We all know the pain and drama after all the latest Google algorithm changes: websites disappearing from the main pages, anti-spam wars carried out with precision, a lot of angry webmasters. But the main questions remain: How to undo all the harm in case your website has been hit? How to plan a strategy that will not fail this time and that respects the new “laws of the new worldwide web”? And should your “DIY” search engine optimization strategy fail, who to seek help from: another professional or a company specializing in marketing strategies? Hopefully, you will have your answer after reading this article.
Basic Measures after a Google Update
A good way to start is to evaluate the damage of your search engine optimization strategy. Here is what you can ask yourself before putting the pieces of this puzzle together:
- Where and why did it go wrong?
- What was contra-productive in my strategy?
- How much has my strategy fail to achieve?
- What are the exact and immediate repercussions of my strategy?
- To where from here?
After the “interrogation” is over, you should draw these early conclusions: your strategy failed because it lacked the knowledge of the latest search engine optimization principles, because you wanted immediate results, because you put too much trust in automation tools, because after the strategy was implemented, it felt unnatural and unprofessional. Remember that the worldwide web is constantly and rapidly evolving. Things that might have worked 5 years ago will not do your site any justice today. After all, it is all for the better: Internet users demanded top quality and creative marketing, otherwise they (the potential customers and consumers) will not acknowledge your brand positioning.
Both an Individual and a SEO company will do this sort of interrogation before deciding on the “after-penguin” strategy for your website.
Good. We now have an idea to why your strategy did not show the results you wished for. As a result, your website has been penalized by Google. Asking yourself “to where from here”? Good. Start with these 3 basic steps.
- Step 1: Clean Up the Mess
Recap. Recap again. And then apply the strategy in a rewind format. Go back and “undo” every single step you did in the beginning. Manually clean up the mess by removing the backlinks from poor quality websites and deleting everything that harmed your website in the first place. Also delete everything related to banners, link exchanges, paid ads, paid guest posts on content farms and stuffed keyword articles meant for spam, comments on questionable blogs, social media shares and so on. (Yes, even social media shares, because sooner or later, Google will target these platforms, as well. Lately, too much spam has gathered in the social media environment.)
- Step 2: Ask for Help
If you cannot access certain features yourself such as your website being mentioned on a specific blog, then contact the blog owner and ask him/her to remove the link. I had people contact me and ask me to remove their links and most of the times, I did that immediately. Of course, I had people who made me feel like my personal blog was the cause their website got penalized in the first place, which was far from truth. So make sure you know how to ask a blog owner to remove a link.
Suggestion: Use a polite approach when contacting a blog owner. Ask for his help and tell him that you are not worried about your site only, but also for his blog: if he links back to a penalized site, then that might affect his blog, as well.
- Step 3: Inspect Each and Every Element
I know this is a hard thing to do, but try to create some sorts of standards. For e.g., my blog articles will not have more than 5 outgoing links, I will hold at least 70% authorship of the articles I publish on my blog (company or personal blog), I will always link to the original sources and not secondary sources who are out for link juice; I will focus on quality and not quantity; I will use quality SEO plugins for my WordPress blogs; I will do manual search engine optimization, instead of automation methods etc.
Inspect everything from images to articles and backlinks, profiles, author bios, meta, keywords and social media activity. Remove everything that does not comply to your standards and principles. And most of all, standards aren’t meant for a one-time use, but rather try as much as you can to follow them and make them part of your business. If you cannot do this by yourself, hire a professional to do it for you.
No matter what your choice of professional help, remember that it takes a couple of weeks to de-index all the affected entries, so patience is still a virtue in this case.
Advanced Measures after Google Penguin Hit
Before getting into the detailed version, there are certain “laws” you must understand:
- Search engine optimization can easily have a boomerang effect on your online presence if the strategy is “forced”;
- What goes up has got to fall – at least at some point – so don’t force your way to the top;
- Marketing professionals must put an end to unhealthy search engine optimization practices before these practices put an end to marketing professionals.
We all saw, read and heard about what happens to your online presence if professionalism is not the very principle of a digital marketing strategy. You cannot allow your business to hit rock bottom just because of one mistake. Or several ones. So let’s highlight two words that are necessary in building a new online presence: improvement and change. Your website cannot grow unless these two become part of the strategy.
Improvement: It is clear that if the old strategy failed, the new strategy must prevent failure from happening, while encouraging a higher success rate and benefits, as well as results for your business. The only way to get there after a hit is to start anew better prepared, with improved strategies and lessons learned.
Change: An old saying goes like “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude” and this can very well be applied in online business: if the old strategy did not work, change it right from the core, in every single detail. And if the strategy itself cannot be changed, for e.g., we still need online marketing to grow a strong brand presence, then change the attitude – in this case, the look, the touch & feel of your brand.
Let’s start with these recommendations and then we will move on to the individual – company perspective.
#1: Redesign Your Website
Think of this as being a smart investment: redesign the whole thing, from homepage to company blog and even to logos and social media profiles. Change everything. Bury the unpleasant experience of the past. Your business might have started on the wrong foot, but there is no need to continue on a path that is contra-productive. So redesign your website, make it more appealing to visitors and customers and even clients. The visuals have great impact, so insist on getting the best quality themes. Custom-made designs can help in preventing spam, plus they add personality to your online image.
#2: Logo Design– Branding at a Small Scale
Don’t forget the quality of your Logo. Some logo designers lack creativity and prefer to simply “copy” and adjust certain elements, this way creating a “new” image. Stay away from these practices. Earn your brand’s respect by working with designers that create genuine original material. The guys from Momo Visual (momovisual.com.au), a leading marketing signage company in the corporate world, advise us to “do an extended research and see if any competitors or companies out there are using the same elements or colors. If necessary, improve or change the logo design as much as it is needed. Remember that logo design means branding at a small scale”. I would also add that a logo is the first step to building a brand.
#3: Focus on Communicating with Your Audience
Let’s consider your audience: clients, visitors, consumers, fans, followers, subscribers and friends – they all connect with your brand. Therefore it is highly important to focus on communication and specifically, on communicating with your audience. The best way is to use every possible channel in order to have a higher reach.
Video Marketing is a hot topic these days and a fun and engaging way to connect with your audience. You can try to cover informative aspects or tutorials and help consumers and clients to get to know your services. Videos are fun to watch and can easily be transformed into a great learning experience.
Webinars or online meetings are another creative way to share the knowledge, while also getting an entire list of potential customers and interested parties. One-hour webinar sessions are interactive, fun and offer a solid base to build a real email marketing campaign without spamming anyone, simply because people freely sign up to learn more about you, the company and your products. This means they will not be “disturbed” by receiving offers and other information on their email addresses.
Offers and Discounts are another great way to get back on track after being hit by Penguin. This way, you can increase awareness and build the reputation of your services. To add more, consumers and fans love to be part of contests and discounts, as it encourages any type of buyer to connect with the brand and try the product.
Twitter Chats are also in the hot trend zone. Use a hashtag to start a conversation and engage with your followers. This way, you get an idea of who is actually interested in your brand and who follows you. You also get close to a real feedback provided by consumers and clients. And even more, you can measure the value of consumer engagement each month.
Quality Content is another way to make your brand known. So do not be afraid of adding a “voice” to your brand. This means blogging like crazy. Quality crazy. People enjoy reading company blogs and getting to know the brains behind the brand. Make sure to include every member of your team in this equation. I am sure the Marketing guy has something to share that is of value, the secretary can at least teach others how to make coffee and how to deal with the boss in the morning, the HR girl can share some tips on how to present yourself when you are applying for a position at your company or start-up and so on. The idea is to connect, connect, connect!
Mobile is currently an on-demand industry so make sure your brand has something to offer. It can be an app for your virtual store, an app to send a greeting card to your customers on their birthdays, a wallpaper to remind people how much they love your products or any type of improved mobile design. Anything will do, as long as you give something back to those people who constantly visit your website using mobile devices.
#4: Go for a White Hat Approach
I know it is hard to give up on old habits, but there is no better way to start anew than to let go of your old self and embrace your new self. Let go of all that “3 simple automated methods to boost your website into top Google spots” stuff. As George Carlin would say, “It’s bad for ya”.
Remember that “simple automated” methods killed your brand’s position in the first place. There is no such thing as simply getting there. You always have to work hard to get into the top spots and to maintain your position. Google SERPs are based on a hierarchy: you start from bottom and as time passes by, you get to the top with hard work. Doesn’t it sound familiar? *Hint: life, work, business. Everything starts from almost nothing and builds up on hard work and dedication.
So give up on black hat, give up on spam-looking strategies and unrealistic results. At some point, you are going to get there anyway. And well, white hat strategies just help you in steadily getting there. But don’t be too greedy on search engine optimization, or you might end up losing everything again.
#5: Use a Creative Link Building Strategy
Don’t go link hunting like you did before. Instead, reach out to real blogs with real contributors and ask to contribute there, too. Here’s a decent read in how to run a guest post campaign after the latest updates. Oh, might I add, quality will always be well received. Crappy articles just don’t do justice to anyone. The problem now with guest posting is that everyone does it, and most of it is done bad.
My suggestion: try to become a regular contributor, constantly provide insightful information and engage with other readers and communities. Always comment, subscribe to comments on your own guest blogs and reply to what the community members have to say. Share your own contributions on your social media networks and personally thank everyone for sharing your articles. Don’t be afraid to be thankful.
Last, but not least, make sure you provide authorship of the content by adding your Google+ Business account link and by including the “?rel=author” part at the end of the URL. Using all these strategies will definitely help in clearing out your name and building a strong brand presence after a Penguin update. All that is left is to discuss when to use an Individual and when to use a company’s help to build and follow a marketing strategy.
When to hire an Individual
If you have a small business or even a start-up website that targets regional/national audiences and time is not an issue, chances are that only one person needs to be in charge of the “clean up”. While it is recommended to fix all the flaws in a timely manner, nothing good will come out of rushing into things. Make sure the person in charge knows what he/she is doing otherwise the revival of your website will be delayed even more.
But most importantly, think of hiring someone on a long-term basis: if you wish to expand, but think of placing limits to how much your business can expand, then an individual seo professional can definitely do the trick. As time passes by, he/she will become familiar with the voice and goals of your business. Once that step is achieved, they will definitely come up with a marketing strategy that best reflects the key cores of your brand.
The interesting part is the fact that the person in charge of your company’s marketing strategy becomes the image of the brand, as well. People might recognize the name or the face or even certain phrases they might use on a regular basis, and this could only bring huge benefits to the brand: customers can rapidly memorize the brand’s name, logo or website URL.
Hiring an individual can also lead to a convergent marketing strategy, where all the factors in the equation (email marketing, design, video, mobile, webinar, social media, copywriting seo, link building etc.) are linked to one name and one brand only. The only issue here is that it is probably hard to find someone who is excellent in all fields. He may be excellent in digital marketing, but might lack in design and coding or vice-versa.
When to hire a Company
If you want to launch your business on an international scale and make it big, then a company providing SEO services is a must-have. The idea is to try as fast as possible to recover and clean the “back hat” aura around your business. Not only that, but also to start rebuilding your name in the worldwide web zone. A company can definitely identify your needs and come up with a plan on how to reach the peak again.
To add more, a seo company can definitely focus in all marketing departments, from search engine optimization, to linkbuilding, newsletters, email marketing campaigns, social media presence and even design and coding. This way, you get the full package for your business. And as soon as all harm is undone, they can start working on a new, healthy marketing strategy that generates long-term results.
The interesting part is that a company aiding another company results into some sort of business-to-business relationship, so by helping your brand, they help theirs, as well. As times passes, your brand grows, so the marketing company can expand and gather new clients, as well. Plus, the marketing company’s power and professionalism grows, as well, as they hire new creative members in the team. This turns into a divergent strategy, where all factors are operated by different team members, but the outcome is targeted solely towards your brand and their marketing expertise.
The issue here is that a seo company cannot focus on your needs only. While you could hire an individual, you cannot really hire a seo company and make them give up on building their own brand. So rather than hiring, it is a matter of outsourcing the Marketing department to a group of professionals.
If you have been hit by Google Penguin, then:
- Make sure to do everything in your power to remove the unhealthy factors used in a previous marketing strategy
- Clean everything and start anew;
- Always have faith in the power of your brand;
- Get in touch with people and learn about your audience;
- Give back to the community;
- Embrace the white hat thinking and drop the black hat;
- Set up standards and follow them;
- Be creative and don’t fear change;
- Improve your brand constantly and professionally;
- If you are a start-up and want local results, hire a seo professional;
- If you are a medium-sized company and want to make it big internationally, contract a seo company;
- Draw the limits of your own business;
- Always think and act in terms of smart investments;
- Never be afraid to seek help.