Google works in mysterious ways.

Every year, Google makes changes to its search algorithm between 500-600 times! Most of these changes are minor, and in today’s age of Search Engine Optimization, the end user is not always clear on the full extent of factors that Google takes into account when ranking a website. In 2011, Google’s Panda update finally gave penalties to sites using link farms to build backlinks and rank highly without quality content. It was easy to find which of these sites were spammers – but Google has now taken further steps to penalize spam.

Recently, the data science team at Moz.com has uncovered new factors that will trigger Google to think your website is spam. This new Spam Score gives us great factors on changes you can make to your website to avoid being penalized in search rankings. The more “spam flags” your site contains, the higher change you could be suffering in search. Google could currently be penalizing your site for being spam, so we have put together a few simple tricks to counteract these flags, so you can implement to improve your ranking in search.

1. Don’t just increase your number of Backlinks – Increase Link Diversity

Getting backlinks is the oldest trick in the book for SEO. While link farming is useless in 2015, having quality backlinks from reputable sites will benefit your search ranking. The traffic real people following these backlinks to your site and visiting is seen by Google and is taken into account. However, if all of your backlinks are coming from a single, of very limited number of sites, Google will flag this as being spam.

Having a variety of links coming from various domains will do you more benefit than many links from a single domain. Try to increase the diversity of your backlinks to avoid Google from thinking you bought those links on the single domain.

2. Create quality content

If “content marketing” isn’t ingrained as a buzzword yet in your mind, it should be. There merits of having quality content worth reading on your website extends past reputability and branding, but Google will know when your content is lacking. If you have thin content on your website across many pages, it is likely to be seen as spam.

If you have a product page on an e-commerce site with a limited description, make sure to write out a unique description, include a video and show high quality images with proper meta data. If you have created a WordPress site and have extra pages that are unused but still seen in the sitemap, make sure to remove them.

3. Increase site markup

Legitimate websites tend to put in greater effort to the styling and features on site. It isn’t in a spam website’s best interests to put effort into a rich user experience and visual design. Having a good amount of CSS, Javascript and fully developed meta tags ensure that your website was developed and not just generated. Having a large amount of text on your page in relation to mark-up is also a spam flag, so be sure that your quality content is presented well.

4. Remove excessive external links within content

Some bloggers will put external links needlessly throughout content. Having a large number of external links in this manner will give Google’s algorithm the impression that you may be a link farm. Use external links when it is necessary and when it counts. A great technique is to use a rel=”nofollow” tag when linking externally. This tag tells Google to not give that page an SEO boost for a backlink – preventing your page from looking like a link farm.

5. Eliminate external links in navigation

This is a user experience NO as much as it is an SEO NO. Directing users to another domain when they’re trying to navigate around your site is deceptive and adds to confusion, you want to keep them on your own domain.

In the past, spam sites have hidden external links within the header navigation, sidebars and page footer to avoid being penalized. However Google has smartened up to this but might be hurting you for promoting a partner site in these spaces.

6. Add more internal links

Spam sites tend to neglect user experience. For example, often there is a lack of internal navigation between pages due to missing headers and menus.

Your site should link heavily within itself. This could either be with internal navigation, or throughout an article. If you are writing an informative article and want to share a blog post you’ve written that is relevant to it – do it. Internal linking is a good tip off to Google that your site has no pages to hide.

7. Add contact info

Name. Address. Phone number. This pattern should be ingrained into you if you have done any level of Local SEO. Having Google pick up on who is behind a website is essential to being seen as a legitimate entity.

Spam sites also lack a privacy policy. Every website should contain an accessible privacy policy to make it clear the website has a purpose and is following through with integrity.

Conclusion

If you skim over all of the points within this article again, you will see that having quality content on a fully developed website does more for your SEO than any trick ever could. Maintain a good user experience and avoid blackhat techniques which may have allowed you to take advantage of Google’s algorithm in the past.

Google is always pivoting towards providing search results that are most beneficial to the user. Build sites worth visiting and watch your rank in search skyrocket.