Taking a Proactive Approach to Google’s Latest Penguin Update
Almost two decades ago, Google set out to organize the vast amounts of information available on the web and change the way people connect with that information. Shortly after its inception, the company was recognized by PC Magazine for its “uncanny knack for returning extremely relevant results.”
To ensure a user-friendly experience, Google has worked on refining its search results by eliminating poor quality sites and pushing unique, valuable content to the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs). Part of this strategy includes algorithms, computer programs that use unique signals or clues to guess what you may be looking for.
One of Google’s biggest algorithm updates thus far has been Penguin. Rolled out in April 2012, with four updates confirmed since then, Penguin focuses on one goal: better, more relevant search results for Google users. The algorithm does this by targeting sites with unnatural, manipulative inbound link profiles, including links coming from poor quality sites or ones not typically relevant to your business, paid links, keyword-rich links, or links with overly optimized anchor text (i.e., exact-match).
The first Penguin update affected about 3.1% of link queries. When Penguin 2.0 was released, Google took an even bigger dive into websites, looking at internal pages for webspam, and not just home pages as it had done before. This update impacted about 2.3% of English queries before being rolled out to different languages. Many of these sites included those who previously dominated the first page with multiple results from the same site, as well as queries associated with spammy results, such as payday loans and adult sites.
The bottom line: Google has begun automatically penalizing sites that use or have used black hat techniques to get visitors to their sites. This means if you’ve done some questionable activities in order to gain a few links, there’s a good change your site will be affected (if it hasn’t already). However, if your site has built quality links, created valuable content, and steered clear of the tactics mentioned above, you may see a boost in the SERPs.
If you have been hit, it’s not too late to recover from a Penguin penalty, using the following as a guide:
- Assess Your Backlink Profile - Gather all of the links pointing to your website and identify those that may be harming your site.
- Remove and then Disavow Harmful Links – After you have identified harmful links, it’s important to get these removed. Start by contacting the Webmaster of each site with your request for removal. Links that were not removed successfully can then be disavowed using the Google Disavow Tool. This tool tells Google not to take certain links into account when assessing your site.
- Continue to Build Great Links – Don’t let Penguin scare you from building links but adjust your strategy to build relevant links on high quality sites.
Recovering from a Penguin penalty will not happen overnight; just like your link building strategy, it should be slow and steady. However, good things come to those who wait; just look at Google. In the two decades since it launched, Google has moved out of its garage workspace, grown its employee headcount from two to over 50,000, and become one of the most valuable brands in the world. What hasn’t changed though is Google’s commitment to providing users with extremely relevant results.
-Jamie Judson, SEO Analyst
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