Since March's Panda update, speculation has been swirling around the online SEO community about when and how the latest Google Penguin update will effect the SERPs. The speculation was put to bed on Friday 24th May when Matt Cutts' announced the rolling out of the Penguin update. The webspam algorithm is expected to effect about 2.3% of English-US search queries.
Brief history of the Penguin Algorithm update
With all the black and white animals running around you can be forgiven for getting Google's updates mixed up. The Panda update is concerned with 'on-site' quality signals such as thin or duplicate content, advert heavy webpages and correct site architecture. The Penguin update, is more concerned with the 'off-site' SEO elements, such as link profiles, anchor text and relevancy.
Penguin 1.0 as it is now being called was first released into the wild on 24th April 2012, since then 2 other updates to the algorithm have been released, although these have been small alterations and data refreshes.
|History of Penguin Updates|
|Penguin 1||24th April 2012|
|Penguin 2||26th May 2012|
|Penguin 3||5th October 2012|
|Penguin 4||22nd May 2013|
The latest penguin update represents the first major redesign of the algorithm and contains next-gen technology in order to fight spam better.
What does the Penguin update target?
As I mentioned before, the Google Penguin update is concerned with off-site ranking factors, these include:
Link Value and Relevancy
Google seem to believe in the age old saying of 'quality over quantity'. I'm not discounting a large link profile, but a handful of links from relevant, high page ranking websites within your niche can have a greater impact on your SERP position than a large number of links from low quality, irrelevant websites.
Link velocity or link acquisition speed is the rate at which a site receives inbound links. Google has started to get hot on this in recently, if a brand new website suddenly gained 100s or 1000s of backlinks over night, alarm bells would be ringing in Google's ears. Which can lead to an investigation and a manual link penalty or even becoming sandboxed.
Sandboxing is when Google caps the number of new links it considers. If a website was to accrue a number of links slowly and organically, if a similar website received the same backlinks from the same sites but in a shorter, more manipulative way, Google may cap the number of links it considers for ranking.
Exact match anchor text
Google has now clocked on to the correlation between exact match anchor text and webspam/manipulative practices. Accordingly, they now take measures against websites that have excessive links with anchor text targeting 'money' keywords and phrases.
Google's scrutiny of anchor text is likely to become more intense, therefore its best to avoid having large numbers of 'manipulative' anchor text but instead, use branded terms such as company name, homepage url or included within relevant parts of the sentence.
So, what should I do about Penguin 2.0?
If you have found that since 24th May you've had a drop of in organic search visitors, you may have been hit with the update. First of all, you should check to see if you have genuinely dropped within the rankings by using a tool such a Traffic Travis.
Once you've discovered it is Google Penguin that is the source of the problems, don’t despair, there is a way to earn your rankings back. Below I have outlined some key issues you should look into resolving in order to appease the penguin.
1. Understanding your backlink profile
To be able fix the penguin penalisation you must first have to understand the reasons why your site is being targeted. If you're site has been hit hard, or you don't have the time to teach yourself, you might consider getting someone to carry out a link profile audit for you. If you want to do this yourself then Open Site Explorer or Majestic SEO are good link tracking tools.
By understanding your link profile you're able to assess what links you have an pick up on any that may be damaging your image in the eyes of Google.
2. Check your link's links
Imagine all the bullies and bad kids at school spend all day talking about you and a teacher over hears them? They will naturally associate you as a bully and scrutinise you. Google works in a similar way, if the sites linking to you have a shady looking link profile they can pass on the bad link juice onto your site and have a negative effect on your SEO.
A site with a poor link profile, even if relevant, should be removed, you don't want Google to associate you with these sites.
3. Utilise Google's Disavow Tool
The above 2 steps should be carried out manually if possible, writing to webmasters etc in order for them to change the anchor text or remove a link altogether. If contacting the site owner fails to work, Google have introduced the Disavow tool which allows you to let Google know what links you want it to ignore. Allowing you greater control over your backlink profile.
Note: The disavow tools should only be used as a last resort, it can serverly damage your site if you discount the wrong links. You should seek help from an SEO professional or you can try following this how to guide.
4. Futureproof your site with high quality links
Prevention is the best form of protection. The best way to get Google to reconsider you for rankings is by making sure you follow their Webmaster Guidelines. Doing this by creating high quality, unique content that adds value to your customers and you will gain links in an organic way. There are a number of ways to build genuine links, not only will this cause Google to reconsider your site but also create a strong foundation to build for any future penguin or other black and white animal updates.
What to take from this update
Penguin 2.0 is a revamp of the original algorithm change and continues to look at tackling the same issues. If you've been hit by the update make sure you follow the tips above and although it may not be a quick fix, keeping within Google's guidelines you will see your rankings return. If you have escaped the update without any effect, it might still be a good idea to follow steps 1 and 2 regularly, just to check on the health of your site.
One of my tips for the rest of search engine optimisation in 2013: Ignore link building strategies and aim to create content that relevant sites will WANT to link to rather than you having to ASK to be linked to.