As an SEO copywriter, you should be well aware of all the changes Google has been releasing – especially in the recent past. The fact they now give these algorithm changes cute animal names does not mean they cannot wreak a lot of very un-cute havoc on your (or a client’s) web business. There are penguins and pandas throwing out monkey wrenches in some of the older (?) content development and content promotion areas – the two things directly affecting an SEO copywriter’s daily efforts. So how do you create content these days, and appease the animal farm those Orwellians keep throwing in between us, and the SERPs?

The Google Hydra, Guardian of Coveted Content

Identify the Filters

In both Panda (which is believed to be content-related) and Penguin (which is more link-related), how you present and promote your content determines a lot about whether or not you get whacked. So this means logically, there are going to be thresholds and limits that will signal whether you are a good witch or a bad witch.

It gets very difficult to isolate individual aspects of what makes one site or page rank over another – but this is in fact, your job, so suck it up.

In Panda, the larger target Google seems to go after are the sites known as content farms, where (as one example) an algorithm determines new topics and cheap writers fill it in as fast as possible. Basically, in my opinion, Panda looked to clean up all the crap Google had caused for itself by making it possible to get paid to rank really crappy, MFA (made for AdSense) sites.  The SERPs were getting heavy with these low-rent middle-man specials, so Panda uses some pretty broad strokes to cull some of these sites out.

Though properly identifying the specific aspects of Panda are (of course) Google-shrouded, it is generally believed that thin, excessive content that is unsupported on a site makes it vulnerable…and this drove a lot of sites’ growth over the last 5 years for sure…it was very common to take a list of keywords and build out a page for each to try to bring that power in.

So here is an obvious signal for you to use: if thin pages in bulk on your client sites don’t work so well any longer, no more thin, unnecessary content that makes a page out of every keyword. Instead, look to consolidate the ideas and erase the thin from the approach. Research – both the subject matter and the audience, so you can find better ways to connect. Spend more time on each page and with each topic, and make something that actually answers to a visitor with a face.

Instead of looking at one or three keywords that a page is answering to, look to the larger ideas and let it spin out a little more freely. Use synonyms and all related terms liberally – you want to increase conceptual context. In doing so, you will tend to open up new long tail possibilities, which is nice. Spend more time and money on creating less, but infinitely better content.

Is this a sure-fire defense against a Panda penalty? No way – but it should help you to defend against it. As more signals become clear (or more clear to you), you can refine your approach further, incorporating these new signals into every page you develop, sidestepping the critter poop along the way.

In Penguin, (with a broad stroke for brevity) excessive (or even just overtly purchased) link tactics have shown to be a detriment that can get your site aggressively filtered. Obviously, this means if your link strategies used tactics that were against Google’s terms of service, the risks for doing so have grown to be a huge risk. If you only know of strategies that employ purchased links or publicly advertised processes, chances are pretty good that you are inviting Penguins into the compound. Whether or not they do any damage to your sites is dependent on lots of moving parts no doubt – but again, here is a pretty well accepted signal to fold into your approach.

In the same way you can bring your on-site efforts to a higher shelf with just a little effort, the same holds true for link efforts. It is easy (and deceptively affordable) to blast links out in groups of hundreds or even thousands at a time. Slow and steady may not get you tons of links every week or even every month – but if you target better sites and make the process manual all the way, you are going to separate your efforts from those who do not go the extra distance. You may have less sites linking in, but if they are of a higher caliber than the competition, you are sending out a signal about your site that clearly sets it apart: we have a quality level our competitors can’t touch.

Ignore the Critters

It is never really going to be a good idea to ignore the search engines when creating content that you want to work well in the engines, but it does help you to create better content to conceptually start from there. In my experience, people get really obsessed with keywords, and SERPs, and traffic reports, and potential…and they forget that it all stems from user engagement. Sure, they need keywords to associate the context and connect the dots, but believe it or not, I still get occasional comments about the keyword density…and some people still use this measure to evaluate a page’s effectiveness. C’mon people – they are moving quick out there, let’s stay with them. I will lend you a chalkboard if you need it.

Keywords need to be natural, and most people struggle here. Instead of allowing them to flow out naturally, they more often have an article that they like and want to add their keywords to it, or increase the power of the page by increasing the number of times the keyword happens (density, you whore). So it comes off stiff – the flow and natural feel of the page gets waylaid for some hopeful SERP bump, be it client or vendor inspired. I know you have read these pages before – they are everywhere…because mechanically gaming the engines is WAAAY easier than engaging the people, for realzies. Zoo or no zoo. But true engagement resonates, and carries on its own power.

When you are creating new content, the engagement should be focused (as always?) on the user…ignore those Googley zoo beasts as best you can. Like I said up top, be aware of the signals they are using (TEST!) so you can ensure you are not crossing the line unknowingly (which is getting tougher, so good luck), but focus 100% on that end user and your content should improve, and work better for you and your clients.