How to let Google know you are a brand and not a content farm

published on April 6, 2011 in SEO & PPC

This is the first guest post from Andrew Hanelly @hanelly from TMG Custom Media who wrote a nice piece about search engine optimisation I reacted on earlier this year.

Are you worried by the latest Google’s algorithm update (Farmer / Panda Update)? Then read on.

As Google’s algorithm gets smarter, content farms are getting weeded out of the search results. The stricter quality guidelines make for better search results, but they also make it even more important for you to put an emphasis on letting Google know you’re a high quality operation. Here are some tips on how to do that:

It used to be that you just had to label things nicely and search engines would know who you are and what your content was about.

For the most part, all you had to do was insert your keywords in the page title, again in the meta description, write clear headings that use your keywords, and sprinkle your keywords throughout the body text. Boom. Ranked. And people looking for your content or services would find you. It was nice, really.

Then, as people got wise to the algorithm (and spammers abused the system), search engines had a harder time serving relevant pages in their search results. So search engines evolved.

Instead of focusing predominantly on keywords in the actual source code of a page, search engines started focusing more on how many links a site had pointing to it. Treating inbound links like votes, search engines began to reward sites with a higher number of inbound links (links from other sites).

But then overzealous link builders began gaming this part of the algorithm by generating as many inbound links as possible to their sites to manipulate search engines into thinking their site was more important than it actually was.

Search engines reacted by penalizing some of sites who took part in this style of manipulation (like the now-famous case of JC Penney).

So where are we today? In an era where Google is trying its best to separate the real brands from the content farms. And how are they doing it? By focusing even more on how humans are reacting to your content.

Sure, on-page optimization still counts (labeling your content accurately) and a good link profile still matters (how many quality sites are pointing their readers to you), but now more than ever social signals and brand equity are factoring into Google (and other search engines that copy their) rankings.

Google now wants to know how engaged people are with your content, and they measure it by social signals such as the number of Tweets associated with a URL, number of Facebook likes, and are even rumored to paying attention to performance metrics like the bounce rate of pages.

So, what can you do to help distinguish your real-life brand from the content farms that are being punished in Google rankings?

Avoid the “bad” SEO techniques…

  • Volume directory link building
  • Reciprocal linking schemes
  • Writing low quality content that doesn’t serve a purpose for a human, but includes keywords
  • Paid links with manipulative anchor text
  • Generic design and layout
  • Keyword stuffing in titles and page content

… and focus on the “good” SEO techniques

  • Create content that humans will actually read the whole way through
  • Manage social media accounts that have a real human running them and build an actual following
  • Provide physical contact information with a real street address, real peoples’ names
  • Register with government and civic organizations, and local business directories
  • Claim your Google Places page
  • Generate branded search query volume
  • Receive traffic from diverse sources (as opposed to search engines alone)

Google wants to reward real businesses and organizations with real people creating original content that serves a purpose to other real humans. Focusing on anything else is a distraction to you, and provides useless results to Google.

Create quality content, label it clearly, and be clear about who you are – you’ll be rewarded with better search engine rankin, increased traffic and more importantly, happier readers / visitors.

Andrew HanellyAndrew Hanelly works at TMG Custom Media where he collaborates with clients on their digital marketing efforts. He also runs the company blog, Engage, and a personal one Hanelly.com.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Mouh from Effortless eBook Writing
Twitter:
April 7, 2011 at 4:12 pm

When Google announced the change, I was a bit scared. But I am not that now. I believe the change is good for “small” and personal blogs. For bloggers who share content primarily for Internet users not for search engines like content farms do.

Thanks for this great post.

Kindest regards,
Mouh
Mouh@Effortless eBook Writing also wrote How to Conduct Keyword Research

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Edwin April 10, 2011 at 1:19 am

Thanks for the tip, very helpful Andrew
Edwin also wrote How To Make A GIF Animation

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Adrienne April 12, 2011 at 8:51 pm

Hey Andrew, was great to read this post here on Leo’s blog. This is definitely a topic everyone should be paying attention to these days. Glad you gave us some tips on where we should be concentrating more. I know with the recent Google change it was something that needed to happen. This should be a wake up call for everyone who is not implementing social networking into their business.

Appreciate these tips and SO glad I stopped by.

Have a wonderful day you two! :-)

Adrienne
Adrienne also wrote How to Select Winning Affiliate Offers When Promoting ClickBank Products Online

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Redkathy April 16, 2011 at 1:36 am

Thanks for the easy to read, straight forward tips.
Redkathy also wrote Gourmet Tuna Fish Cakes

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Brad Harmon from Big Feet Marketing
Twitter:
April 26, 2011 at 2:52 pm

I think your approach is a very sane one, Andrew. Trying to figure out what Google values from update to update, and then trying to game that for your advantage can be a colossal waste of time. Honestly, I don’t pay much attention to the updates for my sites anymore. If I get a PR bump that’s nice, but I’m more focused on the content and interaction with my different blog communities. Eventually, Google will figure out they’re looking for my sites too. ;)
Brad Harmon @ Big Feet Marketing also wrote Don’t Let Your Website Be Held Hostage

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Richard from Joomla Developer May 31, 2011 at 8:41 pm

I’d be very surprised if Google are actually algorithmically penalising sites which gain links from content farms (such as article sites) because it would be too easy for a someone to sign up their rivals to such sites and get them penalised.

I suspect that the change is more that they have made such links pass no benefit.
Richard@Joomla Developer also wrote Do your own SEO – Search Engine Optimisation

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Jason from Infrared Heaters September 2, 2011 at 3:37 pm

“Generic design and layout.” Hmm… this is a bad SEO technique? I don’t think that exactly nails it. It’s generally a bad idea, sure, but as far as I know, SE’s could care less about your layout – see the plethora of hideous 1990′s sites that dominate the SERP’s on certain keywords, probably due to their domain age. I would more say a poor design might be symptomatic of a site which is not really intended for humans.

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