SEO for Google has been gradually evolving since Google was founded in 1998. Now we're in 2013, we look back over the year 2012 and see that there were some dramatic changes in the way Google views websites with the Google Panda and Google Penguin algorithm updates. These have had a significant effect in all languages, but foreign language SEO, such as French has been effected in some specific ways that English sites may not have noticed.
What has Google done in 2012?
Google constantly make updates and tweaks to their algorithm, giving higher weighting to one factor or another, identifying new spam techniques and doing what they can to remove spammy websites from the search results and expanding their ever-growing database of websites.
In 2012 Google introduced the 'Panda' and 'Penguin' update which penalise bad SEO practices, therefore some webmasters, including several French holiday gite and hotel sites have seen their website drop dramatically.
Some of the sites that were particularly hard hit include:
- Websites which had keyword stuffing (using the same keyword too much on the page).
- Websites that were poorly designed or that had no useful information for visitors when they first arrive at a page (e.g. adverts at the top of the page and having to scroll down to read anything).
- Sites with poor grammar and spelling.
- Directories without any unique value-added content in them.
However Google also looked at the links going to a website, which is an important part of SEO. Those that were hit worst include:
- Sites that had the vast majority of links from unrelated websites (e.g. a holiday gite that has links from sites about gambling, cooking, flower arranging, fashion, but nothing about holidays or the area of France that the gite is in).
- Sites that used keyword-rich anchor texts in the vast majority of its links. An anchor text is the visible part of a link, for example French SEO is a keyword rich link to FrenchSEOTeam.com, whereas you could instead have a link saying read more about link building in France which includes words that aren't keywords.
Google introduced these measures to ensure that links to sites it places high in the results are organic, requiring a reasonable number from related sites and with links that appear to be more natural, using a range of anchor texts that don't include keywords.
You mentioned French SEO?
So what has this got to do with French SEO?
As an international marketing company, the French SEO Team get a lot of enquiries for French SEO and some of these are from new clients who have been badly hit by Google's latest algorithm updates. We've seen that the sites that seem to have been penalised most severely are those that have large numbers of links from English articles, particularly where the anchor text is in French (e.g. If you're looking for a location de vacances en France ....). This is clearly a red flag to Google saying that those links are only there for SEO reasons and it is therefore now considering them to be spam.
Google are therefore now rewarding French sites with links coming predominantly from other French language pages.
Moving forward into 2013
If you have a holiday gite or hotel then you need to look at the backlinks going to your site. If:
- The majority of links to your site are either irrelevant or from English websites going to a French travel site and you've seen your site drop, you may actually be best changing your domain name and starting again with building more natural looking links.
- The links are primarily from holiday directories or social media sites, you should look at gaining more links from websites about the area you're in or general holiday sites (holiday directories often add a <nofollow> tag to links which tells search engines to ignore the link).
- You have a good range of French links with a decent proportion being from closely related sites, then your SEO is probably effective and you can continue as you are.
We hope this article on French SEO for your holiday gite or hotel has helped!