SMX West didn’t bring many new things to the table, but it did explain a few things better for everyone to understand, especially regarding the Farmer/Panda update. We have Matt Cutts and Danny Sullivan and other SEO experts to thank for that. You can read the detailed post on Search Engine Land if you want, honestly, I recommend that you do. If you don’t have enough time you can read the brief summary with my personal notes here.
Google Farmer Update
The Farmer update placed emphasis on low quality content and weeding that content from the SERP, at least from the top pages. Matt Cutts suggests something he said countless times already, and that is to either modify the content that is considered low quality or to remove it; even placing no follow to those pages is a good place to start. Although this isn’t anything new, it is very important that we do so now, as Famer update will be merciless with low quality content, so if you prolonged this part up until now this is the time to look back on your pages and make them better.
Matt also noted the use of too many ads on the site in regards to the content, or content to ad ratio and the fact that we should provide more content, and quality content in order to avoid being devalued because of too many ads. Next on the line, I found this to be of great importance, is the crawl rate. This is a great way of anyone to see how important and relevant Google sees your website. If the crawl rate is fast, in other words if your pages get crawled once a week then you are on a good track, if you get indexed once a month then you have to change a few things and provide more useful content for your users. This will affect your SERP rankings as well, at least the speed at which you improve your rankings.
Quality Content Rules After All – White Hat Cloaking? WTF!
More updates are on the way, like always, and this year they will be focused on quality content and removing low quality content and duplicate content from the SERP. So start creating unique and useful content for your users, on your website and for the websites you get links from, don’t play around with this or you might wake up to see your website in the SERP gutter.
The rest discussed at SMX was about the usability of the website and the currently popular topic of white hat cloaking. If you ask me there is nothing white hat about cloaking, and I agree with what Matt has to say on this one. There is no need to use CSS tricks and text indent to get the best results, there are far better legit ways to go about it. After all, this is a clear violation of Google webmaster guidelines.
Getting your website to show one page to the users and another to Google bots is a waste of time in my personal opinion. Creating a site that is pleasing to both is not that hard. In fact, sometimes it is harder to sit on two chairs, one for users and one for Google, than it is to display everything under one single curtain. Webmasters should think twice about this.
Article Marketing Takes a Direct Hit
One thing that got me confused is a strong argument against any form of article marketing using article directories. Yes, guest posts are welcomed, but I don’t see why we should refrain from posting quality articles to article directories. I’m all against submitting one article to 100 of directories, but submitting 10 articles to 10 directories should be perfectly fine. This just goes to show that Google and other search engines are up to destroy article directories and other lair types of mass low quality content, well, good luck with that one.
Another WTF? Do Follow Links That Don’t Count!
One thing that got me a bit by surprise, have to admit this even though it’s a bit painful, is that links from Press releases don’t count towards page rank value. So you should think about this long and hard, Matt clearly stated that a do follow link of this type is not counted towards Page Rank value, so are there other do follow links like that? My guess is that sites that have high PR that came from thousands of links from article directories will suddenly start losing that PR. Think carefully about the update and what it may have in store for you. On that note, go for both do follow and no follow links if you think they are of value.
Regarding social media and link building, in my previous post I said that social media links will help you get your website indexed faster, and they will, but I was also of the opinion that they influence your ranking directly. According to Matt and Amit this is not the case, I was wrong. In fact they claim that aside from Realtime search which is intended for Twitter and social media feeds there is no direct influence on the rankings. They will sometimes use the Realtime rankings as a part of the global rankings, but it is mostly due to the reactions of social media mentions that others took liking to your content and linked to it or talked about it, which is what caused the increase in rankings.
Like I said in the beginning, most of this is well known, there is not much new, a few updates here and there and one surprise for me as well, but the point is that even though this is not something new to most of us, now, it’s really important that we do follow what was said. SEO is a large and ever changing game, sometimes we have to think out of the box to succeed and sometimes we simply have to follow the rules of the game.