Websites are highly valuable assets that can be leveraged to drive business objectives from increasing brand authority to attracting new customers. But how can you effectively compete against the other websites in your industry? It helps to first understand how consumers online typically find information.

A report from Fleishman-Hillard found that 89% of consumers turn to search engines such as Google for purchasing decisions on products, services, and local business information. This figure punctuates the need for a cohesive search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy.

SEO involves optimising a website and engaging in marketing tactics to increase rankings for target keywords. Higher visibility in the search engines ultimately translates to increased targeted traffic and sales. But constant algorithm updates can threaten your rankings.

The goal of these updates is to provide more relevant results.

One update in particular dubbed Penguin had a significant impact and was aimed at decreasing rankings for websites that engaged in shady tactics. This included websites with low quality backlinks and over optimised anchor text. The update essentially made link schemes incredibly risky.

And now new reports indicate that a new version of Penguin may be on the horizon.

Even if the previous update had no impact on rankings, your website is still not completely safe. Conducting comprehensive audits of every aspect is necessary to avoid a ranking penalty. The following are 3 steps to protect your website against the impending update.

1. Follow Webmaster Guidelines

The Webmaster Guidelines from Google is a treasure trove of information. The guidelines even say that not following them “…may lead to a site being removed entirely from the Google index or otherwise impacted by an algorithmic or manual spam action.”

All technical and design guidelines should be followed to ensure your website is search engine friendly. This means:

  • Creating a website with a clear navigation structure
  • Offering a sitemap for users
  • Checking for broken links
  • Avoiding the use of JavaScript or Flash
  • Making use of robots.txt

But these are not the only important aspects.

There are hundreds of SEO factors that ranking algorithms evaluate from loading speed to social signals to determine rankings. Even non-mobile friendly pages will be affected in smartphone search results.

2. Conduct a Content Audit

The most important aspect of the Webmaster Guidelines is the emphasis on creating a website that delivers useful and information-rich content. Quality will always be rewarded in the search results. Spammy or duplicated content rarely provide value and could actually lead to ranking penalties.

Conducting a content audit is a highly beneficial exercise that provides deeper insight. The goal is to assess content quality and address those pages that do not adhere to guidelines. Smaller websites are easier to manage but what about larger ones?

Using Google Analytics gives a far more detailed overview for each page including unique visits and bounce rate. Simply go to Behavior, Site Content, and All Pages:

ga-behavior

Start by evaluating pages with the most traffic or the highest bounce rate. Creating a spreadsheet and scoring each page based on quality will help to track your efforts. Then focus on improving and optimising each page to be more relevant.

Content quality matters and will be even more so with each new algorithm update.

3. Maintain a Clean Link Profile

Backlinks continue to carry a significant amount of weight in terms of rankings. But quality matters more than ever. A link profile riddled with spammy links from irrelevant sources could be harmful for your rankings.

A range of tools are available including Ahrefs that give more detailed insight on backlinks to a website:

ga-behavior

New updates will inevitably put more emphasis on the quality and source of each link. Conducting link audits are a must as spammy links could be affecting rankings. Another important factor is the anchor text (the keywords used in the hyperlink) used.

The days of exact match and keyword heavy anchor text are over.

Pages that have overly optimised anchor text is an indication of unnatural link building. Every effort should be made to remove low quality links and keep profiles natural. Conducting an audit is necessary as spam links could be the source of a ranking penalty or put your website at risk.

Conclusion
SEO still remains a key strategy to drive targeted traffic. But the online landscape has drastically changed. Certain techniques may have worked well in the past but could now get your website penalised in the search results.

Following webmaster guidelines, conducting content audits, and maintaining a clean link profile are crucial steps to protect your website from future algorithm updates. Whether your pages have suffered a ranking penalty or you believe your website may be at risk, we can help.

Contact us today to speak to one of our marketing professionals for a consultation and a comprehensive audit of your website.

Adhering to search guidelines is essential to build a better website that is algorithm proof.

 

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