Niche Site Update #5: The Friendly Panda

The internet marketing world is abuzz once again with the latest update to Google’s ranking algorithm.  Google has stated that this is an update to the dreaded Panda algo change, and it has hit a lot of IM’ers pretty hard.  Several of the good folks over at The Keyword Academy have stated that their incomes have been hit very hard for some of their established sites, particularly those that were created with the “old” TKA methods (i.e. mostly keyword-stuffed “fluff” articles).

So, how have my rankings done with the new algorithm?Well, I’m happy to say that not only did my rankings not drop, but they actually increased noticeably.  My kids’ pet site had a few low-traffic phrases move from the top of Page 2 to the bottom of Page 1, but my asbestos site moved up in the SERPs for every one of its articles!

  • My top-ranking article moved up from #5 to #3.
  • My second-best article moved from around #9 up to #5.
  • My third-best article moved up from around #15 to #12.
  • Last, but definitely not least, my worst-ranking article went from it’s long-standing stagnation at #19 all the way up to #10!  While it is still well below the slot where I’d like to see it, jumping almost a full page’s worth of rankings overnight is an awesome feeling.

So, why did my sites benefit from the latest Panda update, while so many IM’ers have been Google-slapped once again?  Well, Google isn’t about to tell me the reason they like my sites so much, but I can certainly make some educated guesses.

First of all, I have done very little backlinking, but I have done my backlinking the right way.  Many internet marketers adopt very aggressive link-building strategies and create dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of backlinks to their pages.  To get that kind of volume, they have to rely on automated content farm submissions, comment spam, and the like.  Most of the resulting links wind up on low-authority websites that have absolutely nothing to do with the link-builder’s own content.  When I build a backlink, I only do so by writing a completely original, 300+ word article that is directly related to the page to which it links. These articles are posted on high-PR, high-authority article directories like InfoBarrel, rather than on worthless content farms.

My (admittedly accidental) success at reaching #1 on Google with my pet site taught me that even three or four really high-quality backlinks can be drastically more effective than dozens upon dozens of links done the spammy way that many SEO folks recommend.  I tried the spam approach with my first niche site, and it failed miserably.  I accomplished more with just two backlinking articles on InfoBarrel for my second niche site than I did with two months of building 10 worthless links a day for my first niche site.

Secondly (and far more importantly), my content is written for both the readers AND the search engines.  When I write an article, my first step is to look for the keyword phrases that Google wants to find.  I then use those phrases to brainstorm and outline an article that makes sense.  While I’m definitely writing about keywords that will make Google happy, what goes in between those phrases is written for the real, live people who are going to end up reading it.

When you write an article that people will actually get some value from, you create something that Google has put a lot of effort into finding: semantic relevance.  The internet has been inundated with spammy websites for years now, where unscrupulous internet marketers have simply strung keywords together with low-value “fluff” wording (or worse, with nonsensical gibberish).  For example, let’s pretend you were writing about combination wrenches in your article.

How NOT to Do It:

Combination wrenches are great. Combination wrenches can add a lot of value to your life.  You’ll be happy to have a combination wrench when you really need one. combination wrenches are a great investment, so you should make sure to get yourself a few combination wrenches today!

How to Do It Right:

Combination wrenches are on of the most important and versatile tools in your toolbox, and they can have some advantages over other kinds of tools in several situations. Combination wrenches have a low profile on their open end, which makes the usable in tight places where a ratchet and socket simply won’t fit.  Also, the box-end of a combination wrench is much less likely to slip or strip nuts and bolt heads than a plain open-end wrench is when a lot of torque is required to tighten or loosen the bolt.

The first example may seem ridiculous, but I regularly see much worse.  The writing makes sense, but it’s also completely meaningless to anyone who wants to read about combination wrenches.  The second piece, however, actually tries to give the reader some valuable information.

When Google parses the first piece, it will notice that the words stuck between the occurrences of combination wrenches have very little real meaning.  The words being used are very general, non-specific, and completely unrelated to combination wrenches.  When Google finds the second piece, though, it will pick up on words like tool, toolbox, ratchet, socket, nuts, bolt heads, etc., all of which are strongly related to the topic of combination wrenches.  This process is called latent semantic indexing, and it appears to be getting more and more important with each update that Google produces for their algorithm.  What is great about this for readers and scrupulous internet marketers alike is that it places very high value on pages that go into detail about a topic, rather than just writing keyword-stuffed garbage articles.

The moral of the story is clear: write good, quality content for the readers, and Google will reward you.  Massive backlinking campaigns are time-consuming, difficult, and expensive, and they’re futile if your content is weak.  Good content, on the other hand, can multiply the effectiveness of any backlinking you do many times over.

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