It certainly seems like Google enjoys naming algorithm updates after black and white zoo inhabitants. Last year, the Panda update created a stir by penalizing websites with poor quality or duplicate content. This year, the Penguin update is taking aim at overly optimized web pages.

Both these changes have left website owners at risk for big penalties including being lowered or even dropped altogether in Google's search index. This can lead to a serious and costly drop in web traffic.

Google's opinion on content is crystal clear. Quality content means readable content! And, taking shortcuts just to improve search engine rankings could jeopardize your website faster than a penguin sliding across an iceberg.

These updates and the inevitable future changes to search engine algorithms are rapidly redefining the role of SEO. While keywords remain important, great content written for the benefit of actual readers " rather than the search engines is now a must.

The recent algorithm changes may be alarming to some SEO professionals who are uncertain if their work will soon become obsolete. For those who have profited from using black hat techniques to help clients move up in the rankings, the days of stuffing keywords into nonsensical articles may be quickly coming to an end. But, that doesn't mean that SEO is a dying art.

In fact, the opportunities may be growing as quality content becomes increasingly important to the success of a website. The need for optimized websites is still there! However, SEO will become more collaborative in nature, also requiring the input of copywriters and designers. SEO teams, working together to develop content strategies, useful articles, interesting blogs, and website pages that engage readers are the future.

In the meantime, website owners are smart to review their existing online content to make sure that there is not questionable content that will raise Google's red flag. Here are a few things to check for to ensure you're not a victim of Penguin:

Authentic Titles

First and foremost, the titles that you use must make sense. They should be written for readers and not just for the benefit of search engines. This means you don't want to overdo the use of keywords and phrases. Keywords used multiple times in a title are a dead giveaway that you're trying to rank for keywords, rather than write for readers. A little can go a long way when it comes to titles, so play it smart and keep them focused on what your site visitors are coming to find.

Internal Linking

More isn't better when it comes to internal links. In fact, additional links with the same anchor are not useful. They also look questionable and spammy. Simply put, its just not worth it to link repeatedly to the same page. It will irritate your readers and could possible trigger a closer look by search engines.

Link Footers

We have all seen lists of anchor links in footers. Its doubtful that these are ever clicked on by a reader. Ten years ago, this might have been a smart technique to improve your SEO. Not anymore! If you're going to provide links in your footers, stick with those that are actually useful.

Content Blocks

Another tip off to search engines that you're trying to manipulate content is the dreaded content block. This is an irritating little block of keywords, designed to simply trick search engines. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending upon how you look at it, search engines are smart enough to detect content blocks. With the new Penguin update, chunks of mindlessly placed keywords are a sure way to get your site penalized.

Instead of using this now useless SEO technique, try writing readable content throughout the entire page. You might just be surprised that keywords naturally weave into your text when you stay focused on writing for site visitors.

Back Links

You'll also want to be careful where you're getting back links. While it may not always be easy to control where you're receiving all your links, you definitely don't want to encourage any linking that appears to be black hat or gray hat SEO. Instead of trying to accumulate as many back links as possible, your time is better spent building an authentic online community with which you can share links.

Page Building

You definitely want to build a comprehensive site, but you don't need dozens of pages that target slightly modified versions of the same keyword. Too many pages that are too similar look strange and may be picked up by search engines as being redundant. This can definitely get you in trouble!

Once again, were all being told by Google that content is king. This doesn't mean poorly written text loaded with repetitive keywords or links. Rather, by sticking with the goal of writing informative content that is useful to your site visitors, you cant go wrong. And, you just might find yourself moving up in the search engine rankings by doing so!

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Don Campbell

Don is President of Expand2Web, where he writes about WordPress for business and local search marketing. He also created GetFiveStars - a tool for business owners to encourage feedback and positive reviews from their customers.

Expand2Web Blog

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12 Responses to “What the Panda and Penguin Updates Mean for the Future of SEO”

  1. Mahesh Mohan says:

    Of course SEO won't die… and in fact it's going to be challenging and at the same time fun as well as spammy link building techniques no longer works…

  2. Maneet Puri says:

    Great Don! Loved it :) I don't get it why people are so worried about updates released by Google because all the search engine wants people to do is stop fooling around. The best possible SEO strategy will always emphasize on 2 R's that stands for Readability and Relevance. In other words, a firm should pay importance to readers rather than paying attention to search engine itself. Thanx again, Cheers!

    • Don Campbell says:

      Right on Maneet. If folks stop trying to take shortcuts and publish quality, relevant content then they will stay clear of the impact of these updates.

  3. Marlon says:

    It is important to be relevant with your titles. Also, anchor text with the same links are useless, as Google's crawlers only look at the first one for the purpose of indexing. About your point on link footers, I'm curious, does putting a tag cloud in the footer (or the sidebar) of your blog have any positive or negative effects on your SEO?

    • Don Campbell says:

      Hi Marlon,
      Agreed – titles are important. As for the tag cloud links in your footer – there is no definitive answer here. I don't think those links will get much credit in Google, but if they help your readers then they are still valuable. You won't be penalized for them unless you include tons of them and are obviously just trying to get links.

  4. I think the key here is mainly that we have to evolve away from old-school SEO and towards content marketing, including producing high quality articles and multi-media content. By producing high quality content you can encourage both links and social interaction, which now play a larger part than ever in the latest Penguin algo update.

  5. Fiza says:

    Greetings Don Campbell,

    Certainly, SEO will remain the same, Google algorithms are also the set of rules, if you follow the web master guidelines site/blog will not be penalized.

    Thanks for share worth full thoughts.

  6. Manny says:

    Great article Don! :)

    I think now more than ever we need concentrating on creating great content and think about the human more than the Google bot, don't you agree?

    Too many people have concentrated on fooling the SEs when what matters the most is the person who is coming to a site, a potential client to whom we need to satisfy his/her need for an answer or a service.

    I think Panda and Penguin came to clean up a lot of crapy sites and Google is not done with the updates, more will come soon.

    @Marcela: great points! I think social media should be use not only as an important SEO signal but to build a community that you can relate to and share ideas, and of course get customers from :)

    Don, are you a fan of twitter for building links or mostly to get followers/traffic?

    Thank you for sharing this post with the community


    • Don Campbell says:

      You bet Manny.
      I think that every publisher should have a content plan, and part of that plan is distributing that content across their social channels. So once you post/video/podcast is published to your blog, for example, it is also shared across Twitter/Facebook/Google+ depending on where your audience hangs out.

      If your content is great, then getting the social engagement, comments and links comes naturally.

  7. I have to say that I am a bit disappointed with Google with the recent updates. There is a point where the curve starts curving downward. And trying to get SEOs to work a site in a way that it looks un-worked is ridiculous. But that is just my opinion.