Between Google Penguin and Google Panda, I think it's safe to say that all of us in the digital marketing world are fed up with the number of cute, furry animal-themed updates the search giant has been rolling out recently!
Unfortunately, the rate at which these algorithm changes are occurring has increased recently, and there's no reason to believe that this trend will slow down any time soon. All of us are in for a bumpy ride, and while it's impossible to protect your website with 100 percent accuracy, there are a few steps you'll want to take to minimize potential negative impacts to your site as a result of these changes:
Priority #1 -- Stay Up-to-Date
The most important part of having a strong offense is putting a good defensive strategy in place -- and in the SEO world, this means staying up-to-date on industry news.
Whenever Google or the other search engines roll out major changes, you can bet that some of the first people to cover it will be the industry experts who post on sites like Search Engine Watch, Search Engine Land and ClickZ. When they see new natural search updates roll out, they'll be the first ones to let the public know that something has occurred and what types of actions they should take to respond.
For this reason, it's a good idea to make checking these websites a regular part of your routine. You don't need tons of time to do this -- all you need to do is glance over the headlines a few times a week to ensure that no major algorithm changes have occurred that you should be concerned about.
Priority #2 -- Put Your Reader First
It's also important to keep in mind that the search engines' top priority is to share the best possible query results with their users -- always has been, and always will be. When more users search on their engines (believing that their chosen sites provide the best overall results), the search companies make more money through PPC ad revenues.
So stop thinking like an SEO and start thinking about what will benefit your readers the most. Don't just publish content around individual keyword phrases -- instead, poll your readers or consult your website's analytics dashboard to find out what they're actually interested in seeing. Although the search algorithms aren't able to perfectly reward high value sites yet, they're working on it -- and when they do get their ranking factors in order, your site will be at the front of the line.
Priority #3 -- Diversify Your Traffic Sources
As you focus on building up your content, put some effort into diversifying your traffic sources as well.
One method in particular that all webmasters could stand to invest more heavily in is social networking traffic. By building a presence on these sites, you establish streams of inbound traffic that continue to exist even if your site takes a hit in the natural search results due to algorithm changes. Email marketing lists are also a good hedge against a hit in natural search results. Lists can be used to sell products and services directly to email subscribers.
Priority #4 -- Look "Natural"
In the past, SEOs could get away with following a specific list of on-page optimization best practices that were designed to give sites the best possible chances of ranking well in the natural search results.
Unfortunately, with nearly every webmaster on the Internet taking these same defined steps, it became very easy for Google and the other search engines to detect these types of manipulations.
As a result, today's SEO best practices don't follow the "paint by numbers" format of the past. Instead of optimizing specific variables in certain ways, good websites appear natural in the eyes of the search engines. Steer clear of overly optimized title tags, meta tags, body content and backlink anchor text variations, and instead focus on providing the valuable content that will please both your readers and the search engine spiders.
Priority #5 -- Set Up Monitoring Solutions
Finally, if you're truly concerned about future search engine algorithm changes dramatically impacting your site's natural search performance, consider putting monitoring solutions in place that will alert you to any noticeable impacts on your website's metrics.
Google Analytics will allow you to set up Custom Alerts, which will notify you according to the parameters and change thresholds you specify within your account. Here's an article on 7 Essential Google Intelligence Custom Alerts. Alternatively, if you use any professional SEO tools like SEOMoz Professional or Raven Tools, you'll find that many of these programs have provisions in place to alert you if significant variations occur within your web stats.
While monitoring for changes to your website's performance stemming from search engine algorithm updates won't prevent damage from occurring, doing so can help you to put corrective actions in place and get your website back on track as quickly as possible.