Some SEO practitioners look on search engine updates like Google Panda and Google Penguin introduced in 2011 and 2012 respectively, as nuclear option penalty devices. An SEO guy is just doing his job, after all, trying to get his clients noticed in a competitive field. A nip here, a tuck there, ignore some rules over here, wink at a search engine tut-tut back there, and who gets hurt? Search engines don’t see it that way: All the nips and tucks break their rules.
Search Engines are hardly proactive, at least until recently. All their algorithm changes have been reactionary – reacting to SEO practitioners bending the rules or ignoring them altogether to rank ahead of the field in searches. Google Panda (meant to fight thin or low-quality content) and Google Penguin (meant to fight spam) were major adjustments to rein in SEO game playing. And it seems to have worked, because Google has made few other major changes in 2013. Here is a list of Google’s other reactions to-date in 2013.
Google’s 2013 Effort to Tame SEO
#1. Continued minor updates of Google Penguin (to reduce spam) and Google Panda (to reduce thin content).
Panda most recently was a much milder update than in the past and some sites have reported recovering ranking recently.
#2.Loss of relevance of keyword links (anchor text).
The practice once was to make sure you used keywords in anchor text, but Google says that’s no longer as important. They are attaching more relevance to more natural language – write the content naturally and add then add the links. It’s OK to use referral language or even as simple as “click here.” Google is also connecting sites through brand names that aren’t even linked, so keyword linking between brands isn’t always necessary.
#3. Fewer SERPS results per domain name per keyword phrase.
Fewer SERPS per domain name means a business that was used to their website ranking multiple times under the same keyword or keyword phrase will now only rank up to four times. For example, let’s say your domain name is pencils.com and your keyword phrase is 2 lead (as in #2 lead pencil) and before the change, you had SERPS six times for different colored lead or different pack sizes. Now you will only get SERPS for four times for those same colors or packs. Thus, the domain name remains just as relevant, but the number of rankings is lower. Google is trying to reduce the dominance of some players in rankings while making room for others who because of those dominant players were crowding the field.
Thinning out some of the same-domain-name results may help bring up some of the deeper rankings. It’s both a benefit and a bane, depending on how your website ranks.
#4.Refined Google authority algorithm to boost site authority on topics.
Topic or industry authority figures high in ranking and refining this algorithm should aid those with higher quality content and further penalize those with lower quality content. Again, the goal is to benefit the reader, and it also benefits the higher quality content producers.
#5.Less rhetoric on link building, but continued emphasis on link quality.
To reduce the effect of specious or unnatural links, Google is downplaying the number of links in favor of ensuring the links you do include have meaning. Links are still important, but you are rewarded for high quality links and not rewarded simply for having links.
Google 2013 Proactive Steps to Help Webmasters Maintain Links
Surprising SEO practitioners, Google did take two proactive steps that help webmasters manage optimization. They can help you maintain quality content, too.
#1. New “Disavow Links” feature to disavow inbound links.
Acknowledging that competitors and spammers may create links to your site that detract from your ranking, Google now allows you to “disavow” links. Make use of this feature among others in Google’s Webmaster Tools.
#2. New “Link Alerts” feature to help for maintenance of bad links.
Another new feature Google has added to work with websites is “Link Alerts.” When Google discovers problem links, they now alert you through Webmaster Tools and provide example URLs. Another feature on Webmaster Tools is the ability to track all the links to and on your site, which makes following up on Link Alerts easier.
Pleasing the Reader Pleases the Search Engines – Still in 2013
What I have found is that it’s best to ignore all the hype surrounding SEO (Search Engine Optimization, or, optimizing for search engines) and personally work on Website Optimization (optimizing a website for search, or, removing roadblocks and optimizing reader opportunities within my pages). I try to write quality content that – from the beginning – makes the content clear to the reader. When it’s clear to the reader, it will also be clear to the search engines In that respect, nothing much has really changed in 2013.