SEO in 2017, what you can expect

Google have in the last quarter of 2016 tightened it’s ranking criteria and for 2017 this means that you have to be even more compliant and more organic in your approach to SEO if you are going to have even the slightest chance of ranking your website.

The last round of Google changes completed in Oct ’16 we all about monitoring websites back link profile and penalising those websites deemed to be trying to game the system in order to fraudulently manipulate their page rank. Sure, there have been these types of filters implemented by Google in the past, let’s think Penguin and Panda updates, but the latest update is more harsh in it’s approach to ‘black hat’ back links.

What happened in the past was that websites could get away with spammy back links and in many cases this would help their rankings until Google indexed the site and devalued these links or penalised your site for this type of behaviour. Sites could actually stay on page 1 for many months until Google carried out these penalties. The latest Penguin update has turned this on it’s head by penalising sites immediately for inorganic link activity. So if your engaging in any suspicious activity with any kind of SEO, expect to see your rankings slide immediately. It’s not a matter of months now, it’s going to get you within days as soon as your in bound links have been indexed.

So what does this mean for your website and internet marketing?

Many businesses over the last decade have engaged SEO agencies purely based on price and false hopes and promises of unrealistic rankings. It still happens today ad is rampant in the Australian SEO world. You see all these agencies advertising their services for next to nothing and lying about being able to rank them in less than 90 days.

What happened was that businesses fell for these con artists and they were able to see some type of positive results over the short term as they built dodgy back links. These SEO agencies were able to get away with it for 3-6 months collecting their monthly fees and claiming good results until Google enforced their version of Penguin 3.0 – which in turn  pernalised the sites. What happened is that theses businesses were seeing relatively ok results for a while but these were only an illusion. These results were the result of really bad back linking and gave websites a small ‘sugar high hit’  that were totally unsustainable.

PENGUIN 4.0 has completely stopped these SEO agencies ability to give these small peaks in the rankings by indexing links in real time and ranking them accordingly. If they appear bad (in most cases if the SEO agency is dodgy, the links will be also), then the web page these links are pointing to will be punished. So this means that there are absolutely NO SUGAR HITS or quick wins unless, and I want to make this point absolutely clear, unless the links and the SEO strategy is 100% compliant and ethical.

If Google even slightly smells or sees and type of dodgy back link behaviour you will know about it straight away.

For companies like ours this is great news and we have been waiting for this algorithmic update to happen. we have been so fed up with all those SEO scams going around and so exhausted with having to rescue websites from Google penalties, that this update comes as a real relief and we do really welcome it. These so called SEO agencies that have been ripping people off all these years are going to find it really hard to justify their monthly SEO fee when the rankings are simply not moving. Sure, they can con businesses for a couple of months but savvy owners will soon cotton on to the fact they are with a company that has absolutely no idea what they are doing or even worse unaware of the latest Penguin 4.0 update.

So what does a compliant back link profile look like in a post Penguin 4.0 era?

As usual it is all about having relevant links that have been obtained organically and it’s also about having a really diverse link profile. Over optimising a set of keywords in the hope of ranking is now out the window. 

This now means that business owners need to be a lot more patient and aware that ranking for your core keywords can take longer as Google now has a keen eye looking out for a SEO agencies pushing core keywords too hard. Do for example if your a furniture removalist company and want to rank for the keywords ‘ furniture removals’, you can no longer push that main keyword too hard. Google will immediately see a spike in this link activity and devalue the page that these links are pointing to. 

What needs to happen is that you have to look at a more ‘long tail’ keyword approach and go for a much more diverse spread of words such as ‘ office furniture removals sydney’ or ‘ residential removals company manly’. As you can see it’s now how you structure the keywords and where you link them from and which page on your website it points to.

The worst thing you can now do is pressure your chosen SEO agency to push your main core keywords too hard. We know that you want to rank for these but Google is far too aware of suspicious and constant linking and will dish out their punishment quickly. So the trick now is to be patient, rank for a whole set of keywords, that still bring in lots of website visitors and traffic and be prepared to stick to your SEO campaign for the long haul. This is the only way you are ever going to succeed online.

Penguin 4.0 means that you have to switch your mind set regarding SEO from the number of keywords on page 1 to the number of site visitors you are getting. The best approach you can take it to watch your traffic grow over time on all your keywords, not just 1 set of words.

Another point to note with Penguin 4.0 is that local search will become a priority. So if your based in central Sydney CBD it will be a lot tougher to rank you in other areas like Homebush unless your have an official office address there. This means that the ethical approach to SEO will be to look at targeting local areas through proper citations. Unfortunately, there is no way around this and if you think you can beat Google and rank in all areas and all suburbs, think again! You simply won’t be able to unless you are truly a national brand.

So if your a plumber in Bondi and want to dominate local search in Balmain, this will not happen! I know that folks reading this are going to say:’ how are we going to build our business, if we can’t be all over Sydney?’ Well the answer id simple, when it comes to Google in 2017 you have to focus on your local area.

There maybe websites that are defying this and seem to be popping up everywhere when you do a search, but believe me when I tell you that this will not last. They may hang around for the short to medium term but in Penguin 2017 this will end.

The huge take away from Penguin 4.0 is that you need to be so much more compliant and stay well away from any form of inappropriate link activity. A good idea now would be to look at you current back link profile and start pruning all those bad back links.

If you are confused by all this jargon and need a clearer or more detailed explanation about what this all means, OR you feel that you are currently with a dubious SEO supplier and are going to get penalised I seriously urge you to call us on 02 9360 8514. I am more than happy to explain the SEO landscape in 2017 to you in much more detail.

It’s not all about back links. You need quality over quantity

When I speak with clients and I do this all day a common misconception is that their SEO campaign is all about the number of back links they will receive. A common statement usually goes like this: ‘I’m currently on page 2 of Google and have been stuck there for many months, can you I pay you for some back links?’

Herein lies the issue and the problem surrounding most SEO campaigns. It’s not all about the back links. Far too many SEO agencies will simply go about building back links and think that this works, well it doesn’t and the proof of this is through the number of phone calls I get every day from people that have gone down this path and suffered the consequences. Thai is, terrible rankings!

For an effective SEO campaign, link building is only 1 component. To rely purely on this will have a detrimental affect on your site, especially if it’s left in the hands of one of the scores of thousands of dodgy SEO companies that have no idea about SEO. There are a number of other variables that need to be taken into account.

Your Back Link Profile is Vital, but there are other variables…

Let me start by clearing the air and stating that your back link profile is seriously important. It is probably one of the most effective ways to get your website ranking and we have proved this many times over in the past. Link building tells Google that you are an authority website and they should trust you which is a massive ranking signal. The more trust and authority you have, the higher your going to rank.

A great, high quality back link profile is one thing but most businesses get hung up about this and this is all they want to see. This is ‘old school’ SEO and is no longer the magic bullet. The logic behind this is simple; the more the better? Right, no this is wrong!

Related article5 Crucial SEO Ranking Factors

Google will only reward your website if it sees that your back links have been built naturally, slowly, methodically and over a gradual time period. Mass link building is not on and is a sure way to get your website flagged by Google as an attempt to spam the system and fraudulently try to manipulate the results. It’s a huge no-no and is still widely practised by a huge percentage of SEO agencies throughout Australia. Google wants to see back links that come from high authority, industry relevant websites that also have strong trust. This is what counts.

Simply put 10 000 back links from low authority sites is not as valuable as 1 link from a high authority website. You do the math and see what you need to do to create a strong link profile. If you want thousands of spammy links you better watch out for the pending Google penalty as it will hit you and boy o boy it will hit hard! Get out of the mindset that quantity is better than quality. It’s a fools dream and one perpetrated by SEO agencies that rely on these ‘black hat’ tactics as they do not know any better and do not have the resources or knowledge to attain high authority links.

backlinks are important for SEO

What is the Google Algorithm?

This is Google’s way of sifting through the billions of web pages online and giving you the user the information you require when searching. This algorithm is designed to display the most relevant and trustworthy information so you ( the consumer) have all the information you ever need at your finger tips. It’s sophisticated, highly complicated and best of all, always changing. For us SEO companies this is what keeps us on our toes and awake at night, trying to figure out what Google is up to when its changing it’s algorithm. This algorithm is made up of thousands of individual ranking components and is designed by some of the best minds on the planet. After all this is Google and they can recruit the very best people.

Although this algorithm is diverse it can be broken down into some major components that go towards establishing website rankings.

The Hummingbird Update: this is all about the search and Google will look at keywords and phrases as well as your web page relevance to deliver results. Google will take factors like location into account as well as other on page factors on your website. So for example if your looking for ‘best surf villas in Bali’ from your desktop in Sydney you will get a list of all the villa agencies in Sydney with generic information. If your in Bali doing this same task you will get information about individual villas. It is quite specific and was a game changer in terms of delivering search results.

The Penguin Update: looks at your back link profile and will determine what links are valuable and what are spammy. If your profile is deemed to spammy then you have 2 options; prune those unnecessary invaluable links or face the consequences of the penguin. The penguin will also look at the way in which you have been building these links. Are they all pointing to one page with an emphasis on certain keywords or is there a diversity? Links from so called ‘grey hat’ or sites that are not exactly bad but are also not good, will also get an eye cast over them. If you have been over reliant on PR postings or directory websites then this will go against you. Remember, with linking it MUST be from high authority sites – anything less will be targeted by the Penguin algorithm.

The Panda Update: is the content filter and will weed out any websites for punishment that have little or no relevant copy, duplicate content or are keyword stuffing ( writing for the search engines by repeating your main core keywords in the hope of improving rankings). Poor quality on page content is not what your website visitors are looking for and Google knows this so be warned. Make sure every word written for your website is designed for the consumers engagement and not Google’s.

RankBrain is the newest kid on the block and is designed to rank websites according to what it feels that humans are searching for and delivering these results.

A point to note here that these are the main ranking updates, there are heaps more ( pigeon, caffeine and pirate) but you really should be aware of these; linking, content and on site technical specifics. These Google updates that are happening more often and these trends that started years ago are set to continue well into 2016 & 2017.

As you can see if you are only focusing on link building you are ignoring the other core ranking elements as listed above. Links are just one facet, the others are as important and need to be addressed throughout your SEO campaign.

Here’s how they all apply:

Links ARE vital and it need to be implemented a slow organic fashion. Natural link building is all about getting another website to endorse your site via a link and this has to come from a relevant source that’s in your industry. This is the difficult part and can take a long time to achieve this. This is why they are so valuable. You actually have to put the effort and hard yards into getting g these link endorsements. I know how hard I have to work to get some of these and it can take ages. You need to build online relationships with people from all over the web and nurture these. This is why SEO and rankings is time consuming as you then need to know what to do with these. A scatter gun, mass link building approach is no good and is not the way to go. Look at it this way, the harder it is to get the link, the more valuable it becomes.

Content is king and is one of the BIG 3 when it comes to Google rankings. Ensuring that your site has valuable, worthwhile, rich content is going to remind Google that you are the best in your industry and they will keep on coming around to your website to look for other interesting tit bits of information. The more Google crawls your site, the more chance you will have of getting your web content ranked. Key here is to write articles, blogs and keep on adding pages to your site. Same as I am doing here with this blog – it works, you have to trust me on this. Also, for heavens sake, don’t ever plagiarise from any other sites and pass it off as your own or try to stuff as many keywords as you can on the page. It just looks silly and will turn off customers.

Technical ‘on page’ elements are the third critical element. Your website is like a racing car and it needs to be running at peak performance the whole time if Google is going to rank it. Make sure you look at things like: page titles and descriptions, page load speed, missing or broken links, flash animation, mobile friendly (responsive sites), correct implementation of 301’s ( from old websites to new websites) as well as images and graphics. All of these must come together nicely if your site has any chance of ranking.

In conclusion

The big thing that you should get from this is that link building is only one essential part of a balanced and ethical SEO strategy. Whilst it is a good thing and over reliance on this will tip the scales against your site. Try to be as diverse and legitimate as you can be when it comes to getting on Google and building your brand or business online. This is the only way you will ever rank.

Never try to game or beat the system. Google is just far too sophisticated and advanced for these trivial measures. They have seen it all before and they know every trick in the book.

Has Your Website Been Hit By the Latest Google Updates

The latest Google algorithmic changes, Panda and Penguin, according to Matt Cutts. head of Googles search quality team, focuses on 2 areas; web content and spam. Both great topics in themselves, but I thought I would outline why some websites suffer and consistently never rank whilst other seem to be at the top of the search results ( SERP’s) all the time. Sites that rank adhere to the principles outlined by Cutts, whilst those that get penalised, clearly flout and dismiss what Google considers compliant.

In many cases, websites have lost ranking due to these two Google’ must haves’ and have, in some serious instances, lost all their rankings. That is a Google penalty.

Following is a brief explanation of how to avoid being in the cross hairs of the latest Penguin and Panda updates, as well as a video of Matt Cutts explaining what you need and your SEO company must do to be doing to be totally compliant.

The first major update was the Panda update and recently as far as I am aware the Panda 4.0 ( released on June 2014) targeted those websites that were thin on content.

So what does thin on content really mean? It’s those web pages or blog articles that have nothing to say. The overall quality of the content is poor and there maybe only a few sentences or paragraphs. This is not industry specific and will apply to all websites on the net.

I can easily spot a site that’s too lean on the content. Many businesses, feel that this is not an important component of their website, well how wrong they have been! If your websites landing pages or blogs are slight on the copy, then don’t expect Google to reward these pages.

Panda’s intention is to deliver quality content to users and it’s algorithmic filters being as sophisticated as they are designed to weed out the rubbish.

How Can You Tell If Your Website Is Too Thin? This is a great question, but I always look at the nature and length of the content. I like all of my posts to be around the 750 – 1000 word mark and I ensure that everything published is unique. That is, I haven’t scraped the content from other sites or reposted other peoples content. It’s all mine and I spend many man hours actually writing these. On top of this (like I am doing now over 2 years later) is revisiting old blog posts and refreshing them with more relevant and up to date content. In this case the topic is content and it has since originally posting this, become so much more important. If your copy is not engaging it’s readers then your going to suffer online. This means the whole use experience has to be fantastic. Think about adding more videos to keep your readers on your site longer. Also, refresh old copy all the time and perhaps add to it with more up to date news.

So, if you have a look at your website or blog and can see that most of the pages are somewhat, well let’s just say, boring, unexciting, poorly worded and under 500 words; then from what the quality control team at Google are saying, you are violating the Panda updates. Better get cracking and start auditing every page of your website. It may seem like a hassle but in it’s worth it.

How Does One Fix This Problem? It’s easy and it’s also not so easy. You can either get in there yourself and start editing all your circulated content, or you can get a professional on board to do the job for you. Either way, it’s a task that needs to be addressed immediately if you are ever going to have a chance or getting a better online ranking. There are dozens if not hundred of web copywriters that can do the job, but like anything in business be prepared to pay for this.

Whatever, you do, however, don’t go down the path of outsourcing this to India where they can write copy for a couple of dollars an article. This is against what Google is looking for and this will further add fuel to the fire and exacerbate your bad online standings. Keep it real, make sure it is authentic and the most important point that you should take from this post is that it must be original.

The second and perhaps the update that hit most businesses is the Penguin algorithm, which focuses on spammy sites and shifty link building ‘black hat’ techniques.

In a nutshell, spammy sites are those that implement a myriad of both ‘on page’ and ‘off page’ tactics, designed specifically to improve rankings. Such sites use what is termed ‘black hat’ methods, all devised to cheat the system.

There are just so many things that one can do to cheat and defraud Google, but the Penguin filters have again, like the Panda, filtered out these sites and have punished them in the rankings. The Penguin was a killer update and it’s intention was to put an end to some search engine optimisation companies ways of doing business and those DIY SEO fanatics.

googleupdatePre Penguin it was pretty open slather on what could be done in terms of boosting ones chances of higher SERP results. It was the wild west online and anything was allowed. Basically, I could buy links online for a few bucks and rank a new website within a couple of weeks. Such bad practices have been outlawed and luckily for us, Google now treat such processes as illegal ( in their world).

In the video Cutt’s will explain what Google’s quality team are looking out for in the future and ways in which you can put your SEO company on notice if they are doing anything shifty. It’s a bit lengthy but well worth the watch, especially if you feel that your SEO team in the past has been treading on thin ice and skirting the fringes of what Google recognizes as authentic.

So how do you go about finding an SEO agency that will comply with both Penguin and Panda updates?

This is not easy but you have to do your research online to find the right agencies. I suggest go with an all rounder. One that has the ability to design sites, optimsie them and also an agency that has some good copywriters on baord – or at least they are able to find good ones they have worked with inn the past.

Do not make the mistake and work with SEO companies that promise:

  • fast rankings when your in a competitive niche
  • 90 day ranking guarantees
  • money back guarantees
  • if they outsource their SEO because they want to do it as cheaply as possible
  • Is not able to rank their own website on page 1 of Google for the keyword SEO in their capital city – so for us it would be SEO Sydney and as of today 16 Nov 17 we are on page 1, which just goes to show you how good we are and our ability to rank sites in seriously competitive niches.
  • SEO without any copy or website audit