Penguins come in all shapes and sizes, and Google’s penguins are no different. There have been five Google Penguin updates so far, and with more set to follow, it’s more important than ever that webmasters get their websites just right.
Naturally, you want to get traffic to your website — a website without traffic is useless to its creators — but there have been numerous issues over the use of certain SEO techniques.
The first step to landing page optimization is to make sure it’s optimized for your keywords. This is basic SEO, but remember that Google tends to punish people if they over-stuff keywords into a landing page. Aim to have no more than a 4 percent keyword density, and make sure it’s content that people want to read. Always ask yourself this: Would I want to read it? If you wouldn’t want to read it, you know what to do with the content.
That’s where hiring a professional writer can really pay dividends. A professional-looking site with solid content can also lead to higher conversions, whether your revenue is modeled around lead generation, advertising or straight-out selling.
One of the better ways to choose keywords is to use the Keyword Planner tool offered by Google. You don’t need a Google account to access it, but it does mean you can make multiple searches without having to type in a CAPTCHA every single time — which quickly gets tiring. Ideally, your keywords should:
- Be relevant
- Be between two and four words
- Have medium or low competition
- Have a search volume above 200
You’re not likely to rank for Google or Microsoft, so be realistic. Focus on the sort of people who you think want to visit your site. If your business focuses on creative ways to increase website traffic, you might want to select “website ranking” and “what is SEO.” Looking at what people are searching for can also give you an idea of which direction to go.
One keyword suggested was “YouTube SEO,” so it’s evident that there’s an appetite for YouTube videos of people explaining SEO in a clear and simple way — this can even be a minor source of revenue. Videos, in particular, can be used to engage with potential customers and drive traffic to your site. You will want to try several words to see what the results are, and be creative. It’s your site, after all.
Don’t forget to include your location a couple of times to ensure that people who look for your business can actually find it online. If you fail to do this basic step, people who are looking for a local business cannot find you and may go with a national chain instead.
The next step is to include the right metadata and tags so that Google can easily find your landing page. The search title is the bit that Google displays in the search heading that you click on. This should be no more than 75 characters, as anything more than that will get truncated.
The meta-description is the description that appears below the link; this should be no more than 160 characters long. Place at least one keyword in the title and two in the description. This will help Google work out what your site is about.
All of this is basic Panda SEO that’s been done to death, but it’s still relevant, even after Hummingbird and Penguin. Now we need to look at what Penguin has done and how to optimize your landing page for it.
All of Google’s updates have been focused on getting the best results for its customers—that’s you and everyone who is searching for your site. If you search for “SEO Jacksonville,” for example, you don’t want to end up being directed to a company based in Mumbai or Moscow.
First, Google got rid of landing pages that were full of keywords and little content. Then it got rid of certain high-volume sites that created content cheaply but had little value (think eHow, for example). This leaves a major method of increasing your PageRank, though, and that was by adding lots of backlinks to your site. You could even pay for links by the thousand, and they were cheap. This sort of link-spamming meant that webmasters could quickly get a high PageRank.
Google felt that it had to burst this bubble, and Penguin was released. This hit many webmasters right where it hurts — in the search rankings. It also means you now have to know who has linked to your site and how that link is affecting you.
When you’ve created a website, the first thing you need to do is get it registered with Google’s Webmaster Tools. This helps you track what’s going on with it, and it also registers who has backlinked to your site. If your website has been around for a while, get it registered. It will take a few days for the results to populate.
What happens now is that you have access to lots of tools that detail exactly how your website is performing. You’ll need to wait a while for the data to start accumulating, but once that starts happening, you’ll find out everything you need to know. It’s more data than most people will want, but you need to check who is linking to your site. And that’s where the fun starts.
Before you start checking links, however, you probably want to check how people are finding the site. Obviously, you’ve optimized your landing page for certain keywords, but it’s often good to check what genuine customers are looking for and how they’re finding your site. Click on the Search Traffic option on the left-hand side and then select the Search Queries button. This will tell you everything.
Now, just below the Search Queries button is a button that’s really important in the Penguin age. Penguin penalizes people with masses of spammy links directing to their web pages. To make your landing page optimization ideal, you need to ensure that any backlinks are from reputable sites.
Google wants “organic links,” and these are links that arise naturally from people sharing and commenting about your business. An SEO company might have a blog that has links, a Twitter feed and a Facebook page. People within the company could contribute to various blogs that deal with SEO techniques to build links.
What Google will penalize people for are unnatural links. These are links that are associated with low-quality content and low reliability. Think of them like zombies; they replicate rapidly and cause a lot of damage, but come a cold spell, they’ll run out of fuel and die off — and the cold spell is when Google freezes them out. Each time you check a link, you’ll quickly realize whether it’s a link associated with high-quality content or low-quality spam. If in doubt, seek to get the link removed. Google will send a message if it considers that you have a number of unnatural links.
Now, most of the time, removing links involves an email to whoever owns the website that’s linked to your site. Some people report having to pay to take links down, although this is not a particularly common practice. The tool of last resort is the Disavow Links tool. It’s a nuclear option, although it tends to leave buildings standing.
This basically consists of a text document with the link spam that you want to dissociate your site from that you upload. Of course, if you get this wrong, it’s easy to accidentally remove legitimate links. However, if you’ve been linked to by various directories that refuse to remove the link, this tool should help you regain your standing. Google’s own blogspot has a handy primer on how to use the Disavow Links tool.
As a start up, you’ll want to ensure that only high-quality links direct to your landing page, and if your domain has been used by another company or has been parked for a long time, it’s possible that it could have poor links directed to it. That’s why it’s essential to check as soon as you can.
And, the Future
SEO is one of the many tools in your site’s tool chest, but it shouldn’t be the only one. Landing page optimization is just one thing you can do to encourage traffic to your website. There are many quicker options that involve some creativity. Growth hacking is an increasing trend, and it focuses on getting the most out of your website by creating attractive reasons for people to pass on your website’s message to others.