There are two types of SEOs: those that chase Google’s algorithm using tactics that work now but won’t in the future, and then there are SEOs that take a more sustainable approach to optimization, avoiding tactics that have a limited life-span. Prior to 2012 algorithm chasers were able, for the most part, to achieve rankings success for clients with a few setbacks from Panda. The various algorithm changes that Google announced this year (and it’s only April) have really dealt a blow to the algorithm chasers and, unfortunately, many companies that employed them to manage their SEO.
Given the new landscape, it’s not uncommon for online marketing agencies to acquire accounts with websites that have been worked over by unscrupulous SEOs in the past. These websites face a mountain of obstacles to overcome, but they can be overcome. It just may take some time depending on the severity of bad SEO.
If you have a website or you are working with a website that Google no longer loves, you’re going to need to take a different approach. Quality content and a strong social presence will earn Google’s trust again in time, but here are some suggestions you can implement now to get you back on track.
Address over-optimization on-site
A good place to start is with scaling back keyword density and any abundance of optimized internal links on your website. If you use your browser’s “find” function to highlight a keyword on a page that used to rank and it looks like you are staring into the sun, that’s a good sign you need to remove excessive mentions of that keyword from your content (or break out a thesaurus). You should also look to adjust your internal linking strategy by either removing some links or linking from related long-tail phrases.
Balance over-optimization off-site with branded links
To diagnose over-optimized links, run your page through Open Site Explorer and click over to the “Anchor Text” tab. If you don’t see your brand name or domain name in the top 5 then it’s time to put your brand first and your keywords second. You might be able to score some quick wins by changing off-site links you can control, but ultimately you need to change your linking strategy. Some purists will tell you to forget anchor text entirely. Realistically, targeting a mix of branded links and longer-tail keyword links from other websites will probably yield better results, quicker.
Combat bad links with high-quality content strategies
Bad links may be the most difficult thing to tackle on a site that has lost Google’s trust. If it is possible to easily remove bad, low-quality links, do it. In most cases, however, your time will be better spent creating quality content that can get you quality links. Either way, it’s going to take time (more time than it took to acquire the bad links). Many websites will be able to implement quality link outreach campaigns right away through public relations or sweepstakes-oriented promotions. Infographic creation and distribution can also get you some good links in a relatively short amount of time. Long-term, your strategy needs to lay the groundwork that will allow you to scale content distribution and quality link building efforts in the future. To do this you will need to do the following:
- Construct an authoritative blog with engaging content people want to link to –authorship is important so make sure there are people and faces connected to blog posts
- Create a social media strategy that builds followers who interact with your business
- Develop and promote people at your company who are experts in the industry
- Aim to build relationships, not links
The goal for any SEO or website today should be to create a sustainable optimization strategy both on-site and off-site. Many businesses learn the hard way that it takes much longer to regain rankings that are lost when Google updates its search signals. Whether or not your site has been penalized –consider implementing sustainable optimization strategies sooner rather than later.