In the spring of 2012 Google released two very interesting updates to their search engine. The first was called Panda and the second was named Penguin. These two technologies combined border on artificial intelligence and I believe these updates are probably the most significant advancement in search technology that we have ever experienced. The world of Search Engine Optimization, or being able to get to the top of the rankings, instantly changed.

This disruptive update introduced dramatic and negative impacts on several businesses that I was running. The last year and a half I feel like I’ve been hiding under a rock and waiting for the dust to settle. However, during these past three or four months I’ve been working on a project, attempting to apply the new methodologies, and I’m pleased to announce that I have had the first breakthrough.

For today’s post I wanted to provide technical information for anyone who is attempting to utilize the web and get exposure through search engines. In days of old there were three major legs that propped up the stool of good search ranking:

Today it is all about fresh, relevant content. While you will still want your keyword density to be at one or two percent the new updates require more sensitivity to good, solid content for humans than ever before.

On-Page Elements
At last count I went through fifty-two variables that were required they be matched in order to achieve good ranking. This includes web elements such as meta data, meta title, and meta descriptions as well as your web URL, alt text tabs, how long the domain had been alive etc. All of these elements combined helped you know where you ranked. These also factor in the updated Panda and Penguin but not as much.

Links were the validation and proof that you were important to other websites. These HREF tags linking you from another website were VERY important when it came to Google determining website ranking. This now has been somewhat de-emphasized and the only value there is if you can get really good, high-end quality referrals from someone. If you’re getting a bunch of links from small, unknown sources it can actually hurt you.

Those three elements used to be the legs of the stool that held up Search Engines. Now the rules have changed. Let me add a few of the other key factors that are now  being taken into consideration.

Page Layout
You cannot use old, duddy, template designs, or old web layouts. Google looks at a website’s layout. You must have new, fresh, and open designs to achieve good rankings.

Natural Advertisement and Information Extraction
Beware if you are overusing advertising elements, especially of advertisements above the fold and if you are attempting to extract user information too quickly. Provide real and relevant content without attempting to monetize too quickly or aggressively.

Time Spent on Site
The wonderful analytics that Google gave us for years that we were so delighted in is now being used against us. How long the user stays on the site is now compared to other similar sites in your industry and is used to score your website based on that information.

Google now measures your conversion data to see how well it performs.

Page Views
How many pages does the user go through while visiting your site? If they go to your homepage and bounce out right afterwards it is known as a bounce and you are penalized for it. It’s important that the user goes from page to page while spending time and exploring your site, floating through multiple pieces of content.

Traffic Variety
In days of old it did not matter if you only had one type of traffic source. Google is now measuring traffic variety and where your traffic comes from particularly if your traffic is related to social media. By doing this it shows if a brand or company is permeating and how well it is received.

Social Proof
Google tracks the number of times your company or name pops up in Google circles, Facebook, and Twitter. This allows them to see your reach. This is a huge factor in website ranking.

With all of these new rules it is incredibly difficult for smaller companies to compete. However you’ve heard me frequently talk about Barriers to Entry and the importance of those barriers. If you’re able to overcome these new online barriers you can put a huge gap between you and the competition. I believe it is now time to be looking at online presence and search in your online search model, albeit carefully. I wish you well in the brave, brazen new world of Panda and Penguin.