google penguin 2.0

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The current Hammock Idea Email points out the folly of investing in tactics advocated by those who promise they can magically improve the way Google ranks a company’s website. “You’ll never out-smart Google, so stop trying,” we advise.

Overtime, the only way to influence Google’s ranking is to, first and foremost, have a great product or service. Then follow Google’s guidelines and recommendations rigorously. This means, create a website filled with the most helpful, insightful information your customers look for related to the market niche your company serves.

With the release of the fourth version of Google’s war on link spam, an upgrade to the company’s algorithm they are calling Penguin 2.0, the message is clear: Try to outsmart Google and you’ll likely be penalized in the future.

There are dozens, make that hundreds, of things you can do to improve your site’s findability. Here are just five things you can do to make your site Pengiun 2.0-friendly:

1. Listen to Matt Cutts. Or, more specifically, subscribe to Google’s Webmaster Central blog and Matt’s blog. (For example, here is a Matt post a few weeks before the release of Penguin 2.0 that includes some examples of the link-spamming tricks some black-hat SEO companies use.) Matt is Google’s liasion with the SEO community. Ignore him at your peril. Listen especially the things he says over and over. Not only is he one of Google’s first 100 employees, he’s a native of Kentucky. Actually, the “being from Kentucky” is something we like about him that may or may not be a reason for you to listen.

2. Don’t believe the statement: “Content Marketing is the New SEO.” Without pointing to the parade of blog posts written by SEO shops trying to reposition themselves, post Penguin 2.0, as “content marketing” experts, it’s apparent that you’ll be hearing less and less about “back links” and more and more about “content marketing.” While Hammock is described by many as a “content marketing” company, cramming keywords into generic content isn’t in our job description. We think this use of the term “content marketing” will help hasten the demise of the use of this ambiguous term by those who actually want to create great content for customers.

3. Structure Your Content: Hammock’s CEO Rex Hammock has long argued (we’ll be kind and not call him “obsessed” on this topic) that it’s not just “back links” that help Wikipedia entries land on nearly all Google results pages. It’s “the way Wikipedia makes it easy for Google to understand its structured data,” Rex has said over and over. Today (May 30, 2013), Google released its very own Structured Data Markup Helper to help provide web developers the means to help Google identify the different types of information on your website. (Okay, Rex. We’ll listen to you in the future.)

4. Frequency matters. Google likes websites that are updated often. When you wake up every day, think about something new to add to your blog. Even better, think about ten things that your customer needs to know to do their jobs better or enjoy your products. Don’t just add them to your blog. Use the information on the pages of the products and services related to the advice you are adding.

5. Focus 100% of your content-related efforts on those activities that add value to your products or services. Don’t blog about generic items or post the same old posts everyone else in your industry is posting. Don’t obsess over keywords — write about your products with a human voice, and in the way you would find helpful if you were one of your customers. We promise, the keywords will flow. And keywords you’ve never thought of will appear as well.

As we said, there are dozens more. And, sure, tweet about your blog posts and do all the other social marketing things that are trendy this week. But be smart: Play with Google using their rules and you’ll be rewarded.