There has been plenty of talk lately about important changes that Google has been making to how it ranks websites. Those changes involve Google’s closely guarded algorithm, which is the magic juice behind how its search engine produces accurate results.
As I have been covering in greater detail in my newsletter, the most recent of these updates is code-named Penguin. It’s designed to give more weight to good quality content and down-rank the stuff that isn’t.
Penguin has also made a few people unhappy.
As best as I can understand their complaint, it’s that Google has hurt their business model: one that is based almost entirely on mass traffic, plus high page ranking and click-throughs. Even more puzzling, some try to play this out as if the big dent that Penguin has put in their inbound traffic means they are the victims of some terrible injustice.
Let’s be clear. Search engines—not just Google—are in the reliable search results business. Full stop. Losing a top page ranking due to an over-optimization penalty tells you one very important thing: all that keyword stuffing has turned otherwise readable text into pulp.
If your site is being downgraded because of Penguin or other updates that influence the way sites are being ranked, take a hard look at your expectations for SEO and at your content.
SEO isn’t something you win at.
When you optimize your content for search engines, you’re performing a series of steps that make it easier for people to find you, your content and the product or service you’re offering.
It’s not the first step in a process. It’s the last one.
Even if you do manage to find a formula that drives massive traffic independently of having a product that people want, if it doesn’t convert traffic into buyers, no amount of keyword monkeying is going to help you in the long run.
Find your great idea. Build your platform to broadcast it. Fill it with great content that people want to read. Fine-tune it with SEO. That’s how you grow an audience.
Content is where you build trust.
The reason why you have readers has very little to do with whether you find the right way to pad your site with a bunch of techniques to game the search-engine business.
Your readers choose you because they like what you have to say and trust in the values and the amount of thought that’s behind your message.
Building great content is hard. It takes a long time to do it properly. But the relationships you forge with your readers are deeper and more lasting than any amount of traffic where the numbers seem big but the trust is thin.
If Google thinks your content sucks, your readers probably will, too.
Get the fundamentals right.
Pay careful attention to the overall experience that visitors have when they come to your site. Little things do make a difference.
Be readable. Take some time to explore the right kind of typefaces that best represent the emotions behind the ideas you’re expressing. People read more when it looks easy and inviting. Make it look too much like work, on the other hand, they’ll quickly move on.
Fix your broken links. Conduct a weekly review of 404 hits on your site and insert some redirects to divert traffic to the appropriate pages.
Pick a strong frame. If you are using WordPress, build your site using a reliable framework that has been tested on a wide range of platforms to load quickly and perform securely. I’m using Genesis for this reason.
Adapt for mobile traffic. Online traffic is increasingly shifting to mobile devices. A study by the UN’s International Telecommunications Union predicts it could eclipse desktop-based traffic within two years. Make sure your content is mobile-responsive so that it’s just as easy to read on a smartphone or an iPad as it is elsewhere.
Be semantic friendly. Nobody likes repetition. That includes the keywords you use in your web content. Be varied and conversational in how you write.