chapter 6

Google Penalties & Key Things to Look Out For

Video transcript

So when you are doing SEO, and you are starting off doing SEO on your website, one of the things that causes some concern is the potential for getting hit with some kind of penalty or for going awry of Google’s rules. So let’s talk a little bit about some of those rules and some of the ways people do get into trouble when they get a little bit aggressive in their SEO.

One of the things that people sometimes do is they will get really aggressive in terms of the number of links that they are creating to their website. Yes links will help you rank as long as they are high quality, relevant links, but when you start getting links on websites that have nothing to do with you, for example: if you are selling earrings and you are getting links off of jogging sites, that’s not really a relevant link. If you get too many irrelevant links, if you start going into people blog posts and spamming their blog comments with links back to your site, if you get caught buying or selling links on your website, or if you hire somebody to do link building for you and they do it in a way that is just not above board, that’s just not in a way that is helpful to Google’s searchers, then you could get hit by a penalty.

One of these penalties is called the ‘Penguin Penalty’. One of the ways you can get your site ranking for specific keywords is to create links back to your website that use the anchor-text of the keyword that you are trying to rank for. The anchor-text is that word that you click on in the link - the actual link words, and what people were doing and why Google created the Penguin Penalty is they were creating thousands of links back to their website all using the same anchor text because they wanted to rank for that number one keyword. This obviously was encouraging spam to happen in order to help people rank better in search results, and that is not really what Google wants to encourage so they created the Penguin Penalty. If you get too many links to your website (and it really has to be too many - they are going to know when you have too many links to your website) all using the same keyword that is not your brand-name over and over and over, then you might get hit with a Penguin Penalty. So one thing to watch out for when you are building links - a lot of your links should be to your brand name or should be to your URL. That should be the anchor text - the clickable words in the links back to your website. If you have far more links to keywords on your website than you have to your brand-name then you might be at risk of the Penguin Penalty, and what happens is that you simply stop ranking for those keywords that you have too many links for. So don’t go overboard.

Always try to make sure that the links you are building to your website have actual value, that somebody who is going to your website from the link would actually say to themselves “This is an interesting site I have just found...” or “...an interesting store I have just found.”. So that is one way to stay on the right side of Google’s rules when it comes to link building.

Now when it comes to content, one of the problems that Google ran into a few years ago is something called duplicate content, and it’s exactly what it sounds like - it’s when content or text is copied on multiple different websites. This used to be a big problem a few years ago when people were going to other people’s websites, copying their content, putting it on their own websites, and then ranking their own websites using the stolen content. Obviously this was encouraging spam, and Google doesn’t want to encourage spam - so in 2011 Google started penalizing sites that publish content belonging to someone else. This is why it is important to write your own product descriptions, and this is why it is important to write unique content just for your store. Don’t copy content published elsewhere, even if you have permission, because Google doesn’t know you have permission. If you get too much content on your website that is copied from other websites then you might get hit with what is called ‘The Panda Update’, which is basically when your site struggles to rank for some searches simply because you have too much duplicate content on your site.

Once you have got your site ranking you’ve done your link building, you’ve got the content, you’ve done your meta-tags, you’ve updated your title tags, you’re starting to show up for searches, then you need to measure whether or not your efforts are actually working, and that’s why you should install some free tracking and analysis packages on your website to make sure that what you are doing is actually paying off.

It’s one thing to rank in search results for a keyword, but its another thing to know that people coming from that keyword are actually purchasing from your store. So install free tools like Google Analytics which will tell you how people are coming into your store and how much they are purchasing. Obviously use the tools built into Shopify, but install Google Analytics as well to get some additional information. And one very important tool to install on your website is called Google Webmaster Tools and again this is a free tool as well. What GWT will do is give you information that Google has about your store. GWT will tell you what keywords Google thinks your store is relevant for. How many links are there to your website? But the most interesting thing GWT will tell you is what searches does your website appear for in for search results, and what was your click-through rate - how many people actually clicked on your link when you appeared in search results.

So using these tools, keep an eye on how many people are coming to your site using search results. Are you keeping up? Is the strategy you are using working? Keep an eye on your sales and look at things like the bounce rate on your website, and the amount of time people are spending on your website and keep striving to make happier visitors, happier customers to your store to make sure that Google keeps wanting to show your website in it’s search results.

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