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Search Engine Optimization is currently an ambiguous term, as the concept has changed dramatically over the last two years. The practice had previously been used by companies to manipulate search engine results with keyword placement and backlinks. This could help boost their Web traffic results.

Google reacted in February 2011 by unleashing Panda, an anti-spam algorithm designed to clean up SEO practices. 25 Panda updates have followed since, all of them cutting down on dubious link-building tactics. This hasn’t stopped the attempts to manipulate search results, leading to an announcement on 21st May by Google’s head of webspam Matt Cutts: Panda 4.0 had been released.

Google are traditionally secretive with what this entails, but the consequences were felt immediately across the Internet. For companies the world over it’s a tense time; here’s an overview on how to make sure your efforts are positive for the online community.

The Anti-Spam Internet Era

Google

Matt Cutts’ official announcement got the update rolling. In what has become a mandatory mass panic reaction from the SEO world, the news rapidly spread across the Internet. Whilst some have deemed Google’s plans draconian, it has helped to clean the Web and boost people’s hard work over those who practice blatant search engine manipulation.

Search engine optimization is now anachronistic, in some respects, as the concept of building links to boost search engine rankings has changed dramatically. In the early days Google were quick to point out their annoyance with many SEOs flooding the Internet with keyword-heavy, spam-ridden articles. This led to terms such as “unnatural links”, where poor-quality sites could land themselves at the top of search results with dubious keyword practices and spun articles. Google worked to make sure this would no longer happen. Over the years, as more changes came about, there has appeared a very clear approach it had become necessary to take in order to avoid being penalised.

SEO In 2014

Google+

For many small businesses there is ongoing concern and confusion in how to approach SEO. The Panda 4.0 release doesn’t help the matter, as Google’s updates can appear ambiguous in their expectations. In late 2013 Google released the Hummingbird update, which focused on conversational search terms. This was followed, in January 2014, by Cutts’ plans to crack down on spam-heavy guest posting. Several months on and a new version of Panda is out. All of this is aimed at controlling dubious spamming campaigns.

For businesses across the world the concern will be about how they can promote themselves. The answer’s long been touted, and it involves hard work and constant creativity. Unique content is the way to adhere to Google — the creation of intriguing content with a sense of individualism. Dubious antics such as spun articles (or articles which clearly only exist for backlinks), duplicated content, and uninspired articles are not a viable option.

Google’s social media network, G+, is vital to this, as marketers can sign up to the service to have their work linked to their accounts, effectively verifying everything they write (here’s how to go about this — do so immediately if you’re still not using the service). Another important factor is businesses hiring professional writers, as SEO and marketing are dependent on content creation. Anyone with a background in content creation can excel in the Panda era of Google. Details on the full scale of Panda 4.0 are still vague, but the key to not falling foul to Google’s anti-spam movement is to be as creative as possible. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it.

Despite the knowledge about the anti-spam updates, some companies have been badly affected all the same. None more so than eBay, who have endured a nightmarish time.

eBay’s Tumultuous Week

eBay

The auction site isn’t often in the news — it goes about its business in the background with immense success. It was consequently surprising to see eBay endure an onslaught of disasters this week.

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About Alex Morris

Alex Morris has worked as a copywriter and social media manager for a leading small business in the UK. He now spends his time reporting about the business and technology industries. He has been a business writer, and blogger, since completing an MA in Journalism in 2007.

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  • poultrykeeper.com

    My sites are information / article / hobby sites about keeping chickens. On one, I have posted half a dozen guest articles (on similar sites) with anchor optimised links and over the last 4 years have swapped links with other sites, nothing was paid for, nothing was dodgey.

    Over the last year or so, I have seen my rank drop slowly but surely and my traffic drop from up to 5K visitors per day to 2-3K.

    The sad thing was the sites that were ranking above me were providing information that was either reworded versions of what I was offering (usually companies selling products that decided to get in on the act) or just low quality.

    This has made me lose my faith in Google delivering the best search results, I’ve almost given up adding new information as my traffic was on the decline.

    Over the last few days however, my traffic on both sites has doubled. Running a check on my rank is showing many terms that lost out before are now in the top 3, both sites have had a major boost.

    Whatever happened in this update has really helped me – but I guess there are others that have seriously lost rankings too – I look forward to learning what you think has changed!