For SEO professionals such as myself, algorithms are pretty much the be all and end all. They essentially shape the work we undertake on a day-to-day basis, as well as helping to determine our long term strategies. However, the vast majority of internet users have no idea what an algorithm even is, or does. This of course is the same for car dealers, who are unaware of the role they can play in determining a website’s success or failure.
Have you ever noticed your website traffic drastically shift, seemingly out of the blue? Have you ever noticed a keyword(s) you are tracking disappear completely from Google? Do you have a fondness for cute, furry animals? If the answer to any of the above is yes, then you’re going to want to read on.
FIRST OF ALL, WHAT IS AN ALGORITHM?
In basic terms, an algorithm is not only achieving a goal, but determining the process of how this goal is achieved. Let’s imagine it’s a Friday night and you want to order an Indian takeaway. There are multiple processes you can take to get the food to your house.
- Look at paper menu and decide your dish
- Call the restaurant to order
- Have your food delivered
- Look at online menu and decide your dish
- Order online
- Have food delivered
- Look at menu online
- Call the restaurant to order
- Pick up the food yourself
Each of the above three algorithms accomplishes the same goal, namely a delicious meal for you to enjoy in the comfort in your own home that you haven’t had to cook. But each achieves this using a different method.
But how does this relate to Google, and SEO? As Google themselves put it…
For a typical query, there are thousands, if not millions, of webpages with helpful information. Algorithms are the computer process and formulas that take your questions and turn them into answers. Today Google’s algorithms rely on more than 200 unique signals or “clues” that make it possible to guess what you might really be looking for. These signals include things like the terms on websites, the freshness of your content, your reigon and PageRank.”
In our takeaway example, the end product was the eating of a meal. With Google, their ultimate aim is to ensure that the most relevant, high quality results are returned to the user after they perform a search. In order to achieve this, they use a computer algorithm to help determine the quality of websites. This is no mean feat, when we consider the fact that there are over 200 different factors taken into consideration.
As the above graphic indicates, Google making tweaks to their search algorithm is not uncommon. The vast majority of these don’t leave the walls of Google HQ, leaving SEO professionals to merely speculate. Others however, are liable to getting these same SEOs knickers all in a twist. Let’s take a closer look at the two major ones in more detail.
Named after the software engineer who developed the algorithm, Google Panda was the biggest algorithm update the SEO world had seen. Originally launched in February 2011, the update affected up to 12% of all Google search results. This may not sound like a lot, but if we consider that there are over 60 trillion webpages that’s a lot of fluctuating rankings.
What does it look at?
Google Panda is a web content based algorithm, focused on preventing websites that contain low quality, poor content from ranking well in the search results. This can mean a number of things:
- Content that is poorly written. This includes overusing the same keywords in the text in an attempt to try and rank for that phrase.
- Content that is duplicated, meaning it has been copied from either another page on your website or another website. New car descriptions are a prime example when taken from directly from the manufacturer site.
- Pages with ‘thin’ content, or perhaps no content at all.
- A high ratio of external ads on your site.
“Don’t copy and paste vehicle descriptions from the manufacturer’s website. This is duplicate content and will have a negative effect on your google search ranking. Write your own descriptions and see the benifits!”
How to be Panda proof
- Ensure all the content on your site is written to a high standard. Ask yourself these questions: If you were a user, would you want to read your own content? Have a read of your homepage content, does it sounds completely natural, or are you overusing phrases like, ‘cars for sale’ etc?
- It may be time consuming, but it’s essential to ensure that all the content on your site is unique. Don’t be tempted to copy and paste vehicle descriptions from other websites.
- ‘Static’ pages seem to be the biggest offenders when it comes to ‘thin’ content. Generally speaking this means pages such as – Warranty, Financing, P/X, Servicing, Aftersales, Tyres etc. Too often do we see these pages having only a couple of lines of text, or perhaps just an enquiry form with no text at all. Both Google and users expect to see valuable content explaining the service or product being advertised. Google is all about ranking sites well that provide a great user experience. Having numerous pages with no explanation of what the services being offered are, does not constitute a good experience for the user. Ensure every page on your site has at least 300 words of unique high quality text.
- As mentioned above, Google is all about the ensuring the best possible experience for the user. Having too many external adverts can bring the reputation of your site down in the eyes of Google.
In 2016 it emerged that the Panda algorithm had become part of Google’s core algorithm – the algorithm that websites are subjected to daily, as apposed to the original Panda algorithm which was updated periodically every few months. What does this mean for your car dealer website? Well, all of the above information still stands, but it is more important than ever before to ensure your site isn’t publishing poor quality content.
We have written an extensive guide on the importance of good content, which includes some great tips and content ideas. Click on the button below to read the guide…
Continuing with the fluffy animal theme, in April 2012 Google released their next significant update to the algorithm – Google Penguin.
What does it look at?
Google Penguin is an over optimization penalty. It predominantly aims to target sites that obtain links via unnatural means in order to rank better in the search results. In 2016 Google announced that the latest Google Penguin update, Penguin 4.0, would be the final update and is now a real-time signal within Google’s core algorithm. This means that Penguin will be checking a site’s backlinks every time it’s crawled, as apposed to periodically (there was once a two year gap between Penguin updates which meant even if you had fixed your bad backlinks, your site remained affected until the next update).
Backlinks (links that point to your website from other websites) are one of the most important ranking signals in Google’s algorithm. However, in the past it was fairly common for some website owners to try and manipulate their rankings by conducting work that sent a high volume of low quality links to their site. Before the days of Penguin, more often than not this would lead to an increase in rankings for the site. Since Penguin however, these sites started getting penalised left, right and centre. One of the biggest characteristics since the update is a shift in importance from quantity to quality of the links pointing to your site.
What sort of links could Google consider to be low quality? High volumes of:
- Low quality directory submissions
- Links in poorly written articles that are then syndicated throughout the web
- Blog spam
- Forum spam
- Reciprocal links
- Paid links
- Links from unrelated sites, low quality sites
“Some agencies use underhand tactics to get your website links that Google deem to be low quality. Links created in this way that can lead to your website being negatively affected. Here at Spidersnet we use only natural methods to build links to your site, that will bring positive ranking benefits.”Adam Rowden
How to be Penguin proof?
It’s possible you could have read the above, and you’re now thinking to yourself, ‘what if I’ve been penalized in the past and not even realised?’
Generally speaking, unless you have actively been building links using techniques such as those listed above, you won’t be affected by Penguin. It requires an active knowledge of SEO to build these sorts of links to your site. Unfortunately, there are some SEO agencies out there that will opt to deliver short term gains by carrying out this sort of work. This is almost guaranteed to result in long term pains. If you have ever had any SEO work done to your website and are worried about the quality of links that may have been built to your site, please feel free to get in touch and we can take a look.
To ensure your site is Penguin proof it is vital that any link building undertaken is ethical and future proof. If you employ an SEO agency, ensure you find out what techniques they plan to use to link build. Again, Spidersnet are here to offer help and advice if needed.
Want some further reading on Penguin?
The ultimate aim of these Google updates is to ensure the best quality sites rank well in the search results. So as long as you are creating content and building links with no manipulation in mind, you will not suffer the consequences of these algorithm updates. Here are some top tips:
- If you are thinking of hiring an agency to help boost your SEO, be sure to vet them on their techniques and tactics.
- Don’t be tempted to use unnatural means to build links to your website.
- Ensure every page on your website serves a purpose and contains enough descriptive copy on the page.
- Don’t be tempted to overdo external advertising.
- When writing copy for your site ensure it is written for users and not for search engines.
- Use image and video content to enhance the existing content on your website.
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