600px US 3.svg  The 3 Latest Google Changes that Can Burn Your BusinessIn the digital age, most businesses rely on web traffic to support their business in some way. For some, a consistent stream of visitors means lots of leads or sales, and dollars directly into their pockets. Other businesses are looking for visibility among their competitors and to ensure brand credibility with a professional web presence.

As Google and other search engines continue to raise the bar for website quality, businesses need to know the factors that can make them rise to the top, or fall into oblivion.

Here are some of Google’s latest changes that can most affect your search engine success. (Keep reading for some tips on how to stay ahead of search engine updates.)

1. Panda

In February 2011, Google launched a shot across the bow with its Panda update. Panda sought to penalize “content farms” — websites that generate huge volumes of low-value or plagiarized content for the purposes of ranking for a topic. While many content farms fell out of the rankings, plenty of legitimate businesses also saw big negative impact on their rankings.

Your website may have suffered the Panda hit if your web traffic from search dropped significantly almost overnight in late February or early March 2011.

Your SEO Plan: The best way to reduce the impact of Panda on your web traffic is to eliminate any duplicate or low-value content on your website. For instance, if you use the same text to describe your business on multiple pages of your website, you may have an issue. If you have a hundred pages on the site with little to no valuable content, that may also spell trouble. Or, if you take a good chunk of your content from other websites, even if it’s completely legal as with articles from eZineArticles.com or similar article directories, you may also be penalized under Panda.

Look at your website page by page and ask yourself: “Is this content unique? Is it valuable to the user? Is it necessary?” If you don’t find yourself saying yes, consider changing or eliminating the page.

2. Venice

Are you loving the code names yet?

Venice launched sometime earlier this year and is targeted at improving localized search results. In other words, it’s designed to provide better results to people looking for products and services where they’re located.

Whether you’re a local business or national, you want to be relevant to people where they are. Showing up in local search results is a big part of that.

Your SEO Plan: If you’re a local business, you’re going to want to make mention of your city, or the closest major city center, on your site in multiple places. List your address prominently on your site. If you’re actively working to secure links to your site, try to get a good chunk of links from local sites, especially within your industry. Connect with local bloggers, engage in local discussion forums, etc.

3. Search + Your World

In January, Google rolled out “Search + Your World” (we wrote about it in depth here.) This update wasn’t to the actual rankings, but to how they were displayed. With Search + Your World, users started to see personal search results mixed in with their typical list of relevant links. This means that discussions their friends were having on Google+ about the topic would be just as likely to show up in rankings as established, authoritative websites. Personal results were also rolled into images, with relevant images from Google Contacts showing up first, followed by general results.

This update made it harder to get the attention of the general search user as the clutter of personal results took up valuable search real estate.

Your SEO Plan: Consider how social media can impact your search performance. Even if you don’t see the need to connect with people on Twitter for your business, it’s clear that social media activity is influencing search and driving web traffic. For Search + Your World, being connected on Google is most important. Make sure your brand has a Google+ page as a starting point. From there, make the most of the connections that you already have — customers/clients, vendors, employees and more — by inviting them to connect on social platforms and share your content.

The bottom line…

SEO is a complicated topic, but you don’t have to be an expert to improve your performance. Spend some time looking for ways to make your website an overall better, clearer and more valuable tool for your customers and you’ll benefit in the long run.






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