Google, Panda, Penguin and EMD, Oh My!

By Tom Ogg

Last October 25th, 2012 Google unleashed an algorithm update (known as “EMD”) that penalized certain types of sites that had used the very SEO tactics that Google had previously promoted as solid optimization practices. In the aftermath, many websites (about 1.7%) plummeted in SERP and became virtual ghost towns. Unfortunately, I owned a couple of them. While I survived the Google “Panda” and “Penguin” updates, the treatment of “Exact Matching Domains” or the EMD update caught me completely off guard.

It is now almost June 1st, 2013 and I am happy to say that my affected sites have worked their way back to the top of the search results, but not without spending tens of thousands of dollars on SEO specialists and consultants and thousands on Google AdWords advertising to maintain traffic to my sites.

And, Google is just about to release another major update to Panda in a few days that will change SERPs once again and there is another major Penguin update to be launched within 30-days.

Many SEO experts and webpreneurs entrepreneurs have responded to these changes in a negative way. Webmaster forums are usually full of comments that include rants about how unfair Google is being by changing the game on them. And, at first I felt the same way. But, then I remembered how much fun it was to learn how to gain SERP by understanding the subtleties of SEO and enjoying the rewards of doing so. I must say that I am finally feeling this kind of satisfaction on this particular quest and am starting to understand the basics once again. So I thought I would share some of the more important points.

Have a Sense of Humor: I understand that it isn’t any fun to watch your income plummet because Google decided it didn’t like you because of an algorithm update. I have read where some folks went from six-figure incomes to nothing overnight (on October 25th, 2012 to be precise) But, yelling obscenities in forums isn’t going to help the situation and only makes it sound as if you were scamming Google to begin with. Keep a positive attitude and search out others that would rather find a solution than complain about the problem. Have fun with it and encourage folks that you are collaborating with to do the same. After all, it is a game in the end.

Understand Organic Traffic Has Changed: Back when I sold CruiseReviews.com it was supported by organic traffic from the various search engines. No one had ever heard of Facebook, cell phones were used to call people, mobile devices, tablets and other technologies were simply not players in the search game. In fact, the company that purchased CruiseReviews.com was on the cutting edge rolling up review and community sites simply to resell them as the market became established. The tactics that built CruiseReviews.com into the #1 cruise review site on the Internet have changed forever.

And, Organic Traffic is Going to Continue to Change: Google’s refocus on social media “Shares”, “Likes” and interaction with Google’s properties such as YouTube.com, Blogger.com and especially Google+ are all subject to abuse by spammers and it is only time before Google must introduce algorithms to correct this abuse. Who knows what is coming? The only sure thing is that it is coming. Watching technology trends and search results will help everyone understand where it might go from here.

So, if I were going to advise anyone on how to gain SERP, here it is.

Make Sure Your Web Platform is Current: One of the most challenging results of Penguin has been the overnight acceptance of HTML5, .php and .asp platforms. WordPress, as an example, was death for SEO before Penguin, now it is a preferred platform. CMSs are all preferred, as are interactive .php sites. Plain HTML was the preferred platform before Penguin and not so much now. It you lost SERP on October 25th, consider converting your HTML site into a wp site.

Beef up Your Content: It is no longer important to have simply keyword dominance (keyword domain name, links, density and so on) your content must be of a high quality to engage readers. Time on page, time on site, bounce rates and many other factors come into play before keyword dominance. Eliminate duplicate content, or at least tag it so that search engines will not index the page. Think of each page as the most relevant page for the keywords it relates to on the Internet in terms of user experience.

Eliminate “Thin” Content: We have all experienced site where you need to keep clicking on different pages to get to the content you are looking for, or click on several page to read an article, this will now kill you in Google. Having a navigation structure like Cruise> Alaska> Ports> Ketchikan> Shore Excursions> Deadliest Catch> Reviews> Review #1> – with advertising on each page will be seen as “Thin Content” and will cost you dearly in the search engines. Think about what users will respond to and give it to them, as this will increase the metrics Google is looking at.

Get Active in Social Media: Want to make Google happy? Start a Google+ group and promote it to grow it. Use hangouts to engage your circles into using Google more. Google will love you for it. Put videos up on Youtube and start your own YouTube channel. Create a “Fan” page in Facebook. You get the idea.

Content, Content, Content: I keep saying it over and over again. It is all about the quality of content that you share on your site. And, I suspect that if you are sharing quality content and don’t over market it to the search engines that you will do very well in attracting organic traffic.