Whilst no one knows for sure exactly what Googles rules and algorithm patterns are (except for Google itself and its employees), there are a few simple guidelines to follow that will ensure that your content gets ranked as highly as possible.
Remember Google ranks individual pages, not websites, so every page on your website gets thoroughly analysed by the search engines. If your page gets flagged with any negative readings, then it will be penalised with a lower ranking.
It has always been Googles aim to provide the best possible user experience, but up until the Panda update in February 2011, it was relatively easy to use black hat and unethical means of ranking on the first page. This resulted in a lot of poor quality websites hogging the first page for keywords that were worth a lot of money, and was the reason that the Panda update was introduced.
The Panda update meant that the new technology and algorithms were much more likely to pick up on websites that were full of junk, and had used black hat methods to beat the system. Googles rules were tightened up to make its search engine produce much better results for its users.
Google has a large number of extremely intelligent employees, and is an extremely clever animal. It is now no longer worth gambling on using dodgy tactics to beat the system, because you are almost certain to come off second best.
So with that being said, here are the seven deadly sins that go against Google rules and will get you penalised:
1. Slow loading page
A slow loading page is extremely frustrating for the modern day web surfer. People are way too impatient to sit and wait for anything more than about 10 seconds for your page to finish loading. Ideally it should be 5 seconds or less if possible.
The cause of the slow loading page usually has something to do with conflicting plugins that are installed (or maybe too many plugins installed), and it can be very difficult to pin point the cause of the problem.
I highly recommend that you use a free plugin called W3 Total Cache to make your pages load as fast as possible.
2. High bounce rate
Google looks at the bounce rate because this is a reliable way of gauging the quality of a page. If a lot of people are leaving the page within a few seconds then this is a sure sign that the page is low quality, and not relevant to what the user was searching for.
On the other hand if a lot of people are spending 5 minutes or more on the page, then it is a sure sign that the page is high quality, and relevant to what the user was searching for.
You will find that a slow loading page (as just mentioned) will often be the cause of a high bounce rate. Your goal should be to reduce this bounce rate to as low as possible to keep Google happy.
3. Text only, no video, audio or images
If a page only contains text and nothing else than Google tends to penalise you for it. Most people don't like looking at a website that is full of text because it looks dull and boring.
Video, audio and images that are relevant to the content of the page make it a much more interesting experience for the user. A combination of 2 of these plus text is the recommended combination to help rank your pages higher.
You also want to be using your primary keyword where possible in the tags and "alt text" sections, because Google pays attention to these.
4. Spelling mistakes
Google is smart enough to pick up on spelling mistakes, and if there are lots of them will definitely penalise you.
These days there is no excuse for spelling mistakes anyway, with all of the spell check programs available.
You really should always proof read your content anyway (or outsource it), as it is only a reflection on you, and looks unprofessional if there are errors everywhere.
5. Pop ups
Google hates pop ups that get in the way to distract the user.
In my opinion you should only ever consider using these on a squeeze page (or landing page), as these types of pages are not designed to rank on the search engines anyway – and the whole purpose of that page is to generate leads.
But if you are trying to get your content ranked on the first page of Google, get rid of any pop ups and don't use them.
6. Poorly spun content
I have nothing against spun content – providing the end result produces high quality content and flows properly.
The problem is that most spun content is pure garbage and makes no sense to the reader. Google is smart enough to detect most spun content and will penalise you for it.
Content that is spun should have a variation of at least 50% to the original piece of content, for it to pass as unique content as well.
I am all for saving time and producing more output, but the point is that the end result needs to be of at least decent quality and not gibberish.
If you can find spinning software that does the job properly by all means use it, but I still recommend proof reading the end result to make sure it does not need any further editing.
7. Lack of shares (retweets, likes, diggs etc)
Since the Panda Update, Google takes a lot of notice of how many people vote for a piece of content, simply because this is another reliable way of rating the quality of it. If loads of people are voting for a page, then that must mean that it is good.
But on the other hand, if you are not getting any Retweets, Likes, Shares, or Diggs then Google will pay less attention to it.
This is why it is worth submitting your content to as many social bookmarking sites as possible, and encouraging people to vote for it.
I have heard many people say that content creation and SEO are a waste of time, because Googles rules are always being changed, but in my opinion if you stick to the principles of writing awesome content and avoid trying to use black hat methods to beat the system – then you have nothing to worry about.
It is only the people that are seeking an easy way to monetize the organic search results that are going to get in trouble with Google in the future.
Image Copyright (c) from 123RF Stock Photos