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SEO, Google, and Your Business

Changes at Google

As you’ve probably heard, Google made some algorithm changes at the end of February. Called the “Farmer” update in the media, these changes are designed to help Google produce higher quality results for their customers. In short, the Farmer update targeted “content farms” to make it harder for these sites to rank highly in search results. Content farms typically feature low-quality content, so having these sites highly ranked can degrade the overall quality of the search results returned by Google. For example, a directory site that’s looking to increase online traction might solicit, or “farm,” content from external sources that, ultimately, may not have much value to a human audience. This creates the potential for businesses’ old contact information and locations to remain in circulation, decreasing the content quality on the Internet. Logically, this is an issue that Google is inclined to work against. In implementing the Farmer update, Google’s goal is to improve the results quality to increase searcher satisfaction and decrease frustration. Before the update, consumers were frustrated by the poor information they were receiving while business owners were also frustrated by their inability to eliminate that old address or phone number, no matter how much new information they tried to circulate.

Why This Matters for Business Owners

Perhaps you’re wondering why the Google algorithm change matters for your business. Well, just consider: if your company was gaining good traction from websites like MerchantCircle.com, HubPages.com, or Business.com—it won’t be anymore. These sites are all reported to have been hit hard by the Farmer update, so your business can no longer count on them to provide the same results as in the past! This algorithm change highlights more than ever why every business, large or small, needs to stay on top of Google changes. As the major search engines tweak how they rank results, it can dramatically affect where your company shows up on search engine results pages (SERPs) and directly affect how much online business you can generate. If you were using sites affected by the Farmer update, now’s the time to seek out new ways and new directories to capitalize on to maintain your company’s online presence. Not sure if sites you relied on have been hit? Check out this site for an analysis of which directories and sites were affected most. Or, if algorithm changes and the changing world of web marketing are too daunting, let our SEO professionals help. Feel free to call Prospect Genius with any questions you have about the Farmer update and what we can do to maintain your web presence and popularity.

Not Even the Big Guys Are Immune

When it comes to Google and effective online marketing, there’s more to be aware of than just the latest algorithm changes. You’ll want to remember that all businesses are required to follow Google’s guidelines—or else! The Google team is getting better and better at cracking down on “black-hat” SEO: what it considers underhanded tactics or bad behavior. And when they find a company that’s breaking their rules, no one is immune. From multimillion dollar companies (who spend substantial sums on pay-per-click advertising with Google) to small mom-and-pop operations, Google punishes black-hat violators just the same. The New York Times recently reported that JCPenney got caught red-handed using black-hat tactics. Google discovered JCPenney trying to trick them by adding links on various sites across the web. These links pointed back to JCPenney’s website, and while some of the pages they linked off of nominally related to Penney’s products, most had no correlation whatsoever. For example, “black dresses” and a link to JCPenney were tacked onto the bottom of a site called nuclear.engineeringaddict.com. Other links included “evening dresses” on a site called www.casino-focus.com , “cocktail dresses” on www.bulgariapropertyportal.com, and ”casual dresses” on www.elistofbanks.com. This may have seemed smart, at least at first, since JCPenney outranked Samsonite’s site itself for searches like “Samsonite carry-on luggage.” But the black-hat strategies ultimately backfired, as they virtually always do. When Google uncovered the violation of their guidelines, JCPenney lost any traction they had gained and more. Matt Cutts, the head of the Google spam department, commented that “strong corrective action” was being taken against the retail giant. This type of corrective action ranges from a -10 penalty (causing a webpage to move back 10 spots in search engine results rankings) to a -40, -70, or -100 penalty. Penalties can even include being blacklisted from Google completely. Google draws a very clear line between black- and white-hat tactics, and outlines them in detail for everyone to see here. Whether or not the JCPenney hierarchy intentionally used black hat SEO, or they were led astray by unscrupulous web marketers, this latest move was deliberate on someone’s part, and it was a pretty bad move overall.

Play by Google’s Rules

The simple truth is that following the rules pays off when it comes to trying to promote your website—and your business—on the web. It can feel overwhelming to stay on top of the rules when algorithm updates and changes like the “Farmer” update roll out, but it’s critical to ensure your online advertising and promotional campaigns abide by Google’s requirements or you may find yourself facing nasty penalties just like JCPenney. However, you don’t have to go it alone. White-hat SEO pros like Prospect Genius scrupulously follow Google’s guidelines, and you can count on our professionals to never cross the line into black-hat tricks. Our expert Internet marketers work to leverage your site to get you the maximum online exposure without violating any of Google’s rules. That’s the clear-cut answer for long-term success online. For more information on how our SEO program works within Google’s guidelines or to sign up for our lead generation campaign, feel free to give us a call at 1-800-689-1273 or visit our website.