Likening its ability to sniff out bad links with a penguin's powerful sense of smell, Google has named its latest algorithm update "Penguin." For web users, Penguin is intended to provide value by removing spam sites and those participating in link schemes and other dubious practices from search results. It's interesting that Google keeps naming its updates after animals that are black and white, when the new rules it ushers in have a considerable amount of gray area.
Google's quality guidelines clearly warn against using hidden links or linking to low-quality sites. In addition, even though Penguin didn't explicitly change the rules on site-wide links or backlinks, Google's new categorization of some of these as "bad links" has had negative side effects for many high-quality, legitimate sites that were unintentionally caught in the net.
If you've seen a fall-off of organic search traffic over the past few months, there are two routes you can take. First, and probably least rewarding, would be to spend hours and hours trying to distinguish which of your site's links are passing Google muster, and what links (and inbound links) are bringing you down. The other way, which I've seen significantly impact SEO rankings and page traffic in just 24 hours, is to shift your focus to making positive changes to your site in the form of indexed video links.
This is not only consistent with the spirit of Penguin, which is to focus on high-quality, user-centered content, but will directly appeal to users as well.
Getting video links indexed by Google is incredibly easy and efficient -- you'll be surprised at just how quickly these changes can lift a depressed site ranking or enhance an already healthy position. Here's how to make it happen.
Make sure your videos are properly indexed
Competing for a spot at the top of Google's search results by HTML pages alone can be long, complicated, and unrewarding. To better take advantage of the vast amount of web traffic passing through Google, ensure that videos that appear within your domain are properly indexed. Video links get indexed instantly and generally receive placement on the first page, above the fold.
To get started, create a video sitemap and submit it to Google. For greater coverage, submit your video sitemap to Bing as well. Bing is actively seeking to accept a broader range of video feeds and sitemaps, including the Google XML video protocol. Be sure to follow each platform's submission instructions, accessed via the preceding links.
Build quality backlinks via YouTube and other video portals
If your site dropped in rank as the result of downgraded inbound links, rebuilding links from YouTube, Vimeo, and other respected high-traffic sites can help you regain lost ground.
Interestingly, the only link that impacts SEO on your YouTube channel is the "website" link you can add in the "about" section of your profile. While you can include links in individual video descriptions, these are specifically for users and will not affect search rankings.
Keep in mind that it's not enough to simply upload videos to YouTube. The page rank benefit you receive from Google is directly tied to the popularity and strength of your channel, so it's critical to nurture an active following with great up-to-date content that encourages comments, thumbs-ups, and subscribers.
While you're building up your YouTube presence, be sure to comment on other popular YouTube channels. Getting involved with YouTube pages that rank highly will increase your own channel's page rank, which will ultimately translate to your website's ranking.
Create good links by providing content worth sharing
Having your content shared among users' social networks generates the kind of natural, quality linking that search engines reward. The Penguin algorithm update (and the Panda update before it) champion social sharing, giving it added weight in determining search position. So how do you encourage sharing? Quality content is the best way, and as we've seen from the bulk of what's gone viral and appears on friends' Facebook pages, video content is much more likely to be shared than other formats. You can even mine Google Analytics social reports for insight on what types of your content is being shared on social networks most often, so you can plan for more effective future content.
Beyond creating engaging video content, make sure you consistently offer options to make sharing with major social networks easy and top of mind.
I've read about a number of websites adversely affected by the Penguin update, and they seem to have one thing in common -- a lack of natural links back to their sites. By its very nature, video content is better positioned to generate these links. Follow the steps I've outlined here, and with the quick attention paid by Google to properly indexed video content, your site search results will be hot again in no time.
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"Adelie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae) posing on Antarctica" image via Shutterstock.