Online marketers need to understand how updates to Google’s algorithm may affect their website rankings. When a site is affected by an update, it is important that adjustments are made to avoid further penalties from Google. Unfortunately, sites typically have to wait until Google rolls out another update in order to see how their changes impact rankings.
Last month Google rolled out their most recent update of Penguin 3.0 approximately one year after the previous Penguin 2.1 update.
How Significant is Penguin 3.0 on Rankings?
Every update to Google’s algorithm affects only a select number of sites, pages and queries so not everyone will experience changes in their search rankings. According to Google’s measurement, less than 1% of English based queries are impacted by the recent Penguin 3.0 update. This is far less than the 3.1% of queries that were affected when Penguin was first rolled out in April of 2012.
On-page ranking factors have changed over the years. While the use of keywords may not be as prolific as they were a few years ago, keyword optimization is still important for organic search. Let’s take a look at a few tips and tricks to keep your website as Google friendly as possible.
Tip #1: Title Tags Are Still Important
Unless you want to risk Google cutting off excess characters, keep your Title Tags between 50 and 59 characters. If you go over, be aware that Google may change the word order or the actual wording of your title tag. Wouldn’t you rather have more control over what is displayed for your website’s search results?
To learn more read Search Engine Watch’s post on “Why Google Changes Your Title in Search Engine Results”.
Trick #1: There’s a Tool for That!
There really is no excuse for going over the recommended character count. There is a simple tool that allows you to copy and paste your text to verify your character count. Letter Counter’s character counter is the go-to tool for not only SEO optimization, but it can also be used to stay under Twitter’s 140 character limit.
Tip #2: Expand Your Keyword Content
We know that Google penalizes sites that utilize keyword stuffing as part of their SEO strategy. Focusing only on your identified keyword isn’t enough any more. According to Google, nearly 70% of searches involve synonyms or variations of keywords.
Trick #2: Utilize Natural Language
Instead of just duplicating exact matches of your keyword, use variations that users would naturally use in their language. Let’s take the query “all weather tires”:
From Google’s results we can see that there are many relevant variations associated with this keyword phrase:
- “all-season tires”
- “winter tires”
- “snow tires”
- “long-lasting tires”
We also know that Google’s vast database of billions of phrases isn’t going to return a result of “bike tires” since this phrase is not relevant to the initial “all weather tires” search query.
As always, remember quality over quantity when it comes to keywords!
Tip #3 Utilize Long Tail Keywords
It is becoming increasingly more difficult to rank for short tail keyword phrases which contain 1-2 word phrases. Instead, we need to focus on long tail keywords that contain at least 3-5 words. Long tail keywords account for over 70% of search queries. In addition to the quantity of search queries, long tail keyword conversions are much higher than conversions for short tail keyword phrases.
One way to create long tail keywords is to use modifiers. We can apply the following modifiers to the “all weather tires” example:
- Time or Date: “2014 all weather tires”
- Price or Quality: “Best all weather tires” or “Inexpensive all season tires”
- Intent: “Purchase all season tires” or “Find all weather tires”
- Location: “Portland all weather tires” or “All year tires Pacific Northwest”
Trick #3 Google Keyword Planner tool
Google’s Keyword Planner tool can be used to identify how competitive keywords will be ranked. When we look at “all weather tires” and “all season tires” in Google’s Keyword Planner tool we can see that both terms are highly competitive. It will be very difficult to rank for either of these terms due to their competition.
Based on the results, we can eliminate “snow driving” and “summer tires in snow” since they aren’t relevant to our original intention for “all weather tires” or “all season tires”. Instead we should focus on the 70 monthly searches with medium competition for the phrase: “best all season tire in snow”.
Our initial phrase of “all weather tires” generated 3,600 monthly searches, but since it was such a competitive term it was unlikely that we would rank for it. By selecting a term that has medium competition and only 70 monthly searches we are increasing our chances of appearing in search results and ultimately gaining a conversion.
SEO strategy is always changing and requires marketers to keep up with new keyword trends and Google’s latest algorithm. By leveraging these free tools, and paying attention to the competitive landscape of your keywords, your brand can develop a strategy that increases conversations at a lower cost. For additional information on search engine optimization, read our blog post on How to use SEO.