How the Panda and Penguin Updates Have Changed On-Page Optimization Forever

Not too long ago you could slap some spun content on your site, stuff it with keywords, use automated software to get a bunch of backlinks from article directories, and comment spam and watch your PageRank gradually rise. You could buy a domain name that matched a popular keyword, throw any old trash on it, and watch your site instantly rank number one, almost miraculously. Indeed, a lot of unscrupulous and lazy internet marketers cheated their way to decent earnings online using shortcuts and tricks that were talked about on black hat forums across the web. That was before Google decided to put an end to the nonsense and improve the quality of the internet with this year’s Panda and Penguin updates. These major algorithmic changes are making webmasters step their game up and are eliminating a lot of the cheap tactics that were once used to trick Google.

No More Filler Content — Do You Have Anything Meaningful to Say?  

Let’s face it, people are tired of wasting their time reading through content that has nothing important to say, and search engines are embarrassed to have it on their front pages. Of course, it makes sense then that they would update their algorithms to ensure that only the most helpful content is presented to users. To make your site successful you can no longer settle for hastily written articles that have no real value – you must have something to say, or don’t say anything at all.

During the editing process analyze each sentence and make sure you’re not repeating yourself or using the same word too many times; these are patterns that Google can easily recognize. Secondly, ensure that there are no grammatical/spelling errors. Finally, the most important aspect of on-page optimization has become user engagement. Google judges the quality of your site based on the way visitors interact with it; if you can keep them on your pages your ranking will inevitably rise.

No More Keyword Stuffing – The Density Formula is Now Irrelevant 

You’re probably used to instructing your writers or editors to maintain a certain percentage-based keyword density. This once beneficial technique can now be summed up in one compound word – over-optimization. One of the goals of the Panda and Penguin updates is to keep people from gaming the search engines by using simple tactics. Google now realizes that over-optimized content is not always the most useful. For example, an extremely helpful article about car insurance may only use the term “car insurance” one time. In fact, a good writer doesn’t need to continuously repeat keywords to get their point across effectively. Of course, keyword density still plays a role in determining the relevancy of a page, but it no longer weighs into quality as much as it used to.

No More “SEO Articles” – Forget the Low-Cost Article Spam, It Doesn’t Work Anymore

You may be accustomed to outsourcing your work to “writers” who pump out work like content factories with no regard to quality. Okay, so maybe their work doesn’t have many obvious errors, but if it just isn’t interesting and informative it is not going to make it past the angry Penguin and Panda and their pesky standards. You’re either going to have to increase your budget so that everything you post is well-written, write it yourself, or post less frequently so that you can afford better content. The fact is, 1 or 2 great posts per week will give you way better results than 10 mediocre filler posts. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to raise your budget; it just means that you need to utilize your available funds more efficiently. For example, if you currently spend $100 a week on 20 articles at $5 per, try spending that same amount on 5 articles at $20 per and see how much better your results are.

No More Over-Optimized Anchor Text – Artificial Linkbuilding is Phasing Out

We’ve mentioned that Google is no longer rewarding webmasters that participate in obvious “search engine optimization” as they are now rewarding pages that practice “visitor optimization.” The same goes for linkbuilding campaigns – the days of spamming the web with thousands of links that contain targeted anchor text are now over, unless you want your site thrown out of the SERPs. Instead, any linkbuilding must appear to be absolutely natural. Google is rewarding pages that are receiving genuine links from human beings, not pages that appear to be running artificial campaigns. How do you get human beings to link to your content? Make it useful. Does that mean that linkbuilding is dead? Absolutely not. It just means that your backlink anchor text should no longer consist of only targeted keywords. It should contain a realistic mix of branded terms (like your company name or site name), oddball phrases, longtail keywords, occasional general keywords, and every once in a while a few “click here” anchors. If you want to see what natural linkbuilding looks like, take a look at the link profile of a major site that has lots of readers using a tool like Ahrefs or Open Site Explorer.

Welcome to the Age of Quality Over Quality

The days of posting hundreds of trashy articles per month have come and gone. We are living in a bright new era of quality over quantity. If you embrace this fact and act on it you could be one of the people who benefits from Google’s algorithm changes. However, if you chose to ignore it and continue to put out a high volume of useless content, no one will read it (as usual), and search engines will penalize your site. The key to succeeding in the long-term has always been quality, long before the Panda and Penguin updates. Now that these changes have been implemented though, it is much harder to find loopholes that allow you to cheat the quality standards. This change has caused many “blackhatters” to go whitehat, and it finally emphasized the importance of quality content during a time when the internet was literally being flooded with filler spam and comment backlinks.

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