Has the Penguin Update Pecked You?

It’s becoming a pattern: Google launches an update, webmasters post angry rants on forums, share stories of business going kaput, SEO services put together quick newsletters offering information and alternative solutions. Meanwhile, Google wags its finger, says, “I told you so” and starts planning a new update.

Fact is that when it comes to organic search webmasters have to follow whatever Google says. So, really there is no point in lamenting about Google’s policies and discussing how every update has an ulterior motive.

There’s one rule of survival in the SEO world: ADAPT AND ADAPT FAST!

What is the Penguin?

The Penguin was launched on April 24th and according to Google’s webmaster central blog the algorithm change is likely to affect only 3.1% website. Now that the dust has settled down, the key targets of penguin have emerged more clearly. These include:

  • Spammy websites, or those that use duplicate and spun content
  • Sites wherein keywords that have no relevance to the text are stuffed randomly in the content. Here’s an example of the kind of content that’s been targeted (the screen shot has been taken from the Google webmaster blog)
  • Sample Links and Content That Can Get You in Trouble

    Sample Links and Content That Can Get You in Trouble

  • Websites that practice keyword cloaking (hidden keywords and links in the text).
  • Sites that have too many inbound links from spammy websites, through dubious link exchange programs or low-quality guest posts, etc.
  • Sites wherein the content is not relevant to the anchor text of inbound links (see the screenshot above).
  • Webmasters who haven’t diversified their anchor texts, as in are using exact match text for a majority of their inbound links. For example, if 60% of the inbound links to your site are embedded in the anchor text “best online marketing’, there is a good chance the penguin has already given you a sharp peck!
  • Sites where the Meta and Title tags are stuffed with keywords are also likely to be affected.
  • Websites that haven’t struck the right balance between relevant content and over-optimization.
  • The site’s SEO violates Google’s Webmaster guidelines, or if the content is low quality.
  • Sites that have a huge number of links coming from a single source.

How do I know if I have been hit?

If you have seen a drop in your organic search traffic or your rankings for certain keywords have dropped in the last one-week or so, you may have been hit.

Penguin update

The Penguin Had You For Dinner?

How Do I Recover From The Penguin’s Peck? Top 5 Tips

Whether you have already been hit, or think you are on the borderline, pressing the panic button (to be read, submitting a reconsideration request to Google when you really know you’ve been bad) is the last thing you should be doing. Your rankings may have tanked, but you can still get back up on your feet with a little spring-cleaning and change in tactics.

To make matters simple, here are the top 5 steps that you should take:

1. Clean Up Your Mess

If you think you have been affected, don’t start hacking your old links left, right and center. Take a deep breath and perform an audit of your inbound link profile calmly. Your best bet would be to get rid of those links that look blatantly spammy and bought. The following fall in this category:

  • Paid links
  • Site-wide links with an exact match anchor text
  • Irrelevant exact match links placed in low-quality spun content
  • Links from de-indexed private blog networks and sites

2. Examine Your On Site SEO

  • Get rid of keyword stuffed Meta and title tags, this means don’t use permutations and combinations of the same keyword repeatedly.
  • Add relevant content to your pages and do not exceed keyword density of 2% on any page.
  • Add social sharing buttons to your website. This is more of a preventive measure, to ensure that your site’s content can be shared and bookmarked easily, thus helping you create natural backlinks.
  • If you have multiple pages with similar content, or targeting the exact same keyword on different pages, get rid of the junk.

3. Submit A Re-consideration Request

If you feel you have been unfairly targeted, you may submit a re-consideration request through Google Webmaster tools. This is only for those who didn’t do anything black hat. Google is out there fishing for webmasters to confess something, and if you mistakenly reveal a tactic that has not been the target of the Penguin update, then you put yourself into the lion’s cage, all covered with blood.

Reconsideration form

The Penguin Feedback Form

4. Diversify Your Anchor Text

You should use various permutations and combination incorporating a part of, or the whole keyword you are targeting. So, for instance, let’s say your targeted keyword is “stock investing”, instead of using this as your anchor text for all your blog, article marketing and social bookmarking links, and use different versions like:

  • Smart stock investing
  • Stocks
  • Investing options
  • Stocks and investing
  • Investing in the stock market
  • Stock market investing; etc.

It’s not a bad idea to create some non-keyword related anchor texts as well, like, click here, my website, etc.

The idea is to make your links look natural and not spammy. Also make sure that all the links in your anchor text do not point to the same page; it will raise a huge red flag.

5. Diversify Your Inbound Link Profile

Placing all your eggs in one basket will eventually land you in trouble. One of the most time-tested and successful SEO strategies, therefore, has been diversifying your inbound link portfolio. The following are some top strategies:

  • Going social: Bookmark each and every blog post on your site to multiple sharing sites. You can use varied versions of your keyword in the title of your bookmark to diversify your anchor text content as well. Remember to put together a good mix of Do-follow and No-follow social sharing sites for creating bookmarks.
  • Social Networks

    Social plays a role in SEO nowadays

  • Article Posting: Post only to reputed directories that do not accept spun, or poorly written content. If you have been using automated services or software tools to upload articles, re-evaluate your strategy.
  • Guest Blog On Authority Sites In Your Niche: Platforms like MyBlogGuest, Bloggerlinkup, etc, can help you find guest blogging opportunities on authority sites in your niche. The process is time consuming, but the inbound links that you will get through guest blogging will be worth your while.
  • Write and Distribute Press Releases: A lot webmasters ignore the relevance of press releases in creating a diversified link profile that Google seems to like. Don’t do that. If you have anything newsworthy to share, create a press release, it will get you attention and valuable natural looking links.
  • Post quality content on your own blog: This is the best and safest strategy for generating natural backlinks. Create content that’s relevant and newsworthy for your readers and you will get several tweets, diggs, stumbles, etc, without trying too hard.

What’s Next?

Google has made it clear time and again that their way is the only way to play. Every black and gray hat technique is eventually discovered and taken down. Looking forward, the best strategy, therefore, is to play safe. Keep your house in order, make sure you have diversified natural looking inbound links, avoid buying links, and even social media likes and followers.

This is a guest post and the views of the author do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of this site. Traian Neacsu, is a professional search engine optimizer who writes for Pitstop Media Inc, a top rated SEO company that provides search engine optimization services to businesses across North America. For more information please visit www.pitstopmedia.com

Image sources:

  • https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dEVxdmdRWFJRTjRoLWZVTHZkaTBQbkE6MQ
  • http://designreviver.com/freebies
  • http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.in/2012/04/another-step-to-reward-high-quality.html

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  • Claire
    May 16, 2012

    This update, known as Penguin is an add-in that has penalized the rankings of many web sites for what Google administrators see as bad linking practices, spammy sites and sites that over-work keyword phrases.

  • Pershy
    May 17, 2012

    It was an informative post. There has been much discussion on my site’s forum and some of the savvier tech people think this may be due to a glitch in Google’s most recent algorithm update.

  • Lyuben Georgiev
    May 21, 2012

    Gret tips! This is a great checklist for everyone, who suffered from the Penguin update

  • Mel
    June 7, 2012

    For all of their changes, it looks like some of the old web spam actually has survived. I’ve seen some horrible search results in Google lately and those spam sites were in the top 3, but they are always old spam websites. Looks like they took care of the new’ish’ spam, but the old spam sites live on because they have those ancient old links that G likes. I love Google, but I am actually getting better results with Bing lately. I never thought I’d live to say it, but I’m now using Bing 50 pct of the time and getting as good or better results. What has G done to their search engine? I know it’s bad when low-tech friends are also complaining about poor search results on Google – all since the latest update. Is anyone else experiencing this?

  • Dr Pauley
    June 16, 2012

    That was a great and easy to understand review. I try to vary my blog title key words to some degree, but will do even more after reading your article. I will especially look at much more variance with internal links to my own web pages which I tend generally use only the main two or three words in the page title. Thanks again for an excellent article.

  • Abhimanyu
    June 19, 2012

    I have submitted a recomomendation request to google webmaster tool and then have received reply from google spam team that my website is not penalized by them. after that i had fill the feedback form to google but i have seen no response from google and my website is not recovered. anyone please suggest me what should i do….

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