Google have a fondness for naming updates after their favourite drinks (the Brandy/Bourbon Updates), favourite places (the Boston/Austin/Florida Updates) and limber rock stars (the Jagger Update). However, recently their attention seems to have turned to more animalistic matters, first with Panda, and now with Penguin.
The Penguin Update originally came on to our radars when Matt Cutts talked of
an ‘over-optimisation’ penalty in mid March. After much uproar/debate/discussion as to what constituted ‘over-optimisation’ this was changed to the ‘webspam algorithm update’ when the update was officially released. This lack of creativity was met with groans from the web community, only for Google to update the rename to The Penguin Update a couple of days later.
What is the Penguin Update and how might it affect you?
The Penguin Update was released to target webspam and remove sites from the web that it believed was violating their guidelines. It seems to have targeted sites that were trying to get better rankings through:
- Link schemes, in particular aggressive anchor text approaches
- Keyword Stuffing
- Article marketing and comment spam
If you were hit by Penguin you will have seen your traffic drop on the 24th or 25th April, and Google said the update would impact around 3% of search queries. If you suffered outside of these dates, then it’s highly likely your drop is down to other updates which happened around a similar time, rather than Penguin itself.
How do you tackle the Penguin?
If you’ve established that it was definitely Penguin that hit you (i.e. your traffic drop happened on 24th/25th April – see graph below) then there are a number of actions you can take to try and recover.
- Correct any spammy on site elements
If you still have on site issues like duplication, over optimised internal anchor text, slow page speed, keyword stuffed content and dodgy outbound links then it’s time to get your house in order. Put the easy pieces right first which are in your control.
- Classify Your Link Profile
You need to do a full analysis of your link profile and categorise links which are good, potentially harmful and just plain ugly. This will take some time, but without this data trawl you’ll never have the information you need to start putting things right.
Once you’ve identified the truly bad links which are certainly providing you no value and are extremely likely to be damaging you, you can chase them down and get them removed. You can be fairly certain links on spammy and malware infested sites are hurting you – get rid of them!
Sitewide links are one of the areas Google is cracking down on, particularly those which use keyword anchor text. If you find a lot of these types of links in your profile, go and get them removed.
- Assess Your Anchor Text Profile
Anchor text is suspected to be another major element of Penguin, so if you find you’ve got a profile which is jam packed with exact match keyword links then it’s time to go and get those links removed/updated. Start building more branded links and mixing in variations of the phrases you are targeting.
It’s important to remember that Penguin is an algorithmic update
, so there’s no point submitting a Reinclusion Request. The way to recover is to change enough factors that take you back over to the right side of the ‘tipping point’ of the algorithm which affected you in the first place, by removing offending factors and improving positive indicators.
The key thing to remember if your site has recently taken a nose dive is to avoid panicking (which is obviously difficult if it’s your livelihood). Do the relevant analysis and ensure you identify exactly what the problem is first. There’s nothing more frustrating than spending lots of time and effort fixing the wrong issue.
Penguin is another indicator that Google are upping their game on the issue of tackling spam and black hat SEO tactics. Now more than ever it’s time to get your ship in order and start putting into practice the activity which will give you long term success in the search results, not just a flash in the pan result for a week or two. No doubt there will be another update on the horizon, whether that is the next iteration of Panda or Penguin or another black and white beast, make sure your site’s ready for it.
If your website has recently suffered from one of the Google updates and you’d like some help identifying the issues, feel free to get in touch
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