Penguin, Panda and Holiday 2016: Are You SEO-Ready?

They always seem to sneak up on us, and while most (including us) will lecture you to screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-8-47-32-pmstart early, the holidays are now upon us and it’s beyond go time. If you haven’t run audits yet on your site’s SEO optimization, we admit, you’re a little late to the party.

However, all is not lost, and we’re here to help.

Lucky for you, Thanksgiving has fallen on the earliest date possible on the calendar, giving holiday shopping its longest season. And while Cyber Monday is also in the rearview, we’ve written on how it won’t likely be the end of shopping by a long shot. So, here are a few places to look to improve your site’s SEO, not just for the holidays, but for the rest of the calendar as well.

With a mere four weeks in the season, though, let’s get to what will impact you now, while also suggesting changes that are simply best practices to keep you in the game beyond the holidays.

Can You Impact Your SEO for the Holidays?

Go Vertical: If you wanted to compete in the broadest market using the broadest keywords (for example, “tools”), you would have needed to start far earlier in the year to establish a foothold. Instead, with mere weeks to make an impression, you need to be as specific as possible. Fewer suitors on the dance floor increase the likelihood you’ll get to dance with the object of your affection. So, pick a niche – as we’re using tools as an example here, perhaps you’ll be better served by using “tools for snowmobile repair,” or “tools in Lansing, MI” if you have a bricks and mortar business in Lansing.

Location, location, location: If you’ve heard this one before, it’s because it’s that important. Make sure your business is on Google Maps and other location services. The first place to start is with Google My Business, but employ an SEO Specialist that can help you optimize your entire site for mapping. This is also important for voice searches, which generally are based on location.

Content optimization: What are you saying, literally? Reviewing and updating the content on the pages of your website can help you be found through a search. Even more importantly are the words you are using in your page titles and headers. Although many SEO plugins on sites will also have you review descriptions, they aren’t nearly as important as the H1 and H2 text.

We can’t tell you that this will make you an overnight sensation on page rankings, but it will be the first step to getting there, especially as 2017 is rung in. Content is also key to examine as Google has recently changed the rules (again), with its roll-out of new algorithms…

Penguin, Panda, Hummingbird, Oh My!

It seems like we’ve been talking about these animals for the past year, but Google’s finally gotten serious and implemented Panda and Penguin updates to its algorithms , which will affect search rankings. While Panda is what Google has named the part of the algorithm that is specific to the quality of content, Penguin is specific to the quality of links. And, with the advent of the voice queries now impacting search, Hummingbird is Google’s part of the algo for handling conversational search queries accurately.

Your job: To understand what each update can mean to your content. Our job: to help you execute a successful strategy.

For Panda, the rollout has been slow, which has made it more difficult to pinpoint its impact on sites, but it is targeting the quality of a site’s content. By quality, we mean less spammy content, or content farms (websites that use a large amount of textual content in order to make the SEO gods happy). However Panda is not necessarily targeting user-generated content per se, unless it produces the aforementioned lower-quality content.

So, review your website to make sure the right content using the right keywords in an original, storytelling way. Keep your blogs and forums, but make sure they aren’t ginned-up with spammy content.

Panda is also looking at word count. This might make for a few tense arguments among bloggers, who have had it drilled in their heads that unless they eclipse the 350+ word count, the blog won’t rank. However, if the content runs the risk of becoming spammy if more than just 100 words are written, Panda may downgrade the ranking. It’s all about making your point, then shutting up, apparently.

Overall, keep it authentic, keep it real – not a bad rule to abide by anyway for creating solid engagement.

Penguin is taking aim at your links; sites that have purchased links or have acquired low-quality links through low-quality directories, blog spam, link badges or infographics are likely the biggest target for Penguin. We’ve talked about strategies for getting higher ranking with authority sites, and it’s a rule that isn’t changing anytime soon. Folks, you can’t simply buy your way to the top in this case.

As for Hummingbird, which is related to the increase in voice searches that are majorly formed as a question, a review of your site’s content may involve a need for an FAQ page among other things. Read more about improving your site for voice search ranking.

The holidays are indeed a great time to get together, and in this case, it’s the gathering of your great story with an effective digital marketing strategy. The gift of better ranking in web and voice searches will be the result…truly a gift that keeps on giving.

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