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Do The Right SEO Thing... Or Not?

Mark Jackson
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If you constantly “chase the algorithm,” you might find that you adapted to the wrong version of the algorithm update and then – once Google “corrects itself” – you’re once again left behind. Even now we’re hearing now about recent launch of Google Panda version 2.1.

In my last column, I mentioned that I’m not one to worry too much about algorithm changes. All too often, the search engines will have a major algorithm change and then, over the course of time, work on tweaks and modifications to the initial roll-out.

All of these changes with Google are to address things in Google’s results which Google felt could be “less than desirable.” All of these things to focus on rewarding websites that “do the right thing” with content, link building, etc.

White hat SEO practitioners like myself will continue to preach the right way to do things, with proper site structure, content, and above board link building practices. We want to help our clients build a high quality web presence that any proper algorithm should “naturally” reward.

Case Study 1

 

Google's Amit Singhal recently shared 23 questions to offer guidance on “building a high quality website.” Alongside Mr. Singhal’s questions in bold, I’ll share the story of a former client’s website. Just the facts.

This is in no way a “retaliation” piece. I’m not going to use this client's name. I’m not at all hurt by the fact that they are no longer a client (there were circumstances that led to the relationship ending which in no way led to a feeling of resentment).

  • Would you trust the information presented in this article? Client’s content was written by an off-shore resource, was of very poor quality (hardly English) and repurposed through a software so that the same content could be used on multiple pages of the website.
  • Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature? I’m going to be polite here…it’s shallow.
  • Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations? This is exactly what they’re doing. Using a software program to rewrite content, many times over (millions of pages within the domain).
  • Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site? The site is not horribly designed, so I would say that a novice web user would drop their credit card down (unless they read their content).
  • Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors? Some of the most broken English you will ever see.
  • Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines? Content is completely keyword stuffed, by any definition.
  • Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis? You were expecting “thought” to go into the content? Other than SEO/keyword stuffing, there is no thought whatsoever.
  • Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results? None. In fact, this website is an affiliate site with its only purpose to drive leads/form completions.
  • How much quality control is done on content? Absolutely none.
  • Does the article describe both sides of a story? Uh…
  • Is the site a recognized authority on its topic? Not in anyone’s lifetime.
  • Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care? Content is mass-produced and mass reproduced.
  • Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced? Hastily produced and sloppy.
  • For a health related query, would you trust information from this site? Nope.
  • Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name? Nope.
  • Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic? Nothing valuable in the content, whatsoever.
  • Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious? I’ve really enjoyed analyzing how in the hell this website’s traffic has actually increased (significantly) since Panda.
  • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend? Nope. Nothing of value here. Seriously.
  • Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content? I wouldn’t say excessive, but AdSense on every page…yes.
  • Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book? As a case study of what “not to do” for Panda? Yes. I would expect to see this.
  • Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics? The “articles” are so keyword stuffed and long that they’ve put much of the text under a div so that the page doesn’t scroll forever.
  • Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail? No attention to anything other than keyword stuffing.
  • Would users complain when they see pages from this site? If they actually read the content? Yes…they would (should) complain.

I give you my word…my comments above are accurate. I wish that I could share the domain, as that would make this a very interesting read. But, I simply can't find a good way to do that.

Check out their organic search traffic, according to SEM Rush:

SEMRush Organic Search Traffic Post-Panda

I can tell you that that, too, is an accurate portrayal of what’s happened…their traffic has tripled since Panda. Their traffic is 17 times higher than pre-Panda (at least). If you’re more of a Compete.com person, check out this graphic:

Compete Organic Search Traffic Post-Panda

Like the smiley face?

Case Study 2

Now, on the flip side, I can share a story of another client that we had taken on back in late December. This client had previously participated in paid links (before working with my firm). Their paid links looked an awful lot like JCPenney’s.

What’s the right thing to do? Remove them, you say? After all, we don’t want to be the next agency roasted for “condoning/supporting paid links, especially on link farms.”

Anyone who has been in SEO long enough knows, though, that paid links often do work. It’s just that, once (if) they are discovered, you can take a significant hit.

This client was significantly exposed to paid links. Over the course of our engagement with them, we have worked on efforts of building up their link profile so that it is more “natural” (normal).

We have been able to get the client involved in press release optimization, obtaining links from their partners/associations that they are involved in, ensuring that they have a presence in good/reputable directories, building out their social profiles and aiding them in bringing social channels into the fray (on-site and off-site).

Then, once we had built up their link profile up to a more natural appearing state, we decided that it was time to begin the process of trying to remove some of the exposure.

We began by removing one link. One. It was a sitewide link on a website that was totally unrelated to their business. It was on a website which anyone would say is “scary looking” for how obvious the association with a link network and the prominence of the link.

Results? Within days, the website’s positioning has dropped across a number of keywords. Not only for the keywords which were – blatantly – used within the anchor text of the link, but across the board, the website was affected.

Summary

You are hearing a lot of stories lately about people “doing the right thing” but being adversely affected/impacted by Google’s recent updates. I’m certain that – for the most part – results are better.

But, when you're in the business of helping companies to increase their presence in the search engines, many SEOs will find themselves in a difficult position at times: Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.

Again, though, what makes life a little less stressful for me is that I only focus on what I would do if I were Google. If I do that, more often than not, the algorithms will follow suit. And, if they don’t, who knows, Bing might start to earn a much bigger market share and we’ll have less to discuss.


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