A penguin or panda update can mean big changes for a website, so you have to always be prepared, informed, and ready to react and recover when possible if needed. Google is constantly making algorithm changes in order to improve the results that show up on a SERP, and whether you agree with the change or not, Google is the one that gets to decide if you’re on page 1 or page 10.

When I talk to people about their site and possible penalties there is almost always some confusion about which animal they are dealing with. I want to take a moment and clear up any confusion. Simply put...

Panda = content based algorithmic penalty.

Penguin = links based algorithmic penalty.

And of course we have the infamous "manual penalty" but we will save that topic for another post.

So what exactly is Google Panda?

It is a change to Google's search results ranking algorithm that was first released in February 2011. The change aimed to lower the rank of "low-quality sites" or "thin sites", and return higher-quality sites near the top of the search results.

Google says it only takes a few poor quality, or duplicate content, pages to hold down traffic on an otherwise solid site. Google recommends either removing those pages, blocking them from being indexed by Google, or re-writing them. However, Matt Cutts, head of webspam at Google, warns that re-writing duplicate content so that it is original may not be enough to recover from Panda—the re-writes must be of sufficient high quality. High quality content brings "additional value" to the web. Content that is general, non-specific, and not substantially different from what is already out there should not be expected to rank well.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Panda

Panda is updated from time-to-time. When this happens, sites previously hit may escape, if they’ve made the right changes. Panda may also catch sites that escaped before. A refresh also means “false positives” might get released.

So what exactly is Google Penguin?

Google Penguin is a code name for a Google algorithm update that was first announced on April 24, 2012. The update is aimed at decreasing search engine rankings of websites that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines by using now declared black-hat SEO techniques, such as keyword stuffing, cloaking, participating in link schemes, deliberate creation of duplicate content, and others. Unlike PageRank, however, Google makes all updates to this algorithm public.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Penguin

On May 22, 2013 Google released penguin 2.0. The main purpose of this update was to provide a more in depth analysis on websites that benefits from link spam. This update helped keep websites with unnatural link building out of the eyes of Google users when viewing the search engine result pages.

Older techniques like Google bombing, anchor text spam and link spam have been heavily scrutinized by this update. These types of updates have a larger impact on Small Businesses than larger corporations due to limited resources and typically a less technical group of people.

Source: http://www.webpronews.com/penguin-2-0-update

Recovering from Penguin is all about positioning your website as an authority and cleaning up bad links.

If you need help with any of the Google animals or just increasing website traffic and rankings in general, feel free to contact us. You may also want to check out our Search Engine Optimization Introductory Package or our Yahoo! Store SEO package if you are on the Yahoo! Store platform.

Communication is the key to successful SEO. Before you can adequately communicate with others you need to know what your goals are. If you do not have set goals then it is going to be hard for your SEO company to do exactly what you want them to do.

Am I prepared to wait at least a few months to see any return on my investment?

You can see returns from pay per click marketing in as little as a few days, but the feedback loop for SEO (especially in Google) can take many months.

Do I realize there is risk in any form of SEO?

Aggressive SEO may return greater results, but also stands a greater chance of being penalized by search engines. In any business venture you should weigh your risk and reward. Most websites do not require the use of techniques that will likely get your website banned from search engines.

Some common aggressive SEO techniques are cloaking, creating doorway pages, and setting up a link farm. If an SEO tells you they are doing something just for spiders (especially if it is hidden from site visitors) then they are likely using aggressive techniques.

Even if a person is not aggressive there still is some risk in any SEO service.

Some of the more common search engine penalties are:

Different search engines place emphasis on different parts of their algorithms and find spam using different techniques. In most job fields if a person does a bad job you may be forced to buy again. In SEO if a person gets your site penalized you may need to spend more money to undue what they did and then spend again on new services. Bad SEO services are extremely expensive in terms of time and money.

Do I have any knowledge of SEO?

If not: why shouldn't I take a few days learning before my investment? You can learn free at sites like Search Engine Watch & Search Engine Guide. SEO is also an industry filled with slang and jargon. Definitions for some SEO and search engine terms are located here.

What words or phrases would I expect people to search for to find my site? (These words or phrases are called keywords.)

Google's Keyword Suggestion Tool provides rough search volume traffic estimates. WordTracker is a more full featured keyword tool that many professional SEOs use, but it too can be off with its search volumes.

The best way to find out search volume is to create an ad on Google AdWords and bid enough to know your ad will show on every search. Please note this is an expensive technique in many fields.

Who is my competition?

If you are uncertain who your competition is search a couple of the various major search engines for some of you primary keywords and take note of the top ranking websites. If you have no idea who your competition is then you have no idea what you are up against.

What profit potential exists using my current business model?

If it is a large sum of money then odds are your industry is competitive. You can get a rough estimate of industry competition (and thus profit potential) by using the Google keyword suggestion tool

Hiring an SEO is not economically possible for all webmasters, and there are many effective non search engine related ways to promote your site or products over the web.

Is my business model original? Is something other than price my unique selling proposition? Does my business idea naturally want to spread?

If your answer is no to these questions: are there ways you can improve your message or business model before investing thousands of dollars into spreading it?

Many webmasters buy SEO services before they are even sure of their business model or unique sales proposition. You should know what message you want to spread before you heavily invest in spreading it.

It is far easier to build link popularity into non commercial sites than it is with completely commercial sites. Providing useful information builds trust and can help build your link popularity.

Does my site look attractive compared to that of my competition? Is my site as functional as my competitors sites are?

If not perhaps you should have a redesign done before or during the SEO process. It is far easier to spread your message if your site looks good.

Also, SEO is a numbers game. If your site is not focused on conversion and your competitors are, they will easily be able to reinvest profits and take market share from you.

Do I need pay per click marketing, organic SEO or both?

It may make sense to do both or just either one. They are slightly different skill sets though. Both have different setbacks and benefits. You may want to use pay per click marketing first to iron out conversion issues before investing heavily into SEO.

It may be worth doing both types of marketing concurrently if you have a great idea and know you have found a great SEO firm.

Is my site indexed by the major search engines?

You should check to see if your site is already in the search engine indexes and see how many pages are indexed. If only part of your site is indexed you may be able to make a few quick changes to make your site more search engine friendly.

You can search most major search engines for site:www.mysite.com and see how many pages are indexed.

What do the search engines say about the SEO firm I want to hire?

I would not recommend buying SEO from a firm because they rank well, but the search engines can tell you a decent amount about an SEO firm.

Some SEO firms do not rank well because they get most of their business from referrals and spend little time promoting their sites. If the SEO firm has a site it should show up when you search for their URL. If an SEO firm does not show up in search results when you search for their URL then likely they are being penalized. If their site is being penalized the odds are good that your site may get penalized. To see if their site is in the Google index search Google for cache:www.TheirWebsite.com.

You may also want to look through the search results of various search engines to see what other people are saying about your prospective SEO firm. Obviously the SEO field has many marketers in it. Some stuff that is posted might not be true, but if you have seen dozens of websites saying how awful an SEO firm is that is certainly a reason to use caution.

You may also want to check the backlinks of the SEO firm. Likely you should see some links from other SEO type websites or webmaster resources in their backlinks. If they have a large quantity of inbound links from casino, drug, and other high margin off topic sites and have no other links from SEO type websites then that would likely raise a flag in my mind.

This SEO firm called me with a great deal!!!

Quality SEO Firms do not have enough time to call people out of the blue. Quality SEO Firms work off referrals and from inquiries. If a firm calls you out of the blue they do not understand the power of reverse broadcast networks and are likely lousy at their job.

Should I buy the cheapest SEO?

Small SEO investments are likely a waste of money for multiple reasons.

Almost any quality SEO can create a topical site about their interests which produces hundreds to thousands of dollars of automated income a month without needing to worry about customers.

If you are only paying a few hundred dollars for SEO you should ask yourself “Why are they willing to work for me so cheap? Are they going to do anything, or are they just taking my money?”

If you are spending fewer than $500 you must realize that anyone else will likely be able to spend around what you are spending or spend a small amount more and steal your market position.

As long as your business model is functional it is a good idea to overspend to protect your position. The web grows with or without you so it does not hurt to overspend to ensure you will maintain your position for a decent amount of time.

If you are in a high margin field such as credit, prescription drugs, porn, or casinos you should expect to pay at least 5 figures and some ongoing fee.

This page is licensed under a Creative Commons License and originated from www.honestseo.com They are all great points on hiring an SEO firm and we've decided to list them as we found them. We also recommend the rest of their site and give credit where credit is due.

Communication is the key to running a successful service based web business. SEO firms should have no problem answering a few questions prior to you hiring them. Communicating before business partnerships
builds trust. With so many variables in the SEO field trust is an extremely important issue.

There is no reason to make blind investments when asking a few questions can help you find a great SEO.

How Long have You been doing SEO for?

Years and years of experience are not necessary, but you probably do not want to be their first project.

How Would You Describe Your SEO Process?

Most good SEOs have no problem explaining how they do what they do. Good SEOs want their clients to understand what they are doing. It helps to build trust.

Building trust with clients is important so clients will know the SEO firm is working hard to restore their rankings if search engines change their algorithms and cause rankings to drop temporarily.

Words like doorway, hidden, or automated are usually a bad sign unless you are willing to take large risk. While most do not, some industries will require aggressive sales techniques. Anything that is “just for the spiders” is usually a bad call if you are trying to build a long-term brand.

Is My Industry Competitive?

Understanding the economics of your business away from the web should help you discover how competitive your business field is. If their response surprises you ask them why it surprises you and explain a bit more about why you thought your industry was more or less competitive.

A good SEO can usually gauge how competitive an industry is quickly. Since their workload will be dependent on how competitive your industry is your SEO should be able to tell you about how competitive they think your industry is.

Do you have any other clients in my Industry?

Most quality SEOs will not work for competing websites in the same industry. It may benefit you if they are working for similar sites that are not directly competing because of geographic boundaries or other limits, but I would not recommend hiring an SEO firm whom actively had customers competing against each other.

Does My Site Need a Redesign?

Many sites have design flaws which make them unappealing to link to and sometimes even confusing to the user. User confusion will equate to a low conversion rate. Your site should make it simple and easy for your user to do what you want them to and look appealing to the eye.

Do You think My Site Has the Ability to Rank well with its Current Design?

They should tell you if they think there are problems with your current design because they will likely need to be changed, and the changes will have associated fees the firm will need to justify.

You should also make sure your SEO is comfortable working on a site built with the technology your site is using. Optimizing a Yahoo! Store for example requires additional knowledge which optimizing a straight HTML site does not.

Have You Worked for other businesses which are similar in size to my business?

A good SEO can do a good job on small sites and large site alike. Different sized companies have different policies and it would be helpful if your SEO had worked on a site owned by a company of a similar size/ in a similar position as your company.

What is the most competitive phrase you have ever ranked well for? Do you still rank well for it?

If you site is not in a competitive category you may not need a great SEO. If you are in a category such as debt, consumer electronics, casinos, world travel, pornography, or prescription drugs you need an SEO whom is aggressive and has a proven track record. In these competitive fields you likely will spend at least $10,000.

How Long Should I expect to Wait to See Results?

If you are doing pay per click marketing they may be able to have you set up in a week or less. Regular SEO takes a good bit longer.

For most SEO projects you should expect at least a two-month wait to see results. If a person tells you that you will have top rankings in only a few days it is typically a reason to be suspicious. The SEO firm should commit to a rough time table. It may not be a firm one but they should at least give you a time range where they would expect you to see results in.

Some search engines occasionally have major shifts in their algorithm which can delay results, but usually your SEO should be able to give you some idea of how long the process should take and when you should start seeing results.

If you are in a competitive category you should expect to pay the SEO ongoing monthly fees for keeping up with the competition.

What Phrases are We Targeting?

For an SEO to quote you a solid price they should know what goals you have. To do this they should know some of terms they are going after (perhaps not all of them, but at least some of them).

Basic economic knowledge should help your SEO guess at how competitive each industry is, but much of the work done in the SEO field is on a keyword or keyword phrase basis.

Do not pay an SEO until you and the SEO firm both understand what they other’s intent is.

I understand that Link Building is Important. How Many Links Should I Expect to See Added Each Month? How many new unique sites should I see linking to me each month? How do you go about building link popularity?

Some sites may need a few dozen links from a few dozen different sites. Many sites need a ton of links to compete for competitive phrases. By looking at some of the top ranking sites for your keywords (and checking their backlinks) you can determine how competitive your keywords are.

The word automated is often a sign of bad things if you are trying to build a long-term brand. The key is to get a bunch of links (with your keywords in them if possible) from various sites. If you can get links from related sites they should help more than unrelated links since they may also send direct traffic to your site.

Some search engines may use filters to penalize artificial link building, so you want to make sure you use a couple different link text phrases in some of the various links pointing at your site.

Quality link building takes time, but you should see more links pointing at your site a few months after you hire your SEO firm than you saw the day you hired them.

Do you use cloaking or other techniques which are considered risky or deceptive toward search engines?

Cloaking and other deceptive techniques in and of themselves are not bad. What is a bad thing is when an SEO firm uses deceptive techniques without letting you know. In certain competitive fields aggressive SEO techniques may be necessary, but most keywords do not require cloaking or other aggressive techniques to gain top rankings.

If you have a pharmacy or gambling type website expect to need to use risky techniques, spend a large sum of money, and build a large linking campaign.

Have you ever got any sites banned from search engines?

Getting a single site banned is not necessarily bad. Some of the most respected SEO professionals have been too aggressive and had websites banned from search engines (though many SEOs are conservative and never have had this happen).

You do not know what the limits are unless you test them. Most webmasters buying SEO services are not interested in donating test sites though. Ensure your SEO firm knows how much risk you are willing to take.

It is not important whether they have got any sites banned, but what is important is the language of their response. If they sound defensive and rude then they probably would be a bad SEO partner.

Do you have any guarantees of your work?

Many top SEOs work off their reputation and do not have any guarantees. Many SEOs will explain why they do not have guarantees or what their guarantees are. Make sure you understand exactly what keyword phrases, search engines, and time frame they guarantee.

Could I please speak to a few of your current customers?

Many SEO firms keep many of their clients secret so they may keep their competitive advantage. It does not hurt to ask and talk with a few clients though.

Some SEO firms may have buddies sing for them. Check out site details of the sites they worked on from sites like Internet Archives. If a client says they have worked with the firm on their current site for 3 years and the site is 2 months old it is likely a shady SEO firm.

Also use your best judgment! If something seems like it is questionable or it is too good to be true then you should look elsewhere.

This page is licensed under a Creative Commons License and originated from www.honestseo.com They are all great points on hiring an SEO firm and we've decided to list them as we found them. We also recommend the rest of their site and give credit where credit is due.

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