With Google’s latest Penguin update, several site owners are scrambling to see if their rankings were affected. Continue reading to see if you might be on the list of those adversely affected.
Once again, the SEO world is in a frenzy.
And once again, it’s because of a Google update.
This time, the culprit (or victor, depending on how you look at it), is Google Penguin, a release that’s aimed at improving search results by penalizing sites that are guilty of link spamming. After its April 24 release, SEO experts and webmasters alike have seen big shifts in search engine results for a multitude of sites.
But what is Google Penguin, anyway? And what can you learn from this angry bird?
The Low-Down on Google Penguin
For some background, Google, along with other search engines, constantly update their search software to provide better, more relevant results for its users. Sometimes, major updates, such as Google Panda, and now, Penguin, are released to help improve search accuracy in a hurry.
In a nutshell, both Panda and Penguin reflect concerted efforts by Google to lower the rankings of websites that are over-optimizing, or in other words, trying to game the Google algorithm.
More specifically, Penguin is targeting sites that: 1) engage in link spamming activities, 2) have unnatural anchor text profiles and 3) are keyword stuffing. Before we go any further, let’s define what these mean:
- Link spamming: The process of getting lots of links to your website by buying them, trading them or obtaining them from a link network.
- Unnatural anchor text profiles: Anchor text consists of the words included in a hyperlink. Most anchor text for links coming to your site should include your brand name and website URL. For some sites, however, the majority of their links contain anchor text with very specific keywords, which leads to an unnatural profile. For example, back in February, JCPenney was hit hard after an investigation found that thousands of random, unrelated websites were linking back to jcpenney.com, most of which had anchor text for almost every product they sold.
- Keyword stuffing: The practice of jamming as many keywords as possible into site content, often leading to a less than perfect reading experience for users.
The chatter about Penguin began back in April, when several site owners received the following “unnatural links” message from Google:
Since then, talks about Google’s move have been filling SEO blogs and forums. Sites hit the hardest are those that acquired links from popular link networks, most notably BuildMyRank, which has since been de-indexed.
To see if you’ve been impacted (which you shouldn’t if you’re using legitimate SEO tactics), check if your search traffic significantly dropped after April 24. Another indicator is if you no longer rank highly for your own brand name.
Valuable Lessons from Google Penguin
The ultimate takeaway from Penguin is this: don’t try to trick Google. Instead, embrace their algorithm by creating quality content that provides value to your readers. When you do this, other people naturally want to link to your site, which inherently improves your rankings. In other words, you should be creating content for people, not for search engines, as I’ve been saying all along.
Here are more lessons to prevent Penguin from marching over you:
- All content should pass human review: The crazy thing about Penguin is that it seems like Google is manually going after sites, as opposed to automatically doing so through their algorithm. Their criteria for penalization? Human review. This means that all of your content should avoid keyword stuffing, spelling/punctuation errors, or any type of automation system that creates content for you.
- Don’t buy links: The epitome of link spamming is buying links, so stop doing it. If you have paid links on your site, remove as many as possible and start link building on legitimate terms.
- Beware of your SEO “expert”: Just because you’re getting positive results doesn’t mean that your SEO firm is using best practices to achieve them. When talking with your SEO vendor, ask them to explain their content and link building strategies, making sure they’re done in good faith.
- Watch out for over-optimized anchor text: Links coming to your website should be natural, with the majority of the anchor text including your brand name and website URL. As mentioned before, if the majority of anchor text contains the same, detailed keyword (aka targeted links), try decreasing the amount of targeted links and add variety to your anchor text. To check the status of your anchor text distribution, try the Open Site Explorer tool – just enter your domain and click “anchor text.”
Penguin is just the tip of the iceberg in Google’s ongoing effort to improve search results. Sites that are over-optimized will continue to suffer, so now’s the time to clean up your act, if necessary.
And for the rest of us who are steadfastly working on building our brand and content, there’s no need to panic over Penguin.
In fact, it’s a good thing.
-Matt Winn, Social Media Manager, Volusion
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