Category Archives: SEO

Google “panda” update – impact on small publishers

An open letter to Google.

I’ve been doing online publishing since 1999, across various successful websites, and have never knowingly been affected by any of your previous algorithm changes – sticking to the motto of great content, and optimizing for our user experience had so far done us well.

However, the Google “panda” algorithm changes being made over the last few weeks seem to have be far more wide reaching than any previously. I’m totally behind the goals you’ve stated to reduce the number of spam sites and content farms, but I’m sure I speak for a large number of publishers that we feel let down in the way this has been handled.

We are now consistently seeing exactly the kind of sites you claimed to want to punish, ripping off our content and ranking for our articles, while our original content is nowhere to be seen. I have talked to your PR team, contacted your search team, and all been given a standard response. We’ve posted in forums, filed reconsideration requests, and reported the people ripping our content off as spam. All with no effect.

I’ve no doubt that it was well within the technical realms of Google to establish which large, well established, high quality editorial sites would benefit and suffer – and so can only assume that a decision was made to press ahead regardless. While the really big publishers will no doubt survive, at the same time you are no doubt making or breaking thousands of small businesses across the web, who like it or not are dependent on traffic from Google, and yet have made every effort to produce genuine high quality original content for their audience.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) Checklist

Search engine optimisation is pretty much part and parcel of creating websites these days. Getting the basics right don’t require a large amount of work, but can make all the difference. Many of these also improve the general usability and accessibility of your site too – so you get three major benefits rolled into one.

The points below are just a few basics I’ve picked up along the way; roughly in order of my own priority, relating specifically to technical changes you can make on your own site, regardless of any incoming links, frequency of page updates, or link building you may do; I’m not claiming this is a comprehensive list BY to, keyword, you, to, “Find, navigational, a,in,I’ve, high, possible. descriptions

These are often displayed in search engines if the keywords have matched a page title rather than its content – so they’re worth including even for this – and they still seem to be used for picking up relevant keywords too. Once again, the same points apply as in #1 – don’t just re-use the same standard page description across the entire site.

7. Deep linking

This is harking back to point #2. If you publish articles, press releases, or the like on your site, and it mentions a product, or another article on the site, then make sure it links to it! This increases the number of contextually relevant links and possible keywords that a search engine might associate your pages with, even if these links are just internal.

8. Use URL rewriting

There are loads of URL rewriting techniques out there. Sensible use of URLs increase the usability of your site, and also allows the search engines to pick up on keywords in your URL too. In order of improvement:

http://www.mycompany.com/page.aspx?id=29&page=ingredients (worst case)
http://www.mycompany.com/product-information.aspx?id=29&page=ingredients (at least give the page a meaningful name!)
http://www.mycompany.com/product-information/29/ingredients/ (search engines still don’t like query strings all that much)

http://www.mycompany.com/products/chips/french-fries/ingredients/

The final example is logical, “hackable” (the user can guess that /products/chips/ will take them back to a sensible page), and keyword rich. Note that the URL of this blog entry follows these lines too!

9. Unknowns…

Things I’m not 100% sure about.

- Keywords meta tag. I’ve deliberately not mentioned this here, as I’ve seen no sign that these are being used any more.
- Order of content on the page. I always try to ensure that the main body of the content appears as high up the page as possible. This has accessibility benefits (so a screen reader doesn’t read the same set of navigation at the start every time a page loads), but I’m not sure how much weight a search engine places on this order, or how large the page has to be for this to make a difference.

I’d be interested to hear if anyone has suggestions of other must-do’s that I’ve missed.