It was Forest Gump that said that "Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get". Extrapolating that tortured metaphor a little bit more, Google can be like a "box of chocolates". What are they going to pick on with their next major algorithm upgrade or new subroutine? In search engine optimisation, it's our job to keep an eye on what's going on and try predict the future. But there are so many branches and possibilities. So many different events that could happen that could potentially change, out ranking, visitor levels or profitability. Which is going to hit us first? What she we be doing now to predict and prepare for Google's next update? Let's be honest, other than learn what we can about the general aim of the search engine giant most of us will never really know all we would like to know. The internet is enormous and the inter-relationships between sites are well beyond the means of anyone to fully comprehend them entirely. So when a change happens, and, for example, a new algorithm is unleashed, or a major update takes effect, it can be difficult to go back and extrapolate why and how it happened. It is almost impossible to work out whether it could have been predicted. But we do need to quickly work out what any possible solutions to the problems caused to webmasters may then implement them ASAP It would be nice to have a crystal ball, but for the most part, just like Mr Gump, you never know what you're going to get. Best Practice SEO Is The Same As It Ever Was But In BHW We Can Shortcut Much Of This With hindsight 2012 could be described as a very turbulent year for search engine optimisation. With many Panda updates still on-going, the introduction of Penguin, the levelling of exact match domain benefits the introduction of various features such as "linked disavowal" designed to both combat negative SEO and spread the message that over optimization was bad practice. But what we can do now? More than six months on from the over optimisation penalty and unnatural linking notices, can we see some websites who were seriously affected but have by this point in 2013, managed to recover or even improve on their original status? Doing the opposite of what may seem natural works in certain circumstances The site in the video is extremely popular site ranking for a phrase which generates the best part of 100,000 unique searches per month. It is also ranking for other similar phrases or composite phrases and has an Alexa rank of around 4000. A few months ago I was thinking of setting up a similar site myself, and this was one of the sites I was lucky enough to be keeping an eye on when it got hit by what appeared to be an over optimisation penalty. It went from number one on page one for its main targeted key phrase to bouncing around at eight or nine, in real terms of reduction of about 85% of its traffic potential and possibly a catastrophe for the website owners. Now, six months on it has recovered and as the metrics in the video show house, in many cases improved various of its key performance metrics. Analysis of the way the site has changed as well as the offsite SEO efforts undertaken in the past few months reveal that two main ways were used to recover the site. Both, on the surface at least, seem entirely at odds with best practice or common sense. But that's only if you look on the surface, there are underlying good reasons why these two particular methods worked well for the site in question. Let's go into a little detail. Over optimization? Let's create a lot more links! Anchor Text Dilution Is Going To Require More Links. It's As Simple As That! In response to an overall demise in SERPs and an overop penalty, the website owners decided to increase the number of inbound links dramatically and used a phased approach to do this. They embarked on a program that involved the creation (above the background norm of naturally created links) of in excess of 10,000 backlinks per day, and continuing at approximately that level for several weeks. This would seem to break many of the rules, including those in our own Blue Hat Demon. But again that's only on the surface. This website contains many thousands of URLs and the overall demise and penalty was in large part due to a lack of variation in the linking anchor text. The large linking campaigns seem in the most part be aimed at diluting the anchor text. Over a period of several months they did a particularly good job. This is an established site with many years of both self-promotional and natural linking accrued. Creating a few dozen links here or there would not substantially alter the mass or percentage of overall backlinks links. The website owners had two choices. To take many years and hope that they could recover naturally, or too push the self promotion button and to deliberately dilute their anchor text variation as much as possible in the medium to short term. In this case around three months. Not Keeping Visitors On Site? Let's REDUCE Social Interaction Is Social Interaction Distracting Your Visitors From Your Sites Primary Aim - MAKING MONEY? SEO forums allow full of people asking for "traffic bots" or ways to mimic traffic behaviour on their websites. It's been a marked increase over the last few weeks and months. This is because (I believe) that it is becoming apparent that Google takes visitor retention, user experience and metrics such as bounce rate quite seriously. Whether the bots being requested are to negatively impact a competitors site, or to mimic a good visitor relationship with the user's own site is not certain. It is likely that these tools can be used for both purposes. The site is in question here originally was full of interactive elements. Every product and application featured had its own set of indicators underneath an image representing the product itself. How many people were "Liking" it on Facebook? Was it Hot or Cold? [The websites own popularity gauge] How many people were actually using the application at that point in time? When was the last time you (the logged in user) had used the application? On top of this each individual application or program had its own set of social interaction buttons. Like, Tweet or +1. They've all been removed The website owner realised that social interaction is not the core business of the site. At best it may garner a few useful comments on multimedia sites, at worst it is a distraction that could lead people straight away from the main objective of the website. In this particular case the website's main objective is getting people to play online games. Many of these games are barely disguised mini versions of popular full priced games. The thought process of the average user would be looking to get an experience as similar to a full priced application but for free, and, ideally would be able to find the software or application that would allow them to do that very quickly. By playing this game, perhaps paying for an "unlocked" version eventually, buying game elements using micro-transactions or possibly just by viewing the advertisements embedded in the software the website owners would make money from the visitor. If that same visitor presses a Facebook "Like" button and ends up simply browsing Facebook and chatting to their friends, then the website owner made nothing. The main site level social interaction buttons have been repositioned strategically, the individual interaction with games have been entirely removed altogether. Along the right-hand side of the screen a block of "tags" featuring popular game genres has been implemented which allows users to browse to the genre or particular game of their choice and get playing quickly. Playing a game is the "call to action" of the website. No play = No pay. Social interaction has been largely removed. Social interaction was not a method for the website to make money nor was it a desirable outcome for a visitor. This may seem to go against all the information that has been propagated in the last four months regarding social noise and social media. But at the point where it becomes a distraction, where the message that leads the visitor to take the key action on your website or URL is designed for, then it needs to be cleaned up. As a result of these changes this particular site now ranks number one for its key phrase has improved in search engine rankings and many of the other secondary phrases. It is improved its bounce rate and its Alexa Rank has recovered. The actions it took, increasing the quantity of self-promotional links after an over optimization penalty and removing social interaction to improve bounce rate may seem to many entirely counterintuitive. But they were precisely the actions which lead the site to recover and progress past it's original high standards inside a few months. But like everything else in SEO, and everything else in life in general it is entirely contextual. I just thought I would share this recovery and success story with you guys. Would this work for every site in every circumstance? NO!!!! Is it worth considering if your site has a similar profile and issues to the one above. I'd say a resounding YES!!!