Google SEO Best Practices

Google recently launched an update to enforce their quality guidelines and SEO best practices called the Penguin update.  This update specifically targets websites that are using hidden links, poor content, and doorway pages to manipulate search results in an attempt to increase page rank and keyword positioing.  If Google detects a website that they feel is violating their quality guidelines, the page rank will be reduced and the site might be removed from Google’s index.  The purpose of the Penguin update is to promote fresh content and pages created in the interest of the user.

Google’s Quality Guidelines & SEO Best Practices

Google Webmaster Tools contains a document that fully explains Google’s quality guidelines.  The most helpful part of this document is a list of actions that Google advises to avoid.  Following these guidelines is the best way to abide by the Penguin update and avoid losing page rank.  The first thing Google warns against is hidden text and links.  This guideline is pretty straightforward as webmasters should avoid using hidden text as links within the content of their site.  Text can be hidden within a webpage using CSS to make text and backgrounds the same color or make the text too small to be seen.  CSS can also be used to make links out of something as insignificant as a period or comma.  These links are seen by Google as deceptive in intent because users unknowingly click on them and are redirected away from the pages they are searching for.  Therefore, if all links included on a website are clearly visible to users, that website will avoid trouble with the Google Penguin update.

Cloaking

Another action Google advises to avoid is cloaking.  Cloaking is the practice of displaying a webpage one way to Google but displaying it a different way to users.  A webpage should be displayed to Google exactly how it appears to a user or it could lose page rank under the Penguin update.  Google has this guideline in place to discourage websites from trying to deceive search engines and users.  If Google detects any cloaking, the page rank will be quickly reduced. 

Keyword Stuffing

The next action the Penguin update is designed to discourage is keyword stuffing.  Placing keywords and phrases within web content is a good way to generate search results.  However, the keywords should be used tastefully within relevant, unique content.  Overuse of keywords, or keyword stuffing, is frowned upon by Google because the purpose of keyword stuffing is to boost search results while creating confusing content that frustrates the user.  The Penguin update is meant to encourage user friendly pages as opposed to pages created for search engines.  The best way to avoid keyword stuffing is by generating useful content that uses keywords appropriately within the text to avoid confusion.

Duplicated Content

In addition to proper keyword usage, the content of web pages must be unique and relevant to the site.  The Google Penguin update targets websites that violate Google’s quality guidelines on duplicated content.  In their quality guidelines, Google warns webmasters not to duplicate content across multiple pages, domains, or subdomains.  This practice is solely intended to generate more search results and serves no purpose to the user.  Users will get frustrated if they are continuously redirected to pages with basically the same content.  Google, however, does not penalize duplicated content unless the intent is determined to be deceptive or manipulative of search results.  Therefore, Google discourages webmasters from blocking out duplicated content.  Original content generation can also help to avoid creating pages labeled by Google as doorway pages.  Doorway pages are highly-optimized, low-quality pages meant to manipulate search results and redirect users away from relevant search results.  Doorway pages typically have little to no useful content and contain keywords only for optimization purposes.  Google penalizes sites with bad content that link to other low-quality pages to encourage the creation of original, useful content to make stronger links.  Original content gets higher page ranks and sites that link to and from pages with stronger page ranks are also benefited.

Malicious Badware

The last actions to avoid listed by Google in their quality guidelines regard malicious badware and automated queries.  These guidelines are straightforward and easy to follow.  Webmasters should avoid sending automated queries of any kind to Google without Google’s permission.  Also, any sites that install viruses or trojans are highly frowned upon as they create negative results for all involved.  Google is trying to increase user friendliness with the Penguin update and eliminating sites that install badware helps create a safe search environment for users.

The Penguin update is a way for Google to target and penalize sites that violate their quality guidelines.  Google has these guidelines in place to ensure safe and effective use of their search engine as well as to reward websites with strong content and links with higher page ranks.  The goal of the Penguin update is to provide efficient enforcement of Google’s quality guidelines and promote ethical SEO practices.