Optimising your site to help it rank on Google can be a confusing business, but there are a couple of pieces of advice that always seem to be constant. ‘Content is King’ so the more relevant content you have on your site the better and links from reputable sites will help you rank higher. You can be sure that both these things will help you right? Well… not always.

As the last couple of Google updates have shown us, they are so busy trying to catch the ‘bad guys’ that you can trip yourself up with perfectly innocent activity.

Make sure your link profile is squeaky clean

Google’s Penguin updates concentrate on the quality of links through to your website and many websites have found themselves penalized as a result of this. You might think that you would be ok, as you haven’t bought any links or indulged in any shady SEO practices, but you might still get caught out.

If, for instance, you are a web design company and you put a sitewide link in the footer of every site you build, John Mueller at Google says they consider these to be ‘unnatural’ links. You could just remove them, but you still want to get credit for your work, so just add a nofollow attribute to the link.

The same goes for internal links on your website – Google would consider lots of links from one page to another to be suspicious, but sometimes it is unavoidable. On a website we built recently, it was necessary on a category page to have multiple links to the same page, which could have looked suspicious. The solution – we nofollowed all the extra links.

The nofollow attribute is your way of saying to Google ‘look, we know this looks suspect, but we’re not trying to fool you’. What’s great is that you can still keep the links which bring you traffic, but not risk a penalty.

Duplicate content is bad.
Duplicate content is bad.

Google’s Panda updates concentrate on the quality of content on sites and having duplicate content is a big no-no. But sometimes it can be unavoidable. It might be that you have an ecommerce site and a certain product appears in multiple categories – because they have different urls, it might be viewed as duplicate content. Or you might have landing pages tailored for different searches, which have very similar content and could also get you penalized as a result.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to start deleting these pages to stay safe, you can simply add a canonical tag to the pages. This is your way of saying to Google ‘look, we know this page is very similar to page X – so just treat them both as one page’. This way you get to keep all your pages and be sure you won’t get caught out.

If you’re not sure…

If you’re still not sure if your links or content could cause you a problem, why not get in touch to see if we can help.