The Algorithm Academy #6 SEO NOs
Welcome to the Algorithm Academy, your six part guide designed to make you a Google genius. We’re going to be teaching you about Google’s algorithm and its ranking factors; from what makes you rank, to what has a negative impact on your rankings.
Today’s topic is negative impacts, and we’ll be telling you everything you need to know about your rankings and what is having a negative impact. From keyword stuffing to cloaking, there is a list of things that could be stopping your site from ranking.
How do rankings work?
So far in this series, we’ve explained about key factors affecting Google’s algorithm, and how if they’re done properly, they can massively increase rankings for your site.
However, as with any sort of rankings, while it’s possible to move up, that means it is also possible to move down. Just as there are factors that positively affect rankings, there are also factors that can negatively affect your rankings.
But fear not, we’re here to teach you exactly what not to do.
However, while keywords are becoming less important, you should still be aware of what keyword stuffing is, and how it can affect your site.
Keyword stuffing is the overuse of keywords in an unnatural way, whether that is in your content or your meta data. Not only does this put users off of interacting with your content, but it is also a sure fire way to get penalised.
Instead, naturally mentioning your keywords a couple of times in the content is fine.
One sure fire way to almost completely obliterate your rankings is to use link schemes/farms, or other black hat SEO methods to build links.
Google has spent a lot of time perfecting its dodgy-linkbuilding spotting tool – Penguin. Penguin is designed to look at the backlink profile of a site and check whether they are natural, good quality backlinks. If they aren’t, a manual penalty can be handed out and this causes the site to lose all rankings (in extreme cases, sites can even lose rankings for branded searches).
With the roll out of Google’s newest Penguin update – Penguin 4.0 – penalties can be applied in real-time, meaning you are at risk from a penalty at any time.
When we previously covered content in the Algorithm Academy, we talked about how content should ideally be above 300 words. While this may seem like a recommendation, it is more of a warning.
Along with Penguin, there is another animal that Google loves to update – Panda. Panda is a core algorithm update that is designed to penalise sites with “thin” content. Thin content is typically defined as anything under 300 words on the page. This has to be 300 crawlable words too, with nothing cloaked.
Thin content is not the only thing that Panda is on the hunt for, it’s also designed to penalise sites that use duplicated content. This is because prior to Panda being launched a lot of highly ranked websites were using scraped content or automatically generated content.
Scraped content is content that is taken (scraped) from other, more reputable websites. Websites did this thinking that increasing the volume of pages on their site was a good strategy, regardless of the uniqueness of that content.
Panda was designed to combat scraped content because if your site does not contain any new information, why should a search engine crawler spend its time indexing your site? Especially when you have nothing new to offer.
Therefore, you should always ensure that your content is unique, in order to avoid being penalised by Panda.
Abusing rich snippets
Rich snippets work to change the way your website information is displayed in Google results. A review rich snippet is the most commonly seen snippet. This allows you to display ‘reviews’ of your website in the format of a star rating. Some website abuse this system, which can negatively impact your rankings.
You can post untruthful or misleading markup or content to make your site look better with the use of rich snippets by adding fake reviews or false ratings. Using markup like rich snippets with false information is a quick way to get penalized by Google.
Page loading speeds are an incredibly important ranking factor, so ensuring that your page loadings quickly is key. Google expects pages to load in less than a second, although this is incredibly ambitious.
But research has shown that slow pages lose customers, and Google doesn’t want to serve up pages that aren’t helping users.
If you want to look at how to improve your page loading speed, you can start with compressing images and keeping any non essential scripts in the footer. But if you need more detailed insights; use Google’s own PageSpeed Insights.
Cloaking is the practice of hiding links in the text, or hiding text in itself. For example, this text would be counted as cloaking. Because we’ve set the colour of the text to be the same as the background, in order to hide it from the user, Google looks upon this negatively and penalises sites for following these tactics.
Cloaking also can apply to links and images. If you use an image to hide text, or hide links from users, this can count as cloaking.
E-Commerce businesses should be aware of cloaking links when looking at regional sales. For example, if you do not sell in a particular region, make sure you correctly implement the links to that effect, so that Google is aware of why you are hiding the “Buy” button from users.
There are many other factors also not included in this blog post that can negatively impact your rankings in some way, but they are so numerous we couldn’t possibly cover them all. But this is why you should make sure that you have a regular SEO strategy, implemented by an SEO expert, so you can avoid all these hazardous search pitfalls.