Don’t get punished by Google.

Google targets a guest blog network

In the latest stage of Google’s evolution into the ‘Internet Police’, Matt Cutts from Google’s Web Spam Team announced that they have targeted a large ‘Guest Blog Network’ for not playing to their rules.

So its official now, Guest Blogging is yet another high risk activity that you should avoid if you want your website to rank successfully in Google.  Ann Smarty, owner of the affected site has this to say about it. Undoubtedly this will have an impact on the commercial viability of this business, and I feel for her because her case seems genuine.

Beyond this though, what does that mean for business folks, who at least in part depend on their websites for sales leads ?
Here’s selection of things that Google now considers ‘naughty’ and may indiscriminately cripple your website’s ability to generate online sales leads if it finds them in your site:

Paid Ad Links
A ‘technically naive’ online advert, including unsolicited ones that you don’t even know about.
Be very careful with ads and anything that can be misconstrued as an ad eg advertorials etc
The acknowledgement of your support on the local kids club site might be killing your sales leads…

Poor quality back links
From backlinkers who either don’t care or don’t know or both.
Again these can be links that you didn’t initiate or condone.
Backlink quality is critical since Penguin 5, Oct 2013.

Over-optimization
Obsessively and unnaturally repeated keywords throughout the site known as ‘keyword stuffing’.

Internal errors
Google wants your site to give visitor’s a good experience.
Broken pages, links and images aren’t consistent with this.

Hidden links & text
You can’t hide stuff from Google to gain a benefit. Don’t even try.
In fact any ‘deceptive’ characteristics in your site wont bode well.

Website performance
Poorly coded sites, a slow web server, overweight images and more will impact user experience and so your ranking.
If your website is unreliable – it goes down, or fails regularly this will hurt you too.

Too much advertising
Too many ads displayed on your site, particularly at the top of the page (ie ‘above the fold’) will cost you more than you gain.

Copied and/or ‘Thin Content’
Text borrowed from other sites will just land you in hot water with Google, as will pages that don’t provide any real value for visitors.
Write your own, or invest in a good copywriter.
Your investment will pay for itself in online leads.

Hacked website
Yes – if your site is hacked and Google finds it they will put a scary notice in your site’s search result, and a scarier page if you try to visit that site.
Expect to drop in rankings or even disappear.
Oh, prospects aren’t going to risk visiting your site either anyway…

Poor mobile pages
Google will judge your site’s ability to provide a good experience to mobile users too.
This are a growing portion of searchers, and predicted to out-strip desktop searchers very soon.
Clearly Google wants to particularly look after mobile searchers – it’s a growth segment for them.

Guest Blogging
Don’t respond to emails asking to put guest blogs in your site.
Treat them like they came from Nigeria.

Are Google softening their approach to Small Business or just taking over?

Google’s Matt Cutts has indicated that an upcoming release of Panda (Google’s website ‘Quality Assessment’ sub system) “should have a direct impact on helping small businesses do better.”

Historically Panda has been heavily critised for giving an unfair advantage to larger sites – read larger businesses. Small sites (typically associated with smaller businesses) may have a greater risk of incurring Panda penalties and there have been some spectacular examples.
Saving Small Business presents a passionate argument on this matter.

As a small business owner myself, of course I’m happy to gain from arbitrary changes Google might make. But on reflection it does bring into question the dangerous amount of influence that Google now has over global online sales. An arbitrary change on which sites Google ranks at the top of searches can dramatically impact business globally. Even locally in little old Adelaide I am aware of several local businesses that have suffered devastating commercial impacts by Google’s algorithm changes.

So Google might be softening their approach to Small Business, but who gave them the authority to make that call on behalf of the global economy ?
It’s time that Google’s algorithms are independantly policed before this gets out of control…