Google Algorithm Update – Importance of On Page Optimization

After working through some search results following the latest Google algorithm update, we were able to isolate some additional characteristics of websites that ranked better after last week’s Penguin 2.0 launch. In reviewing results from multiple pages, sites and comparing rankings from before and after the 2.0 push, we have concluded that two areas seem to make the difference in performing well on the search engines. These are:

  • Good Quality “On-Page” Optimization, and
  • Natural Links

Good Quality On Page Optimization

Google in particular has really pushed the need for good quality content, but there seems now to be an extension into good quality optimization.  As part of ‘Good Quality’ optimization, the pages we’ve noted as being more successful after Penguin 2.0 have been optimized around well-researched keyword terms. Additionally, and maybe more importantly, these sites have good quality internal linking strategies that utilize these keyword terms in naturally appearing language.

Sites that did well after the latest Penguin roll-out managed to fit the keyword strategies into the recommended character limits for title and description tags. We could not tell that style of title tags made much difference.  Titles that included the keyword terms in a more natural sentence structure did just as well as those that were ‘pipe-separated.’

Sites that did well also contained the keyword terms towards the leading portion of the meta description.  Although it isn’t anything new that more important keywords should be placed at the beginning of title and description tags, it was at least interesting to see that sites that endeavored to structure the tags in this fashion now seem to be rewarded.

We didn’t see any changes or ranking improvements for sites that provided a great deal of additional mark-up. One of our sites that did well had invested some time in providing additional mark up content through things like abstract tags. However the improvements in this site’s rankings may have more to do with the ‘spammy’ link profile of its competitors which may have caused them to drop down in search engine placement. This will require a bit more research, but looking at the importance of additional markup may be worth future effort.

Natural Links:

Google has been harping for some time about the ‘natural link’ methodology for building web page strength. Links inspired due to good quality content is ideal, but other methodologies, such as guest blogging are a popular – if time consuming – way of building external links.  However, we discovered that client sites that placed well after Penguin 2.0 were ones that didn’t invest a great deal in guest blogging.  Several did invest in press release efforts for event and milestone announcements, but guest blogging didn’t seem to be an important part of the link building strategy.  Note:  can we conclude then that guest blogging is not important?  Well.. no… but.. we just didn’t see any examples where a guest blogging strategy produced improved results over the past week.

Natural links still seem to be the main difference between sites that place well on the search engines and sites that struggle for attention. And in the end, good quality content promoted through press release and social media seem to inspire the link strength necessary to rank well. The slow-growth method of building link strength through quality content seems to – at least at first glance – pay off.

We will have more observations throughout the upcoming weeks on what Penguin 2.0 might mean for other types of link building and optimization.


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