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Don’t let Google’s algorithm change tank your website rankings

Every year, Google releases a series of what it calls Panda updates to improve the overall quality of its search results. Many in the search industry see the most recent Panda update as the biggest algorithm change in recent years – algorithm being a formula, or procedure, for solving a problem. Many websites, especially those with low-quality or old content, saw their rankings and web traffic tumble almost overnight. Here are a few tips on how to make sure your site continues to rank well.

1. Avoid over-optimizing anchor texts
It used to be that you could boost the ranking of a page by making the anchor text (the visible, clickable words in a hyperlink) a catchy keyword. For example, if your anchor text consisted of the word “elephant,” people interested in elephants would go to your site. You’d rank high in Google for the word elephant. But now, post-Panda, using just one keyword won’t work. Use a variety of keyword variations in your anchor texts, rather than the same ones over and over.

2. Link to your inner pages as well
To increase the diversity of your linking campaign, spread out your incoming links by linking to your inner pages rather than just the homepage.

3. Review your site template
Remove your site template. Make sure there aren’t any pages that are mostly template-based with little unique content. You want 70-80 percent of a page to be unique content.

4. Remove duplicate articles or product pages
Check for duplicate content as well as duplicate titles, keywords, and description tags. If you run an e-commerce site, make sure you have a unique description for each product. You may also want to integrate customer reviews as a way of making the content unique on each page.

5. Increase user engagement
Aside from customer reviews, you’ll also want to include other forms of user engagement. Incorporate Facebook comments into your blog posts. Show your Twitter feeds on your pages. Add site-sharing buttons such as Google +1 to all pages.

6. Block unnecessary directories
Block off unnecessary directories with your “robots.txt” file to prevent Google from indexing them. For example, if you’re using WordPress, you’ll want to block off your archive pages so that Google doesn’t see all the duplicate content.

7. Increase unique content
Increase your unique content generation – that is, original content found only on your site – to at least one new page or blog post a week. Google’s Panda changes heavily favour fresh content delivered at a consistent interval. Create a content schedule that works for you – and stick to it.

8. Send out press releases
Sending out press releases through services such as is still a good way to get quality backlinks from authority news sites – as long as your stories are newsworthy enough to get picked up by the media. Aim to submit at least one good press release every month.

9. Have a local strategy
Google is making local searches more and more prominent in its algorithm. To rank high for local results in your city, make sure you register your Google Places page ( and fill out your profile. Ask your customers to write customer reviews, as that can boost your local rankings.

10. Look beyond SEO
Lastly, it is clear that we are seeing an evolution to integrated digital marketing. I wouldn’t go as far as saying, “SEO is dead,” as many industry experts are doing. But I am quite certain that digital marketers now have to look at how SEO, pay-per-clicks, social media, content strategy, information architecture (i.e., planning out every aspect of your site and then developing a way to implement it), web design, and analytics all have to work together. Unfortunately, this creates a huge overhead for small businesses that may not have the resources to cover all these areas. But that’s the reality of a maturing marketplace – if a small business does not continue to innovate for growth, it will eventually be overshadowed by larger companies with deeper pockets.

Martin Wong is a partner at Smartt (, a consulting agency that creates and executes digital roadmaps for ambitious organizations. With over 10 years’ experience in online marketing, Martin combines his extensive insights and Google certifications to provide informed and measurable business solutions. Martin can be reached at 604-473-9700 or

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