Did your last car turn out to be a lemon? Have you ever had a bad experience with a salesman that tried to lock you in to something you didn’t want? With as many horror stories that are out there, I usually try to bring a friend along with me who has the mechanical expertise to inspect the car before I decide to purchase.
For several years, searching the internet was a lot like used car shopping; you never quite knew what to expect when you started to look under the hood. In recent years, however, Google has been like that older brother with the expertise to inspect the site before you commit.
With each new update, Google has tried to improve the user experience. So, as a business owner, what should you be aware of to ensure Google can recommend customers come to you?
Types of Google Penalties
There are two types of penalties that your site may experience: Manual or Algorithmic. If you receive a manual penalty, Google will notify you via your Google Webmaster Tools account. On the other hand, if your penalty is algorithmic, you will not receive a notification but will experience a significant drop in your rankings and traffic.
An algorithmic penalty is usually triggered by some filter or safeguard built in to updates such as Penguin or Panda. The Penguin updates have been targeting over optimization, while the Panda updates have been targeting the usability and quality of your site’s content.
In the early days of the internet, many black hat techniques were used to help increase site rankings. Many deceptive or manipulative tactics such as keyword stuffing, paid link schemes, or disabling the back button were used to force a customer to view or click on an ad.
Google, however, continues to target those black hat techniques and ensure that the customer doesn’t end up with a lemon. In order to avoid a penalty, be careful to avoid the following:
- Having little or duplicate content
- Over optimizing your content or anchor link text
- Having too many links from low quality or irrelevant sources
- Having too many ads
- Allowing malware
Penalties aside, black hat techniques may have helped your site rank (in the past) but have done little to help keep a customer coming back to a site. So if your goal is to ultimately convert customers to buy your product or service, why not get on board with Google’s recommendations and truly create a quality user experience.
A good indicator of what your customers think of your site is how long they spend on a particular page and what the bounce rate is like. If the bounce rate is higher than 50% and the viewing time is less than 30 seconds then visitors are not satisfied with your site.
Some questions you might want to ask yourself include:
- Are customers finding what they are looking for?
- Are there problems with the way the site loads?
- Is the site confusing?
- Is the site dated?
- Are URLs clean and easy to read?
Be sure to understand your customers. What are they looking for and what will keep them coming back? Don’t give your customers a lemon; give your customers a quality experience.
If you are looking to improve your site, consider an experienced SEO company that can audit your site and give you helpful recommendations.