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Search engine optimization has become a commodity business and anyone with a website is by now used to receiving bogus offers of help from “SEO experts” that guarantee first page results. While there’s no shortage of snake oil salesmen out there when it comes to SEO, it doesn’t change the fact that understanding how Google’s search engine works is important for anyone running a web-based business – and there’s legitimate experts out there that can help.

A thorough white paper from Vertical Measures walks through a process that will help web masters understand recent changes to how Google determines what it ranks higher on search engine results pages. Available for a free download in exchange for your information, the paper focuses on Google’s Panda and Penguin algorithm updates and details how to find out if it’s impacting the traffic to your site. It’s worth reading the whole thing to get a full understanding of your site’s SEO performance, but here’s a few SEO tools to get started in determining if your site has been hurt by a recent update:

Fruition.net

This online tool is free to use for up to two websites per user. It maps out Google’s algorithm updates and correlates it with traffic to your website. Then it visually reveals where the updates hurt you, helped you, or made little to no difference. Use of primary colours to show impact (red is bad, green is good) along with a scatter graph and table with dates and description makes it easy to see if you need to act in order to save your website from SEO oblivion.

Panguin

Another free tool, this one from Barracuda Digital, similarly compares your website traffic to algorithm updates by Google. A line graph shows your traffic and coloured bars indicate algorithm updates of different varieties – Panda, Penguin, and other – and you can even see a graph that shows you what keywords might have been affected.

Google’s Webmaster Tools

If your site was specifically sanctioned with a manual penalty from Google for any reason, you will have a message explaining why in your Webmaster Tools. So if you haven’t checked on that dashboard in awhile and you’re noticing that your key words aren’t appearing in search results, it’s a good idea to check that inbox.

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