It’s safe to say that Google likes to keep us website owners on our toes. And it’s definitely to its advantage to do so. One vehement blogger goes so far as to call it “immoral” the way Google muddies up the details of an algorithm that affects so many websites’ bottom lines.

There’s not an e-commerce site owner in existence who doesn’t have “improve SEO” on his or her to-do list. Ignoring the need for better search engine optimization is simply not a feasible option for online businesses that hope to grow and succeed.

Josh Bachynski, author of “The Complete Google Leaked PANDA Do and Don’t LIST—2011 to Present,” asserts that the immorality of Google’s secretive approach arises when the rankings of thousands of sites are at the mercy of a deliberately obscure algorithm, which is subject to change at any moment.

The resultant effects of these spontaneous algorithm changes can wipe a website off the front page, which just doesn’t seem fair to site owners who simply want to rank highly in Google if they only knew how to do it without getting penalized down the road.

Bachynksi calls it a “totalitarian culture of misinformation.” In response to this claim, he’s made a worthy attempt to clear up the water a little and compiled a heavily researched “word-to-the-wise” list of dos and don’ts.

This list will assist site owners in making the alterations to their sites that will actually make a difference in improving and securing their rankings.

The Dos List

Bachynski pulls his information from a variety of Google sources, from which he’s extrapolated hints on what Google considers to be factors of “high quality” web pages and “low quality” web pages.

These are a few of the high quality to-dos, included here because they represent some low-hanging fruit that should be easy to address. For the full list, follow the link below or above.

  1. Contact info (phone, address, etc.) listed clearly on each page. Separate contact info for customer service is also included in this.
  2. Fleshed out About Us info. This includes a mission statement, company directory of employees and bios, and other obvious signs of a legitimate business.
  3. Good reputation on blogs and forums, including the BBB, Amazon, Yelp, and more. This may take more time to cultivate than the rest, but it’s something you should definitely have on your radar sooner rather than later.
  4. Up-do-date copyright and “last updated” info on every page.
  5. A well-functioning shopping cart.

The Don’ts List

These are the shared factors of low quality web pages that you need to make a concentrated effort to avoid if you hope to rank consistently well on Google. Make special note of these so you know what NOT to do. Again, these are the most common, or easily addressed mistakes:

  1. Poor UX design and content.
  2. Duplicate content, including titles and meta descriptions.
  3. Aggressive keyword usage onsite. This includes keyword stuffing.
  4. Off-topic content on your website. The example Bachynski gives is a finance site talking about cookie recipes on its blog.
  5. Clone sites.
  6. Old or outdated facts or info.
  7. Garbage or orphan pages and text.
  8. Spun text and poor grammar and overall content construction.
  9. Excessive 404 or 500 level or PHP/MYSQL errors.
  10. Spammy posts and comments.
  11. Bad reputation on independent blogs and forums, including the BBB, Amazon, and Yelp.
  12. Too many ads above the fold/main content below the fold.
  13. Site lag/slow loading speeds.
  14. Broken links and images.
  15. Monetized links to affiliate sites, or “sneaky redirects.”

Bachynski says that these days, SEO is a “process of risk mitigation.” These are all tips that wouldn’t hurt to address, and there are Google reps on the record stating that these dos and don’ts are factors in their algorithm, so ultimately, the choice is yours whether to heed or ignore them. Your site will always be at risk of falling out of favor with the almighty Google, but this list will give you some direction in mitigating that risk.

Bachynski, Josh. “The Complete Google Leaked PANDA Do and Don’t LIST—2011 to Present.” (August 29, 2014.)