Not too long ago, Google’s Matt Cutts warned webmasters that Google would be targeting search engine spam in 2011. The search engine certainly hasn’t wasted any time in beginning that task, as evidenced by the focus of the recent Google update.

Google logoGoogle’s update caused the usual amount of commotion in webmaster forums. Messages from affected site owners flooded forums from early in the day, and are still continuing even now. If you’ve stumbled across any of these conversations, you’re probably wondering, what does the update mean for your website?

So, here’s what Google’s latest update means for you:

  • Duplicate content: This update is being dubbed the ‘duplicate content update,’ as it appears to crack down on pages featuring duplicate content. Google has vowed to cut down on content spam. ‘Spam’ doesn’t just mean obviously dubious content any more – this is a more subtle form of spam. The search engines are starting to class any low-quality content as spam, as it reduces the quality experience for internet users. While the main focus of this update has been on duplicate content, other forms of low-quality content may be on the chopping block next time.
  • Stolen content: A number of sites have been griping because Google’s update has lowered their rankings, whilst pushing up the rankings of pages that have stolen their content. While stolen content has always been a potential problem, most site owners didn’t worry about it too much. Although Google is making efforts to ensure the correct site owner is credited for their original content, it can be difficult to do this accurately all the time. To be properly credited, the content needs to be indexed on your site before others steal it – and to have your fresh content indexed quickly, you should publish fresh content regularly and ideally, have a good SEO campaign.

What to do if you are affected

If you have noticed a drop in your site’s general rankings, there are things you can do. This update focuses on content, so you will need to focus on content to repair things:

  1. Keep your supply of quality fresh content up. This is an essential for search engine optimisation, and its importance has been highlighted by the update.
  2. Make sure your content can be indexed rapidly. Having fresh content isn’t helpful unless Google notices it’s there.
  3. Support content through links. Google is getting better at automatically detecting high-quality content, but still heavily relies on links to indicate truly interesting content. Try to create content that attracts links naturally.

If you feel your content was already up to par, it’s worth looking for any pages that may have scraped your original content.

No matter what kind of site you operate, the best way to defend against a Google algorithm change is keep your nose clean. In other words, concentrating on keeping a high-quality site, with plenty of great content and quality, ethical SEO, is your best defence.

Updates – don’t panic

This latest Google update included a PageRank update, but it is important to remember that PageRank isn’t the most important measurement of your site. High PageRank doesn’t always translate into a high spot on the search engine results pages. PageRank isn’t the be-all and end-all of your SEO campaign. PageRank is just a single measurement, a ‘score’ between 1 and 10 to give a general indication of how Google sees your site. Remember, Google itself is only an 8 and sites with PR0 and PR1 often rank higher than PR4 and PR5 sites for specific searches.

If you do happen to suffer any ill effects from any of Google’s updates, it’s important not to panic. Sometimes the effects turn out to be temporary, disappearing as the search engine works out unwanted effects from the update. Changes to your PageRank may not have a huge impact on your site traffic or conversions. Return to your SEO basics, keep building the quality of your site, and you’ll bounce back.

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