Google spent 2012 rewriting search as we know it. Many of the changes it made to its algorithm this year penalize websites that don’t add value to their users. For lack of a better word, we call these sites “tilt ups” … although everyone else just seems to call them spam.

Here’s what characterizes a “tilt-up” website. (Like pornography, you definitely know one when you see one!)

  • Over 50% of the content consists of advertising
  • The site was put up very quickly
  • The content is thin and adds little value
  • There is little to mark the content as current
  • Very little attention is paid to social media

Google’s algorithm establishes new rules for SEO and search visibility that are not hard for most websites to follow, so long as you are in the business of building a website that is a credible foundation for your business, versus just tilting up something that looks good but won’t last.

Here are 5 simple rules you can follow to make sure your website doesn’t look like a tilt-up site:

1. Be Social
Human beings are social, they participate in Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, what have you. Bots? Not so much. While you could set up a bot to publish to all these sources, it’s hard to fool all of the social media sites all of the time using a bot or automated approach. Which is why Google’s algorithm puts a premium on sites that have social influence, as a proxy for proving that the site is run by actual people who care about providing relevant and engaging content to their end users.

2. Publish Quality Content
Put some thought into your content. Don’t stuff your site with repetitive keywords and duplicate content, including content that is auto-pulled from RSS feeds. If you do, your site will look, feel, and sound like a chipmunk wrote it. This type of content appeals to no one – except possibly other chipmunks.

3. Do Not Bother with Crappy Backlinks
Google can tell if the site that links to you is actually reputable or one that is not frequented by humans. Low-quality backlinks are a huge indicator to Google that something is amiss and that the content housed on your site is not relevant or useful to end users.

The best way to get backlinks that matter? Send out an SEO-optimized press release. Place your content on other people’s site with a link back to your site.

4. Regularly Update Your Site
Tilt-up sites are put up fast and not maintained at all. Hence, Google’s algorithms look for signs that your site is being maintained. We put currency markers on the home page (at least) of every site we build for our clients for this reason. Likewise, we spend time fixing broken links, submitting an updated sitemap, and doing the other maintenance tasks that tells Google that the site is being maintained by real human beings.

5. Do not advertise excessively
Most tilt-up sites spend 50% of the real estate on a given page on advertising. Google’s algorithms do not like to see this, because it tells them that the site’s owner is more interested in monetization than they are in providing content of value to their end user.

We base these recommendations on our analysis of the changes Google has made to its algorithm throughout 2012:

  • Search + your world (January 10, 2012)
    Google+ social data and user profiles are pushed onto SERPs (search engine results pages)
  • Ads above the fold (January 19, 2012)
    Google devalues sites with too much ad-space above the “fold”, an area of prime real estate for web pages
  • Venice (February 27, 2012)
    This update prioritises local organic search results and more tightly integrates local search data
  • Penguin (April 24, 2012)
    This update specifically targets webspam, including factors like keyword stuffing, which impacted an estimated 3.1% of English queries
  • DMCA Penalty (August 10, 2012)
    Sites with repeat copyright violations will be penalized
  • Exact Match Domain (EMD) Update (September 27, 2012)
    A common SEO tip is to put your keywords in the page URL, but this Google update seeks to put less weight on it

…not to mention all their tweaks to Panda which was first released February 2011. All of these changes are aimed at what we call “tilt-up” websites – which are websites that are fast to put up, provide very low-quality content, the types of sites that are designed to show up well in search results but do not – in fact – delivery any content of value to the user.

Bottom Line

Don’t spend your time and money tilting up a website or on questionable SEO tactics. Spend your time and money creating compelling, relevant, and engaging content and making it visible – not just in search – but also in social media. This will pay dividends for you by speaking to your buyers, helping them with their purchase decision, getting you high quality backlinks, and ultimately improving both your findability and visibility.