The Google Penguin Update Solution; I Lost All My Ranks and Traffic. Help!

Last Wednesday, I presented at SMX Toronto at the “Big Google Kitchen Sink Panel”. My presentation outlined how to build a Panda-proof content strategy, authority optimization, as well as Google’s top 10 do’s and don’ts for content. In addition, I presented a Panda reversal case study, the emerging importance of MicroData and backlinking strategies involving the social media.

Google has since released yet another update, dubbed the Penguin update, proof that Google is increasing the pace of change as they seek, what they believe to be, better search results. Maybe one day they’ll run out of cute animals to push these unnerving updates… Nonetheless, a thorough strategy is needed to deal with Google’s increasingly frequent algorithm changes and potential loss of rankings as a result of these updates.

The good news is that Google still cares about providing a customer service feedback loop for those who feel they have been wronged by Happy Feet’s evil twin. Google’s Matt Cutts recently tweeted that they have launched a form to submit to Google if you believe your website should not have been penalized by the Penguin update. You’re also able to report websites you believe to be spam to Google. There’s no reason, however, to feel upset if you have a competitor or two that you think will report you purely out of spite. Google should have effective means to deal with false reporting. You should only be concerned if you have any reason to think that many different users would report your site as spam.

However, my presentation is equally applicable to the Penguin update, and I suspect future updates as well. You can adapt and thrive in the constantly changing Google dance from veterans who have lived to share their stories of defeat and conquer.

Let’s recap the presentation and you will see why.

Power Articles – They Work!

What exactly is a Power Article?

Power Articles are well researched, high quality and in-depth articles of 1000-2000+ words. In fact, they should be so well written that you can easily differentiate it from other content online. How often should they be posted? Ideally, you want to aim for 2-10 articles per week based on how aggressive you need to be

How effective are they against Panda and Penguin?

If you consistently write Power Articles, over time, you’ll notice your traffic increasing significantly. Why? Simple. The key is to practice what Google preaches. Implement great content for the user, and only for the user. Also remember to conduct topic research and competitive research using available tools. (WordTracker, Spyfu, SEOMOZ) Not only will Power Articles build naturally occurring backlinks but they will also be much better received amongst the social media community as well as promote author authority.

What if I don’t have the time or the resources?

We understand that writing Power Articles can be a time consuming task. Alternatively, you can simply update existing content on your site. It’s a wise idea to upgrade high traffic and high converting content into Power Articles. We recommend creating an update schedule for your top 100 content pages every 45 days. Dynamic sitemaps are essential at this point as well as the freshness and relevance of your content. Great content will always get attention, especially when updated.

Authority Optimization

  • What is authority?
  • Rel=“author” and Google+ affect authority
  • Google knows who everyone is through social connections.
  • Author Authority is transferable across domains.
  • This has great implications for guest blogging, PR outreach and more.
  • You have to “Be Somebody” online across different platforms.

HOW-TO STEPS:

  • Review “Site Content” on Google Analytics
  • Export all data for the past 90 days
  • Identify all pages with poor stats (visits, bounce rate, time on site)
  1. De-index them from search (robots.txt, no-index, no-follow or 301 redirects)
  2. De-emphasize by removing from the dynamic sitemap file submitted to Webmaster Tools. We call this Dynamic Sitemap Sculpting.
  3. Create a schedule to re-write content as Power Articles and add to sitemap / index as you refresh content.
  4. WordPress makes all these processes a breeze. Other platforms might need custom coding.

Stay Informed… Google, SEO, Code

Try not to obsess over algorithm changes but do not ignore it either. Stay on top of the search industry by constantly reviewing the following sources.

  1. insidesearch.blogspot.com
  2. Seomoz.org/blog
  3. Blog.hubspot.com
  4. Youtube.com/user/GoogleWebmasterHelp
  5. Zite for IPad (Great app)

A Panda Reversal Case Study

What did Optimum7 do to combat Panda and how can this be applied to Penguin?

  1. Fix all crawl errors as well as html suggestions reported by Google Webmaster Tools. (duplicate titles, descriptions, short titles etc.)
  2. Write better and more detailed content for product pages, replace with Power Articles and descriptions at the category level, have those re-indexed by Google.
  3. Optimize all major category page titles and descriptions. (unique)
  4. Implement a blog / articles section as a sub-directory.
  5. Create a specific back linking process for top 20 significant products/categories/pages.
  6. Put more emphasis and sharing on social media, as well as social bookmarking sites.
  7. Implement appropriate 301 redirects, fix all 404 errors.
  8. Assign “canonical” links to all pages like printable versions or sorting pages.
  9. Implement mobile version of the whole site and a dynamic sitemap.
  10. Refresh homepage content everyday with new posts, customer reviews, best sellers etc.
  11. Discontinue and remove all link exchanges.
  12. Remove all “shady” back links from network sites or sites within the same server.
  13. Create  a video sitemap file if you have videos and submit to Google. (variety of content)
  14. Create shopping guides, case studies, eBooks.
  15. Analyze ALL back links with “exact” anchor text and remove or differentiate “exact” anchor texts.
    (Exact anchor text might hurt your ranks)

Google’s Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts for Content

Do’s

  1. Know and target your audience ONLY
  2. Intense topic research – niche topics
  3. Use a disciplined schedule for content writing, video production etc.
  4. Upgrade your existing content – best performing pages
  5. Integrate content strategy with backlinking strategy – social media, PR outreach

Don’ts

  1. Re-write competitors content
  2. Write for the sake of writing, you can’t fake out the reader
  3. Quit content, do it religiously!
  4. Ignore design, code and micro formats
  5. Ignore attention to detail

Code, Server and Microdata

Attention to technical detail is a must.

  • Fix 404 errors
  • Fix 301 redirect errors
  • Improve site speed issues (test and optimize)
    developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights
  • Fix crawl Issues (monitor Google Webmaster Tools)
    SEOMOZ Crawler is a great tool, too.
  • Fix cross-browser compatibility, mobile compatibility.
  • Monitor server logs and fix issues.
  • Lose all duplicate pages*
  1. E-commerce Sites (mod re-write problems)
  2. CMSs like WordPress (Lose the tag pages, they do not have authority)


MICRODATA

  • Schema.org for Google, Bing and Yahoo
  • Gives you essential competitive edge
  • It’s not easy to implement but has big rewards
  • Should be implemented carefully
  • Try the first Micro data Plug-in for WordPress developed by Optimum 7
  • This must be implemented by an experienced designer / programmer

What Next? What should you do in the next 30, 90, 180 days?

  1. Get Creative with Content (Trends, News, Twists) – 30 Days
  2. Write Power Articles and Update on a Schedule (Freshness) – 30 Days
  3. Implement Micro Data – 90 Days
  4. Fix all Server & Crawl Errors – 30 Days
  5. Get Rid of All Shady Backlinks & Reciprocal Links – 90 Days
  6. Be Somebody on Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Delicious, Stumble)
    Promote your Power Articles / Content – 90 to 180 Days
  7. Start Doing PR Outreach

HARO.com Story Pitches – 30 Days
Guest Blogging – 90 Days
Press Releases – 90 Days

***Always Review Analytics and Do Not Ignore Signs – Every Day

… SMX conferences are the perfect opportunity to increase your knowledge, network, build strategic partnerships and nurture existing clients as well as keep up to date with the latest in the industry. Just read a recap from my colleague Claye Stokes at SEO.Com to gain a quick insight into what was covered at SMX Toronto. I will also be speaking at SMX London in May for the session “Life in a [Not Provided] World” and eMetrics Chicago in June for the session “Optimizing Marketing Intelligence through Integration”. In the meantime, you can follow me on twitter @duraninci or contact us for specific Google Penguin related issues. Here’s my SMX Toronto Presentation available for download.