Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: How Google Views Your Website

We've been writing about Google's new algorithm for a few weeks now, and for good reason: the algorithm is dramatically changing the search landscape. The new algorithm is also making the work of SEO specialists even more complex and challenging. For the best SEO specialists, this is good news. Google's evolving algorithm has always compelled websites to offer relevant, high-quality information and seamless designs, and the best websites, no doubt advised by the best SEO specialists, have responded with a world of fascinating content.

For sub-standard websites with sub-standard SEO specialists, however, the new algorithm is bad news. With each algorithm update, in fact, Google has endeavored to separate what is useful from what is worthless or harmful. As we noted in a prior blog, "Why Only Organic Website Optimization Works," with its latest algorithm update, Google Penguin, Google attempted to limit the rankings of "Black Hat" websites that violate Google's Webmaster Guidelines as well as other manipulative or spam-ridden sites. 

When Google Penguin was introduced, Google proved, more then ever, that its main objective was to offer its users only high-quality content. Now, with its newest algorithm update, Google seems to have struck a fatal blow to, well, bad websites.

What do we mean by bad websites? If you're a business owner you probably assume that your site is good, and for most websites owner this is true. Still, it's important to clarify exactly what we--or Google--might mean by a "bad" or "good" website.

First, the "ugliest" websites use Black Hat SEO to break the rules. For more information about the "rules," here is a handy article from "10 Google Dont's: SEO Tricks You Should Avoid. But beyond the obviously dirty tricks, other not so apparent problems can lead your website to the land of the "bad."

A recent article on the Forbes website, for example, noted how Google's new algorithm pays special attention to bad incoming links:

"At the simplest level, Google looks at how many links are pointing to a website and the quality of the websites those links are coming from. All other things being equal, a website with a lot of incoming links would rank higher than a competing website without many incoming links. In the past quantity appeared to trump quality, and many SEO firms engaged in the technique of building as many incoming links as possible, regardless of whether those links made any sense."

As the article notes, however, with the latest algorithm updates, Google has begun to severely punish websites with bad incoming or outgoing links. It seems that a high-quality website is not good enough; you have to also make sure your website is only associated with other high-quality websites.

Following our sponsor, Stepmans PC, at the Organic SEO Blog, we've always believed that quality trumps quantity.

Why? Well, this just happens to be the singular characteristic of a "good" website. Quite simply, a "good" website is typified by good content--specifically good writing. A simple way to evaluate your website's viability, at least in the eyes of Google, is to evaluate your website's content for the following features:

Frequent Updates: Does your website highlight frequent content updates--at least once every few weeks, or perhaps more? If not, you might work with your website designer or SEO specialist to add a "news" tab to your site, or perhaps a blog.

Good writing: We mentioned above: good writing is the key to a good website. If you do decide to add a news tab or blog, make sure your content is written by a professional. At the very least, a professional should provide elegant, error-free writing (most top pages contain absolutely no spelling or grammar mistakes).

Relevance: Your content should contain terms related to the keyword as well as variations of the keyword. 

Short paragraphs and sentences: This is an interesting factor that even good writers tend to ignore: brevity is crucial for Google. Make sure your content is concise and snappy, and try to limit your paragraphs to 1-4 sentences. Long blocks of texts simply are not attractive to browsers--and Google reflects this fact in its search rankings. As with paragraphs, shorter sentences (eight or ten words or less) define good content for Google. Think Hemingway and learn to write like Hemingway.