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Why I Am Happy After Getting Google Slapped

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google penguin pandaWith millions of internet marketers, eCommerce sites, and service providers being affected by the Panda and Penguin algorithm changes recently, it makes sense to see what we have learned so far. It is clear that the worst offenders have been over-optimization of anchor text and keyword stuffing, but having non-diverse link types and utilization of just one or two SEO tools are a close second to those. When these massive changes take place, it is amazing to think that some people just had no idea at all.

A Google Slap Feels Like More Of A Shock. I say this because right in the Google quality guidelines, we can see that they are fixated on preventing people from gaming the system. The changes that they made were not to provide better search results, they were for 2 other reasons. Google made the drastic changes with Panda and Penguin to punish folks that are blatantly manipulating the search engines.The other reason was because they simply want to make more money from their advertisers.

Is Google Really Punishing People Now?

Both of these are absolutely 100% correct, and most people do not believe that this is really what is going on. If you don’t believe this, then I guess it would also surprise you to hear Matt Cutts from Google saying that they are actually trying to “hurt” people at the SMX search engine seminar. Yep, directly from his mouth to your ear…

Matt: We’ve been taking stronger actions. Our guidelines used to be that it’s almost impossible to hurt someone else. We are seeing more examples of that. We try very hard to stop that. We built in a lot of protections against hurting competitors. Some people want to be able to disavow links. Even though we don’t think you should need it, there are enough requests that we’re trying to get it in, maybe in a few months. A lot of people waste their money on buying links, and it hurts the name of the whole industry. Now we’ve gone farther and try to get those links to actually hurt you.

Danny: When you get one of these “you’re in an artificial link network” messages does that mean you have a manual penalty?

Matt: Yes. We have one algo that affects millions of sites. We can’t have hundreds of signals and tell every site “you may be affected by algo 23b.” We sent a lot of messages recently. Most of those were not artificial link warnings. Most of those were egregious black hat violations. Stuff that anybody could recognize. We’ve been progressively told people more and more about the manual actions we’re taking.

One of the cool conspiracy theories was “Google doesn’t know what they’re doing, so they just send lots of warnings, and hope people do reconsideration requests and tell them all the things they’re doing wrong.” That’s not what’s going on.

When you buy or sell links, you may think you’re being extremely cautious. But the person on the other side may be less cautious. I love the blog networks that say that “we have no footrprint, Google can never tell” and then a few days later “we’re shutting down.”

Did you catch the part about buying links – and trying to get them to hurt you? Obviously, this really has nothing at all to do with producing better search engine results. It has to do with sending a message to the SEO community. Besides, if the search engine results are poor, people will automatically start clicking on the advertised results. They know this, and are actively engaging in that right now to keep their earnings high

Are You Scared Yet? It is nothing more than a scare tactic, and is meant to keep people from doing precisely what Google’s advertisers do. They are paying the highest Adwords and Adsense rates ever. Did they throw out the baby with the bathwater here? You bet they did. The old cliche in the SEO community about being able to rank a blank page for a competitive keyword by throwing enough links at it – is more of a reality right now than we have seen online in years – but only if the links and anchor text are sufficiently varied.

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Do They Want Good Search Results – Couldn’t They Just Devalue Spammy Links?

What about his comments regarding “negative SEO”? Well, he is admitting that if you have the money, and you want to throw links at your competitors websites, you can hurt their sites. How wonderful. What a great system. So the big get bigger? Obviously, the small guy doesn’t have the resources to hurt other sites by pulling them down.

Most internet marketers and people building an online business are struggling to build a diversified business model – with multiple traffic channels – and a diversified backlink profile. You simply can’t get away with using just one or two link building tools anymore, or you will see your rankings fade quicker than you got them in the first place.

Does this mean we should cower in fear? Does it makes sense to give up and stop practicing “smart SEO”? Hell no. It just means that the stakes in the game are getting higher, and that you have to be smarter about what you are doing. Did SEO stop working? Not at all – in fact, good strategic long-term SEO is exactly what is called for in 2012. You have to actually go about maintaining at the very least – the appearance of a legitimate business online. Why do I say this?

Should Most People Really Be Cowering In Fear?Because the folks that have been practicing “smart SEO” were the ones that were least impacted by Panda and Penguin. That is the cold, hard reality of the marketplace – most people got hurt because they were “cheating”.  Did some websites pay more than they should have? Of course some did, but it is everybody’s goal to get the most results with the least amount of effort. I actually welcome the changes they have made. I like the fact that it is harder to get good rankings now, and that Joe Blow who just put up a site – can’t go and pay a group of guys $2-3 bucks per hour to fire exact match anchor text at a page of crappy content and outrank me.

Why The “New Rules” Are Refreshing

Why do I feel this way? because I take the time to provide value to my visitors. I strive in every one of the activities that I engage in to build my online business, to not only connect with the reader, but to also provide more than what the person expects when they land on my page. It is not hard to over-deliver value, and to make this a part of your business strategy. One of the first things you can do is to try and envision what someone might or might not know about the subject they are searching for.

The first thing that I think of when I do this is that the reader does not know what I know. That Is why I like to share my opinion, what I do and don’t like, and what I have seen that is working and what isn’t. Sometimes it isn’t clear what the case studies and analyses are bearing out, and it is important to make that point clear to the reader if this is the case. Most people don’t take the time to analyze their failures – I mean really break it down and understand all of the reasons. This is being different from the rest of the crowd, different than just regurgitating what the internet “gurus” are preaching.

Usually the Explosions Are For Several Reasons. What we have seen so far from the websites that got hurt by Panda and Penguin is that they did not get Google slapped for just one reason. This is really important to understand, and to translate into action. The majority of people that were slapped the hardest (meaning nearly everyone) – were in effect, manipulating the rankings with a variety of different unsound SEO practices.

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How I Made The Changes To Take A Smarter Approach

How do I know? Because I was one of the worst offenders. I was building predominantly exact match anchor text links, and I was using only one or two link building tools – since they were getting the most bang for the buck back then. By getting Google slapped myself, I decided to figure out why I got slapped, and to change my mindset. I started analyzing what I did wrong, and what I did right. I made notes and tried different approaches at recovery with the sites that got hit.

It was simple to put up a page in 2010, target a keyword with medium to high competition, and throw high PR exact match links at it. Who couldn’t do this – really?

Now it is more about diversity than anything else. If you don’t mix up everything that you do, you will suffer. Should it be this way – is it really fair? Well, I suppose that you could argue both ways with that one. One thing is for sure, the requirements to play the game favor larger companies with more resources. But it doesn’t mean that the small guy can’t compete. Hasn’t this always been true with running any business?

Are You Ready To Take A Hard Look In The Mirror? People with discipline and the ability to understand what changes have occurred in the marketplace can change what they are doing, and more importantly, stop making the same mistakes over and over. Anyone can still build a business online. It is still the cheapest form of business that you can start. Fail at opening a restaurant or a small business in the real world, and you have significant losses of capital and likely overdue debt or obligations to deal with.

The problem revolves around knowing what to do, having self discipline, and taking action. It was difficult for me to admit to myself that I caused my own problems, however, by focusing on the real problem, the path forward became clear to me. I had to be the one to change if I wanted better results.

You literally need to understand which SEO strategies work, and what practices will hurt you, to be successful in 2012. I knew full well that I was taking risks in losing my rankings. I knew that moving up in the SERPS for higher competition keywords should not be as easy as it was. I was literally trouncing on sites with a lot more authority than my sites had, and failed to change what I was doing.

It was too convenient to pump out high PR backlinks to my webpages with exact match anchor text, and watch my pages rise in the rankings like my websites were Facebook or something. I liked making money fast, and did not stop to think about taking a long term business strategy.

How I Changed My Focus – and Took Action

By now, so many people have mulled over so many reasons why their websites got Google slapped – that most of them either ran for the hills, or continue to talk themselves out of taking action. I feel like George Costanza in the Seinfeld episode where he decided to do everything the “opposite” of what his instincts told him to do. Instead of creating smaller 10-15 page websites, I decided that it was time to start creating larger authority sites with 100 pages minimum.

I also decided not to build links until I had at least 25 pages of quality content on my site. Google literally knows what time and date that each link is built to your website, what IP address that link came from, and if that link is located in a “content farm” or not. It just doesn’t make sense to me that any website could get links without any traffic, citations, or a sufficient amount of quality, unique content – so I resisted the temptation to build links of any sort. I completely focused on putting up 2 or 3 quality posts each day, with no investment of time in linkbuilding whatsoever.

I Never Imagined That I Would Make A YouTube Video. I also decided to step out of my comfort zone and start creating videos. After I created my first YouTube video, which was audio with a Powerpoint, I also created a PDF out of the slideshow, and distributed it on some of the most popular document sharing sites like Scribd and Slideshare. Sure, it took time, but each one I do now takes about an hour at the most to create and distribute. I was amazed that I got 25 views of the PDF on the day I posted it –  and thought to myself, maybe this will actually drive traffic to my sites. It works nearly as well as article marketing and posting one piece of content on Ezine Articles did back in 2005-2010.

I even went to the next uncomfortable degree and put social sharing buttons on my sites with the free WordPress plugin Socialize. – and claimed my content as my own by setting up Authorship. This helps to get my picture listed with my search results for my targeted keywords. I used to be a CPA, and putting myself out there like that was difficult, at least at first. Seriously, if I can do it, anyone can.

By diversifying my traffic sources, and stepping out of my comfort zone, I am becoming less dependent on Google, and more sane in the process. I am in the process of creating a long-term business now, not just chasing dollars for a few months. I have to say, it does feel good.

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