog posts of 300-400 words, and perhaps build a site that had four or five pages of that kind of content. It was pretty easy to build these “mini sites” and someone with good typing skills could build a site or even two like that every day. Small mini review sites became quite popular.
You can still build review sites today and get them to rank, but you need to take a different approach. You need lots of content, and you need to trickle it out over time, rather than simply throwing the entire site up all at once. I now strive to make sure that every post I write has at least 1000 words. I also make sure that each post contains a couple of images, as well. I also make a point of writing all of my content myself, rather than getting content from article directories or guest bloggers.
Opinions vary, of course, but today, to be fairly certain of getting your site ranked and keeping it there, you’d best plan on a minimum of 30-50 pages or posts, with each having 1000 words of content. Updating it regularly is a good idea, too.
Two of the things that search engines pay attention to are your bounce rate, which keeps track of the percentage of your visitors who leave your site without looking at any page but the one on which they landed, and the amount of time that visitors spend on your site. That’s why having deep, involving content is important. If you can grab your visitor’s attention and keep it, you’ll be more likely to improve those stats, which can help improve your ranking and help you survive future Google updates.
Good search engine optimization, or SEO, practices can help you stay ranked, as well. The usual rules apply – make sure you use your keyword about 2% of the time in your text, but not much more than that. Make sure there’s at least one instance of your main keyword that’s underlined, one that’s bold, and one that’s italicized on the page. A link containing your keyword to both an internal page on your site and one to an external site will help, too, as will at least one image that contains your keyword in the ALT attribute.
Backlinks from other sites can help you stay ahead of the Google updates, too. If your content is good, people will find your site and will naturally link to it. That’s probably Google’s preference; in an ideal world, all links would occur naturally. Of course, you can also add to that by posting links to your content at such sites as Digg or Stumbleupon or posting links on forums that are related to your site’s topic.
The search engines can tell if your site is getting traffic, and more visitors will improve your rankings, as your site will appear to be more important. Of course, without rankings, how do you get traffic? That’s a vicious circle, but by posting links at a few sites as I mentioned above, you should be able to get a few visitors to your site.
Google Updates Summary
These are just my own thoughts on how to manage and survive Google updates. As always, the search engines are reluctant to make publicly known exactly what they’re looking for, so that people can’t manipulate their sites to please the search engines. In the end, good content, and lots of it, will usually keep you in the good graces of Google and Bing.
Creating good content requires time, effort and practice, though there are a few tools that can help you create content more quickly. If you don’t know where to start and you’re worried about Google updates, you might want to visit Wealthy Affiliate. This is a training site to help people make money online, but the site also includes a helpful user forum, site creation and content creation tools and even free Web hosting. It’s a great place to start, and you can join for free.
Keeping ahead of Google updates requires work, but it’s not impossible. You just need to get started and keep at it.