Feature Article (Pub: November 05) The Google PR™ Update by Paul Rudman

The google update - where to begin? A joy to some, the bane of the earth to others...

For those with their head in a hole, approximately every 3 months Google updates their search algorithm as they always find new ways to improve the search results and also to fight off devious search engine optimisation companies (ahem) who are attempting to manipulate their search results to favour the SEO companies clients.

If you run a blog or have a personal site this type of thing doesn't bother or affect you, but if you are a business who relies heavily on e-commerce - and particularly from search engine users - then you break out in cold sweats every time the dreaded quarterly day starts to drift ever closer.

This particular Google update has proved to be especially vicious in the way it has appeared to penalise certain websites who have been guilty of indulging in a bit of search engine marketing, and the Google dance (the daily changing placement of websites for certain phrases) seems to be still on-going more than a month after the latest update occurred, which is longer than usual as it tends to last for about two weeks. This suggests to me that Google have made some drastic changes to their algorithm that have important consequences to many an online enterprise.

What do I feel are the major changes to have occurred during this update? These of course are personal opinion only:-

  1. Websites have been penalised for the purchase of bulk site-wide inbound links that have previously helped to gain high rankings by taking advantage of Googles' fondness for rewarding sites that have many inbound links by giving them higher rankings
  2. Websites that duplicate content from authority sites have been penalised harshly
  3. Penalisation of websites seems selective, as if the kind and thoughtful people of Google decided to only penalise you a little bit for being a bad boy, not completely dropping your site

It seems impossible for Google to patrol linking so they are obviously just weeding out sites new to the link buying game and also sites that purchase "obvious" big bulk links, such as single text link across 10,000 pages on the same IP address or domain.

What impact does this have for link building and SEO strategies?

As always we are trying to stay ahead of the game, and so I firmly believe that the best approach for SEO going forward is "less is more". By this I mean client expectations need to be managed so they understand that there is no big bang results when an SEO campaign begins, the work needs to be subtle and slow to maximise results and reduce the risk of penalisation that seem to now occur from over-aggressive link buying strategies.

"From small acorns you get big nuts"

Indeed. By careful choice of individual quality links purchased over a period of time, a quality link strategy can still occur - although it needs to appear far more organic than was previously required.

The good thing for the potential client is that link brokering companies will soon realise that people do not want site-wide links, and increase their inventory to cope with the fact you may want 30 links from unique websites now rather than 200 links from a single site. So make sure if you go to a link broker that you bear this in mind...

There will always be future challenges for search engine marketers and this latest attempt by Google to punish websites more harshly than before for "dubious" tactics only ups the ante, and once again us search engine optimisers must make sure that we stay ahead of the game for the benefit of all our clients.


Paul Rudman is the director and head of optimisation at CommerceTuned, he's been involved in developing search strategies and search engine optimisation for 7 years.

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