Getting Traffic with Google Penguin: Possible for Midsize IT?
The Google Penguin and Panda updates have significantly affected the way companies need to look at search engine optimization (SEO) techniques. Gone are the days of paying for spammed links and low-quality content, replaced instead by a world where content is king and many small and midsize businesses struggle to see even a portion of their previous web traffic. But while it's easy to blame Google and their "clean up the Internet" policies, there are still ways for IT admins to make the most of SEO content, whether done in-house or contracted out to an optimization company. IT professionals, however, need to be careful; many providers still want to sell flying penguins and aren't shy about telling a few stone-cold lies.
Part of the problem for small and midsize businesses is that, despite good intentions, they are willing to pay gray- and black-hat companies who claim they can beat Google's algorithms. Often, IT admins have enough on their plate that farming out content updates sounds like a good idea, and SEO companies are quick to assure any reticent business that they can not only pump up search ratings but that they can do so in a way that is consistent over time.
But as discussed in a recent High Rankings Advisor newsletter, many SEO companies still play fast and loose with their policies. The newsletter by Jill Whalen examines the experience of one client who sought out the help of an SEO provider; while her traffic spiked just before the Google Penguin update, it fell to even lower levels after the algorithm was implemented because the company had done nothing but use spam-based links and low-quality content.
Shocking? Not really. What IT professionals need to watch out for is what happens next: the company then tried to tell the client everything they did was on the up-and-up. When she asked for a list of all the links they had built for her, she was told only "black hat" providers would have that information. They then tried to tell her the loss of traffic might be because her site's shopping cart didn't work properly.
Red flags? Absolutely. A company like this is exactly what midsize admins need to watch out for. If a company can't answer questions about what it does and how it does it, or provide anything more than "it's probably your fault," there's almost certainly some chicanery going on. Of course, the many problems stemming from Google's updates raise the question, Is it even possible to rank well?
Rank and File
The answer is yes, but it takes work, and midsize businesses don't always anticipate just how much. Penguin's nature is such that it ranks recently updated and unique content more highly than evergreen or keyword-heavy pieces and is also focused on diverse anchor text. Social media links are also being given heavier priority after the April 2012 update, leaving midsize IT with a hodge-podge of tasks that need doing if they want to see even marginal ranking improvements.
Not surprisingly, a number of SEO companies have developed specific responses to Google's new algorithm, including Ribbun's new Penguin Smasher, detailed in a July 16th, 2012, press release at Digital Journal. Aside from the odd image the name call-ups, a review of the service's features, which describe it as being able to "crack the penguin code" shows its focus to be on 100 percent unique content generation and social media link-building--nothing a midsize company can't do themselves if they are so inclined.
So what's the bottom line with Penguin? That Google has made getting to the top even more difficult, but perhaps that's for the best. For every above-board SEO company there are a dozen that aren't so honest, and on the face it's difficult for most admins to tell the difference, especially when they are bogged down by cloud computing concerns, customer relationship management (CRM) solutions and the mobile device trend. Long story short, Penguin doesn't make SEO impossible, just far more difficult, and sourcing out an SEO provider shouldn't be something done incautiously but with the same amount of care as any in-house service.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.