The past year has seen a lot of changes in the way Google determines which pages wind up at the top of the search engine results page (SERP). While these changes were designed to improve results for searchers, they punished many well-intended sites that followed what is now outdated search engine optimization (SEO) advice.

Whether or not you felt the sting of reduced search traffic this past year, you should review these tips to be sure you are following the new best practices that arose in the wake of Panda, Farmer, and the other algorithm updates Google implemented. Improving your website’s SEO leads to increased traffic and more opportunities to convert those visitors to your goals.

Continuing with any of the now suspect practices puts your site at risk of future reprisals from Google and other search engines.

1. Vary Your Anchor Text

For years, the wisdom ran that the search engines like to see you present a consistent keyword association for your inbound links. Google has determined that this sort of consistency can be abused, and it now downgrades sites that have too many inbound links with the same anchor text.

You should vary your anchor text so that it will look more natural than planned. Rather then pasting the same resource box on every guest post or article directory, you should create highly targeted messages that use unique anchor text that is related to your keywords without being identical.

2. Beware the Company You Keep

Google is now taking a hard look at the inbound and outbound links from your website. If many of your inbound links come from a content site that Google decides to downgrade, your site may be adversely affected as well.

Review the links on your site both in- and outbound to ensure that your do not have any associations that could later prove embarrassing. Choose to place your articles on directories that have standards and review systems or you may find that low quality articles make your site look cheap by comparison.

3. Increase Your Social Media Presence

The search engines are paying attention to social media shares your website receives. Although these do not have the same weight as other inbound links, each social media share offers a value that adds up. Now that Google has fully entered this space with Google+, and it’s +1 sharing system, we expect the value of social media shares to increase.

These changes are not rocket science. Removing low quality links may take some time, but the stability you will add to your SEO strategy is worth it. Google has changed, but these changes improve the results we see in the SERPs. Ensuring your website operates with these SEO best practices will help you rank high in the SERPs.

Do you agree or disagree? Perhaps, I missed something? Either way, I would just love to hear what your thoughts are on this topic… just let me know your alive!