Impact of Google’s Search Engine Algorithm on Your Website Traffic

By Guest Blogger Kris Bovay

In February of this year, Google changed its search engine ranking algorithm. The change, called the Farmers Update by most search engine optimization (SEO) professionals (in reference to what’s called in the industry as ‘content farms’*), affected many websites in a negative way. The initial impact has been on sites with a large audience in the United States (US); this is because the changes have been implemented on US searches first. It is expected that other countries will be affected throughout the year. Google has indicated that this algorithm change has affected about 12 percent of US searches: with hundreds of millions of searches each day that impact is in the tens of millions daily.

To-date four primary types of sites have been seriously impacted:

  1. Directory sites (little content other than links), Article sites, Product Review sites – particularly those that provided short, light-weight, duplicated, and poor quality articles or content;
  2. Sites with a high percentage of images and a lower percentage of content;
  3. Sites with shallow, low-quality, of little use, and/or with duplicate content;
  4. Sites with a high proportion of ads to content.

Additionally, a number of SEO specialists believe that a professional design is also a factor in the new algorithm, however perhaps not weighted as significantly as the top four issues above.

Why is Google’s approval of your site important? Because about 72% of all search engine activity happens through their search engine; and that means if your site is de-indexed or its page rank drops, then your site will be hard to find on the Internet and your traffic will drop.

Has Your Traffic Dropped? Will it?

If you have Google Analytics, Statcounter, or another statistical analytics tool on your site to track traffic data, look at your traffic stats for before February 23, 2011 and then compare to your traffic today. If you have a high number of US based visitors on your site and your traffic has been severely impacted, it is likely that Google is trying to tell you something (fix your content!).

If most of your traffic comes from Canada and countries other than the US, then you will likely not see much of a difference in the statistics, however if your site has a high proportion of images (to content), low-quality content, duplicated or similar content to other sites, is an article or directory site, has a high proportion of advertising compared to content – than take this time to make some significant fixes or changes before Google rolls-out the algorithm to other countries.

Improve Your Site’s Content – Action Items:

  1. Review all pages on your site – write original content or hire a website content provider to write original content for you (make sure you purchase the content as original with copyright – you don’t want the author to re-sell the content to other site owners)
    1. improve the quality of your content
    2. add more words to ‘light’ content pages but make sure that the words add value for the site visitors – the new minimum word count per page is about 750 words and a number of website builders are suggesting pages with more than 1000 words
    3. try to limit images to about three per page OR add more relevant, quality content to balance out the use of more images
  2. Keep site visitors on your site for longer visits. Google (and other search engines) track bounce rates and time-on-site statistics. If a visitor lands on your site and ‘bounces’ off to another site or back to the search engine, Google sees that the visitor didn’t find what they were looking for. If you have Google Analytics on your site (a free tool) you will be able to see your bounce rate and time on site (by day, week, month, year)
  3. A professional looking site counts – Google doesn’t actually give ranking based on the site’s look and feel however once a visitor lands on a page the look and feel matters to the visitor and a good looking, professional design will likely keep a visitor on-site longer (however look and feel is not more important than content to search engines, and to visitors)
  4. Understand the value of linking – this is still an important element of search engine ranking (and a whole topic on its own). Your site needs back links from well regarded sites: links from social media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter; links from high page-rank sites; link from sites considered authorities in your industry; etc.

*Note: What is a content farm? A site that publishes content that is poor quality, not useful, could be duplicated or similar to other content on the Internet, and that have a high proportion of ads embedded in the content or beside it.

Kris Bovay,
Voice Marketing Inc.,
Helping you build website content that search engines love, and site visitors love to read

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