One thing you hear about a lot lately in search industry news is how B2C websites are constantly being penalized or how a new “filter” has been applied to Google’s algorithm that has dramatically impacted their search results. Do brand names and shopping sites come to mind? What about B2B websites? Are they at just as much risk?
B2B marketers, if you think your firm’s website is immune, or incapable of being sent to the abyss by Google, think again. I’m sure you’re aware by now the latest penalty by Google that dramatically saw many of J.C. Penney’s much coveted search rankings plummet. A few years ago, it was BMW. The message is clear — follow Google’s guidelines, or get in the back of the line.
There’s much debate on this, and I tend to want to see the good in everyone first, but I believe J.C. Penney hired what they thought was a reputable SEO firm and trusted they’d get the job done. Once they started rising to the top… who cares how they got there, right? After all, they’re making a lot more money than what they’re paying their vendor. It’s the perfect love story. It’s what one would call a true return-on-investment.
Whatever the truth is behind the J.C. Penney story is, the takeaway from the story is this. Your website goals as a B2B marketer must be long-term. Don’t risk shady SEO practices for short-term benefits that could have a much longer negative impact on overall business results.
Google’s Most Common Algorithmic Updates/Filters
Let’s take a look at current and past algorithm updates, as well as common penalties that can cause your website to plummet in search rankings and make sure your B2B website doesn’t repeat the same mistakes.
PANDA (aka ‘Farmer’)
The Panda update went live back in February 2011 and the sort of sites that were affected were mainly scraper sites and content farms. What I find most interesting about this is that Google created its own monster. Most of these scraper/content farm sites were developed as MFA (Made For Adsense) sites.
How does this work? You launch a website, “scrape” content from other web pages, display Google ads that are relevant to that content, visitors click on the ads, and you get paid via the Google AdSense program.
B2B marketers should stay away from sites that provide a high volume of inbound links, but have no real value to business marketers or buyers (i.e. you and your customers). If you were getting links from these sorts of sites, their visibility is now much reduced in Google results, and you might have seen a significant loss of traffic.
If you ever wonder why SEO experts preach so much about quality, relevant links, and ramping up backlinks gradually over the long-term vs. quickly over a short period of time, welcome to the BLOOP! Otherwise known as the Backlink Over-Optimization penalty/update. If you’re currently undergoing a massive effort to build back links…beware.
B2B marketers, be careful not to garner too many reciprocal links too quickly, and not to solicit links from unrelated or low-quality sites that are completely irrelevant and off-topic. For example, a B2B software company should seek links only from software-related sites vs. general web blogs and sites that contain information about a multitude of topics.
Another update dealing with links (and who says PageRank and link building aren’t that important?) The -6 update went into effect a few years ago. From what most can tell, if you were over-optimizing your site, you might have all of the sudden seen your listings drop by about 6 positions. It seems that Google is not focusing on this as much as in the past, but Google could re-instate this at any point in time.
B2B marketers should avoid over-optimizing websites and make sure link building efforts are growing steadily over time. Don’t write content specifically for search engines. In general, on-page text should sound normal, be easy-to-understand, and resonate with your audience.
-50 Paid Links
Surely you’ve heard that buying links is a bad thing according to Google, right? For example, a B2B software company might be inclined to buy a directory listing (aka links) on BtoBOnline.com. If you’re doing so only to influence PageRank and increase rankings, then yes, Google will see to it that your site disappears (well, not completely) but if you’re on page 5 or 6 of the search results, are you really going to be found?
There is an ongoing debate as to how Google would even know that you’re buying links. Google is not opposed to purchasing links for traffic and brand recognition, but they highly recommend (and so do I) that these paid links use the ‘rel=nofollow’ tag to indicate the intentions are good and the links should be clearly labeled as Sponsored Ads.
Many websites that saw their rankings plummet to position 30 or greater in recent years were the MFA (Made For Adsense) type of sites. Heavy on ads, weak on content. Other sites that used some of the old SEO tactics such as doorway pages or used an excessive amount of keyword-stuffed anchor text also woke up to a new, not so desirable, search ranking one day.
This truly was the Abyss. Talk about being at the end of the line. As others in the industry have noted, there’s not much known about what causes your site to fall into this category. And, interestingly enough, it seems to apply to a particular page on a site, not the entire site. Speculation around this update and how it can affect your site again revolves around over-optimization and too much linking to one particular page.
This is by no means the complete list of Google updates that have occurred over the past several years, but should be enough to keep you on your toes. Bottom line, make sure your website (and SEO program) is focused on prospects and buyers first.
Keep your eye on adding value, following best practices for organic SEO and improving website usability and you’re not likely to run into problems with search engine algorithm updates.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.