google penguin and ecommerce

You may have noticed by now that the entire internet seems pretty stirred up by Google Penguin, Google’s latest search algorithm update. You’ve also probably read a lot of Doomsday information about how this update will tank your website, especially if you’re a small business. The update may seem confusing and even daunting, especially if you’re still trying to keep track of the last zoo animal-inspired algorithm. We’re here to simplify it. Here are the key points you need to know about Google Penguin:

What are Algorithm Changes and Why Do They Happen?

If Google search is the Wild West, then algorithm changes are the sheriff’s way of staying on top of the outlaws. Google is constantly adjusting its search formula to account for spam or bad SEO practices like keyword stuffing. The problem is, no search algorithm can exactly replicate a human search experience, and occasionally the wrong people or web pages become penalized by search algorithm changes. Part of an SEO marketer’s job, then, is to perform ongoing research about best practices as they relate to the ongoing search engine updates and changes.

What Does Google Penguin Affect?

The Penguin update is intended to impact “over-optimized” websites: ie, sites that push the boundaries of SEO a little too far and blatantly attempt to manipulate search results. When Google’s search engines show you a certain page in response to a query, it’s because they believe that page will provide you with the information or experience you’re looking for. Manipulating search engines result in a poor user experience. The manipulative tactics Penguin is targeting center largely on receiving links from poor-quality directories or link networks. Websites with shady link profiles are the ones that are most likely to be hit by the update. Unfortunately, websites do not always have 100% control over the sites that link to them, and the new algorithm is far from perfect.

Is Penguin Really Worse for Small Businesses?

One of the nastiest rumors about Google Penguin is that it unfairly targets small businesses and eCommerce sites. While a number of small businesses have been affected, it’s not that the algorithm targets them; it’s that smaller businesses may not be able to respond as quickly when they are impacted by an algorithm change. They are much less likely to have an in-house SEO expert who can sort out the changes, and they may have even hired a short-term SEO marketer years ago who left them with an unnatural link profile. If you believe your business has been unfairly targeted by the new algorithm, Google has provided a feedback form where you can register errors. Don’t rely on this form, however, before cleaning up your website.

When linkbuilding in the future, aim for quality over quantity: you’re looking for high-authority sites whose target audience will be genuinely interested in your product or service.

Tips for Great SEO After the Update

What can your site do for its SEO in a post-Penguin world? First and foremost, write great content. You should have been doing that before Penguin, but it’s now more important than ever. Quality content will impact the amount of time a reader stays on your page, whether they navigate to other pages on your website, and whether other sites will find it worth their while to organically link to you. There’s also evidence that social sharing (links from Facebook, Twitter, etc) affects your search results. Remember, Google is most interested in whether real people find your site compelling and useful.

Next, re-examine your link profile by using a site like Open Site Explorer. See if you can clean up any low-quality links by removing your site from poor directories. When link building in the future, aim for quality over quantity: you’re looking for high-authority sites whose target audience will be genuinely interested in your product or service. If it seems like it’s less easy to obtain links, then you’re probably doing it right.

Finally, don’t panic! Credible SEO is not going away. Contact Clarity today to speak to an SEO consultant about how you can better optimize your website.

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