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As many professionals in the search engine optimization industry are probably aware, Google recently rolled out a wide-sweeping algorithm update that’s been dubbed “Panda.” Panda was designed to punish “content farms”, websites that mass produce content designed to attract search traffic and ad revenue. After the Panda update, many websites that didn’t fit into the content farm category found themselves negatively impacted in search rankings.

Like any change in search engine programs, there will be winners and losers with Panda. If sites like eHow.com and AssociatedContent have lost their cherished positions at the top of the search results page, then other sites have taken their place. For years, small businesses have struggled with the task of generating backlinks, interesting content, and an overall online experience capable of competing with the army of freelancers that work for these larger websites. With the recent update, I’m confident that small businesses can capture some of the higher rankings. Here are a few suggestions as to how to do it.

  1. Use geo-targeted meta tags. Meta tags have been de-emphasized in SEO literature over the past couple of years because there’s been rampant abuse of them. People stuff too many words in them and get themselves in trouble. But now, the game is different. Specifying the latitude and longitude of your business can have a strong impact on your rankings. With the Panda update, Google decided to favor local markets over global ones, since the content farms targeted the global market and the emphasis has been shifting to local search. Search engines are favoring local markets.
  2. Generate an hCard. Along with tip one, this will help establish your website as a local identity. Since small businesses don’t care much about global terms (the donut store in Manteca, CA would want to optimize for “Manteca donuts” not “donuts”), gaining a firm hold on a local term can be easier now that content farms aren’t dominating every search result page.
  3. Put your business address on your website and make sure this is the address listed on your domain’s WHOIS record.
  4. Get listed in Google Places, Bing’s local directory, and Yahoo Local. Easy spots near the top and they establish credibility as a local brand.
  5. Use RDFa. People familiar with the framework are likely to jump in and say that this has nothing to do with Google’s Panda update. But here’s what Google has done: they’ve punished low quality, sleezy content. They’ve shifted the focus to sites you trust, sites you want to interact with socially, and sites with original content. RDFa, short for Resource Description Framework, is a semantic markup for your website. It identifies the different elements of your site in a universal way so that search engines and other programs can organize them better. RDFa is part of the semantic web, which is really an extended effort to get web pages, resources, and applications to play well with others. Correct RDFa tags will tell search engines who created the content, when it was created, and what its elements are. It creates an element of trust, and in an era of rampant content scraping, copyright violations, and websites “you don’t want to give your credit card number to”, RDFa sets you above the competition by giving search engines a way to identify your site as the originator of specific content.
  6. Clean up your site. If you’ve aggregated content from somewhere else, posted drivel, or done anything spammish, clean it up and get back to a solid link building strategy. Write quality articles for other sites that include backlinks to your own, make sure your SEO consultant isn’t doing anything shady, and keep your nose clean. I’m confident that small business owners can be the winners in Google’s Panda update.

About the guest author:
Brandon is the owner of Boomajoom.com, a firm specializing in search engine optimization and social media marketing for Tracy, Stockton, and Sacramento. He serves primarily local clients, but does remote work as well, like with Alan Residential Contractor Services, a Chicago suburbs roofing contractor.

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