Perhaps you checked your Google Analytics stats one morning in late April and panicked, or maybe you've just noticed a steady decline in your search engine traffic since then. Chances are good you've been hit with a Google Penguin decrease in your search engine rankings, and this is naturally frustrating to any webmaster focused on maintaining high search engine rankings.
When your whole business depends on Google ratings, panic is the first natural response, but try to remain calm. Google isn't out to penalize every webmaster or even to ban your site forever, as long as you show a willingness to improve your site and better match what they're looking for.
Here are three strategies to help your website recover from a gradual or sudden decrease in search engine rankings thanks to Google Penguin.
In the world of web traffic, Google is a major player and has been for quite some time now. It's easy to focus on optimizing your site for Google and forget that you have other options. In fact, a Google update is a perfect time to remember this, as you're reminded of the importance of building a business rather than a traffic source.
Take this chance to come up with new content marketing strategies and think of new, better ways to attract your target audience. For that matter, who exactly is your target audience? Are they middle-aged men of a particular class and in a particular geographic location, looking for information on buying new cars of a particular model? “Niche it down” by focusing on who exactly your ideal reader is, what they do, and where they're likely to go for entertainment or information.
Google might not be the only option. Have you looked into Facebook ads that specifically target this particular demographic of car-buying men? What about connecting directly with these consumers by posting in a car-buying message board with lots of helpful information, then – eventually, not immediately – including links to articles on your site? Have you thought about posting flyers at a car show nearby?
There are many potential content marketing strategies that utilize content other than the standard article and focus on attracting audiences through other means than Google. Think about implementing some; even if you continue to optimize your site for these Google updates, you will diversify your traffic sources so that future updates don't have such a devastating effect.
Some webmasters recommend producing a lot of content as a way of catching the attention of search engines, as opposed to pulling users in through quality, engaging content. Guess which is the longer-term, more direct, and more successful strategy?
In the end, Google's job isn't to be the arbitrary judge of what sites are worth your attention. They want to deliver to you the results you're looking for in a timely manner. It's not in Google's interest to allow spammy sites that want to sell people on various things unless those people are specifically looking to be sold on something.
Google's direction will therefore always be to reward good quality, and outwit spammers and those looking to sell things without regard to what users actually want. If you keep this in mind while developing and revamping your website, you're likely to avoid future updates penalizing such spammy practices.
When you're building your site, put the user experience first and think about how to make it search engine-friendly second. The person searching for relevant information in Google should be able to find what they want immediately, so no doorway pages, pages with a listing of relevant keywords at the bottom, or portals are needed here. That being said, don't hesitate to use engaging content and useful information to draw people further into the site.
Always ask yourself if you would build your site this way if it weren't for search engines. Of course, some search engine optimization is also user-friendly, but that's the whole point – search engines are looking for certain webpage hierarchies and structures because they're user-friendly. Never forget that!
Finally, the practice of putting the user first becomes a rewarding activity, as it will slowly and naturally build positive backlinks (genuine links from people who like your content), social media attention, conversions, and so on.
Speaking of positive backlinks, one of the main features of many recent Google updates has been the penalty for poor-quality backlinks. Though you can't change links that are already placed on sites you can't edit, you can correct for this on your own site. Make sure your site has no spammy links or links that go to broken sites, poor-quality sites, or link farms.
Avoid link exchanges and reciprocal links unless they're genuine (a blog post you make about a related site that has great information), as this doesn't really show Google that your target audience actually found your site useful, just that you're good at finding people willing to swap links.
A sudden increase in the number of backlinks going to your site makes it look like you just paid for a huge backlink campaign with tens of thousands of useless links, unless these links are coming from such reputable sources as news sites and discussion groups – online venues that you don't have direct control over. This can be tricky to balance, but focus on where your target audience is likely to find you and you'll probably do fine.
These are just three strategies to help you improve your site rankings in the wake of the Google Penguin update, the full effect of which was felt in late April and early May of 2012, but the consequences of which will be long-lasting.
Remember: Google isn't everything. If you can attract a customer to your site directly, cutting out the middleman, your source of traffic and income will be that much more reliable, even if you're also working on increasing your Google rankings.
I am a professional .NET and PHP software developer. I has been designing and developing websites professionally since 1994. Currently working as SEO consultant at UK SEO Company.