When you start a blog or website, you’re eager to have it become successful quickly and gain as many followers as possible. You will see lots of advice on the web about gaining followers. Some are good tips, others offer a chance to buy followers and some steer you in other disreputable methods of getting more traffic. Well, there is a force out there that wants a clean and honest internet and it’s in a position to punish blogs and websites and limit your traffic. It’s Google and they have some rules you really need to follow. The good news is that if you do, you will have the giant behind you, helping you succeed.
My first problem with Google was adding Google ads to my new blog a few years ago. I was delighted to see that I had about $250 in click thrus within the first week. I was so excited that when I received the email telling my account was being suspended, and the money would be returned to advertisers, I felt my heart go BING!
I looked around the site map to see who I could contact to find out why my dream had been squashed so quickly. Finding the appropriate link to appeal the decision, I asked why this had happened, and what could be done to fix it. A short while later, I received another email, telling me that my appeal was denied. That was the last word on the subject. It was almost biblical in its finality as I was banned from Adsense for LIFE!
I learned later that a friend of mine was “helping” me out by clicking on every ad that came up, at least twelve times, over one-hundred times a day. As we all know from site analytics… Google analytics… it was obvious that the clicks were coming from the same city, and probably Google technicians found it was all from the same IP address. Indirectly, I was responsible, so my head rolled on the ground.
Other forays into Google certification were quickly denied, and I knew I was a marked man. I was a bit worried about that, but being the hot head I am, I rationalized the hit as not being big enough to affect my life on the web. What a fool I am!
When Will I Learn?
A few months ago, a client of mine requested I write an article about how Google had bought a huge supply of stock images for Google Drive from one of the largest stock houses, and while the article was focused on bashing the stock house for paying ridiculous buy outs to the copyright owners of the images, the name “Google” appeared in the article.
I suppose it didn’t help to use the overly-hurtful descriptor, “using creative bodies as stepping stones in a murky, muddy swamp of fecal-strewn urine pools,” when describing the debacle the stock house had caused. I may not have pointed it at Google, but they were involved, so I was stepping on the wrong toes.
It was about a month later that my client called me in tears. I could only pick up a few words between sobs.“Google… search, SEO… cut… lower ranking… limited reach… SOB!”
It wasn’t until, out of curiosity, I did a search of my name, and was shocked to see that the usual return of over six-million was now down below nine-thousand. YAHOO! I did it again.
They always say that you shouldn’t engage in flame wars with people because everything you put on the web stays there forever, for all to see. Any bad thing you post, is there to haunt you. Your old MySpace page is still there years after you’ve long forgotten your username and password, and you can’t get it reset because your email account from those days is gone and no password reset can ever reach you.
Commenting on an article may come back to bite you in the rear, really hard when a prospective employer searches your name, and finds you have said negative things about his/her son-in-law, or best customer. Even the smallest slight is a bad idea. No matter what industry you are in, no matter how low on the ladder or how high, the web is an unforgiving place. The digital world makes billionaires, and bankrupts others. Most people know these simple rules. It’s the new rules of internet conduct that must be learned to run a successful blog or website.
Google Panda 4.0: Web Savior or Digital Bully?
Panda 4.0 is not exactly new, having been around since 2011, which is eons in internet time, and after about two dozen updates, it has become a beacon for search ranking, but to some, it’s the classroom snitch, just waiting to ruin things for websites sitting quietly in the digital schoolroom.
Oddly enough, in keeping with an “old west theme,” the terms for clean and dirty SEO practices are known as “White Hat” and “Black Hat” SEO. Black hat SEO is best defined as anything that is meant to please search engines first, and human readers or visitors second. Examples of commonly used black hat SEO techniques would include invisible keyword text, keyword stuffing, and heavy link usage. Panda is out to eliminate these practices.
White hat SEO techniques are, allegedly, the opposite practice. These techniques can be aimed at both search engines, and human readers. White hat SEO relies upon original content. Some who write about white hat SEO refer to this original content as “well-researched” and “immensely readable.” What exactly does that mean and what are the parameters of research that keeps your site with a white hat, and keeps you from being flagged by Google?
While it is generally agreed that Google’s Panda updates shocked the world of SEO, causing site owners to change the practice of link-building and keyword-based efforts for a “focus on quality content.” But, can there be “well-researched” and “quality content” without giving credit where credit is due by linking back to the sources of that research? Are those links considered “weak” or “black hat?”
The most frightening thing to many is the threat of “penalties” from Google Panda.
“What penalties?” asked one commenter on an article about Panda. “Is this financial, or will Google try to wipe sites from the internet?”
Some web owners are reporting that they have received messages that threaten, “to avoid Google penalty simply remove ALL links to (website name) from your site.”
The penalties named in these emails, it seems, may only be a scam from people who are either competitors looking to knock down another site’s SEO through the use of links, or from people who are looking to sell you SEO services in light of the new “Panda 4.0 rules and regulations.”
Always check out the source of any message you may receive regarding the breaking of Panda 4.0 rules, just as one would ignore the emails about millions of dollars for a bank transfer from dead Nigerian royalty.
Google Wants to Clean Up the Web
It’s no secret that Google wields great power as a top search engine. After the competitor Bing started advertising about the superiority of their searches vs. Google, some thought there would be a digital mob war with binary bodies turning up in web rivers and fields. Like it or not, Google knows their stuff and if Panda has become the new standard for proper web ethics, you will need to play by their rules to survive.
Naysayers of Panda may be those who develop their sites on the fringe of professionalism, or are just cheap and won’t or can’t hire the proper content creators, social media managers and web designers/developers. So, will the new rules limit businesses who can safely and effectively have a proper web site?
Panda has dropped some site’s rankings by half or more overnight. To stay on the straight and narrow, no matter what your business is, your site should strive to adhere to these new guidelines:
- Keep your content original and helpful to readers, rather than advertorials for your services. Many businesses desire ads for themselves written as content and posted on other industry-specific sites.
- This is also meant to kill off “content mills.” These are the sites that offer blocks of articles you can purchase for your site, rather than paying for original content.
The con of this rule is: Independent authors often count on reprint fees for their articles, hoping one article can be reprinted several times on different sites. Panda may lower the income potential of freelance content creators.
- The loss of content mills leaves smaller businesses without content for their sites. Does repeat content really negatively impact the web and society?
- Will your site’s RSS feed become illegal in Panda’s eyes? Some sites rely on their RSS feed to improve their traffic.
Duplicating Pages for Targeted Keywords
- Some sites use duplicate pages to spotlight one keyword (New York West Side Hotel). Panda wants to thin these out.
The con of this rule is: Some sites are specific and content about different New York West Side Hotels may be their specialty. If THAT is what you want, will Panda reduce your choices of content?
High Ad to Content Ratio
Throw a few articles in with a whole bunch of ads and people who search out that content will see all of your ads, increasing click thrus, right? That’s something Panda wants to prevent. There isn’t really a con to that rule unless you want to see a bunch of ads for skateboards or such.
Empty Web Pages
- An older and multi page site can end up with a lot of empty pages (404), usually from bad maintenance of internal search functions as well as the use of keywords that aren’t tied to actual content. Panda is on the lookout for such pages and ready to slap the site owner with penalties for such problems.
The con of this rule is: If this is just accidental, you need to learn to clean up your site. Panda won’t be as kind as your mother was when you kept a messy room!
- There are people who buy Twitter and Facebook followers and those who purchase inbound links, using money to replace quality content for search results. Panda makes these a prime target. Google, as with any search engine, doesn’t like to be fooled and if you try it, prepare to face the wrath of Panda!
There are no cons to this practice.
An Honest Internet
It all seems fairly clear — Google wants an honest web where the best of the best comes to the top of search engines and better ranking cannot be bought or stolen. Still, people have their concerns, mostly about making a mistake and receiving Panda penalties and losing search results. Here’s some comments from several articles about the new Panda SEO:
“It’s got to be more than that! My website has 2,200+ pages of original content written by experts, minimal ads (in a narrow right column), NO duplicate pages, NO purchased links, NO empty pages. But, still, Panda took my traffic from 22,000 visitors on a good day to 8,000 on a good day. Killing my revenue and losing me my expert contributors. Doing everything I can, but NOT recovering. VERY discouraging!”
“I’m always confused of what counts as a purchased link. If you pay a writer to write a guest post on another website, is that a paid link, especially since without the payment you might not have gotten a link? What about sites that actually charge you to have a guest post on their site, or to have links in their guest post? It seems with that situation, the one who gets the link gets penalized instead of the one collecting the revenue.”
“So cute, so furry, so deadly. Why can’t they just call it Piranha or something? I’ll never look at bamboo shoots the same way.”
“Panda is Google’s attempt to apply machine learning to determine the quality of content.”
“This isn’t just good for Google’s SERP quality, it’s good for users too. The only ones that really need to worry are the people that try and game the system.”
“I’ve found it’s best to focus on increasing other traffic methods, and not to rely on SEO. In my opinion, referral traffic and social traffic are much more reliable and sustainable than SEO. Any traffic method which make you lose all your hard work, is like building your house on sand. You need a solid base, and focusing purely on SEO is not it. However, you still need to ensure you have quality content, and that your site content comply to the basic SEO rules. If you use WordPress, install a SEO plugin for the basic SEO to be in place.”
“It seems to me that the best way to stay in Google’s good graces is to build and manage your website as if Google didn’t exist.”
With all of this in mind, it will be interesting to see how certain aggregator sites fair with content drawn from other sources. As for your site, keep it clean, fresh, content rich, and watch those links.
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