There are plenty of ways to make money online, and many of them revolve around getting good search engine rankings. If we can achieve top positioning in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), we gain access to free search engine traffic. Naturally, there are innumerable products, strategies, and schemes for getting top rankings.

Because top listings can be so lucrative, plenty of people continually look for ways to ‘game’ the system – buy or manipulate their way to the top. On the other side of the coin, Google is constantly struggling to ‘clean up’ it’s database so as to show what it deems as legitimate ‘best’ and ‘most relevant’ results. Recently Google initiated another in it’s ongoing series of updates to it’s ranking algorithm or formula. This “update” had the effect of knocking down many sites that were either ‘thin’ – meaning little or no unique content – or relying on manufactured or bought backlinks.

Three recent high-profile ‘victims’ were JC Penney, Forbes, and, however there were thousands of other lesser-known companies and websites that saw their rankings drop drastically.

Getting, and maintaining good search engine rankings isn’t quite as easy as it used to be. Fortunately, the fundamentals remain the same: Good content that is optimized for the keyword phrases you are targeting, and backlinks.

Beyond backlink manipulation, two of the main ‘targets’ of this recent update are ‘scraper’ sites, and ‘content farms’ – in fact, this update is already being termed “Farmer Update” in some SEO circles. “Scraper” sites are pretty self-explanatory – websites that ‘scrape’ the web for content, using already-published material as the bulk of their content. Among the big losers will be all those “auto-blogs” and “auto-blogging” applications. For those not familiar, the idea of “auto-blogging” is to use automated tools to pull in ‘scraped’ content in order to populate a site. Sources for this content include RSS feeds, article directories, Yahoo Answers and similar sites, etc. Auto-blogging once sounded like a great idea – set up a site that would automatically grow with ‘fresh’ keyword-targeted content without the site owner having to do much. But as with so many of these schemes, these ‘short-cuts’ are short-lived, and end up being a waste of time & effort, in effect ending up as ‘long-cuts’.

So what’s an Internet marketer to do? Simple. Be aware of what Google wants to see, and provide it. There’s no reason you can’t target the same keyword phrases, use the same means to monetize, and get the same results, so long as you understand the ‘rules of the game’. If anything, this update goes a long way towards making our job easier, by eliminating some of the ‘competition glut’ that crappy sites create!

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