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Google Penguin: What You Need to Know for Search Engine Optimization


 

Next month, or possibly later this month, Google will unroll its newest Penguin update. Google Penguin, for those who don’t know, is an algorithm introduced in 2012 aimed at curbing sites that use sleazy backlink techniques to boost their search engine rankings. It’s made link-building a more strategic task than ever for webmasters, as any failure to comply with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines leads to significant dips in traffic. So unless you like the idea of your business buried in a search or eliminated entirely, compliance is imperative.

Here’s the Coles Notes version: Google created a previous algorithm called PageRank, which is the key function that allows Google to deliver the most specific and relevant search results and has made them far and away the top search engine. Their way of separating the wheat from the chaff came (and comes) from anchor link text, determining backlink quality and boosting rankings. Essentially, Penguin was introduced to devalue the rankings of spam backlinks by noting patterns in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) content.

What you need to know, in 10 (let’s-call-them-)Commandments:

  1. As previously mentioned, the next Penguin update is scheduled for next month (May 2014), in accordance with Google’s tactic of unveiling new updates on a set schedule.

  2. You will NOT be notified by Google if your site receives a Penguin penalty; you have to manually check traffic.

  3. If your site receives drops in traffic that are in line with the dates of a Penguin update, check your keywords manually to figure out which ones have stopped ranking. (This can be used through Google Webmaster Tools and/or other appropriate ranking software.)
  4. Make sure you’ve distinguished between domain links and backlinks. Click the “Link to Your Site” tab in Google Webmaster Tools to show domains that are linked and the exact number of links from each of said domains.

  5. Signature spam at the bottom of articles, spammy comments, private and public network links, sitewide backlinks, and blog-roll links are all some of the more vulnerable types of links in terms of how Google rolls out their Penguin penalties.

  6. Check the authority of your web domain. Many use Moz Domain Authority and Majestic Trust Flow for this, as this measures predictive rankings and weighted average of clicks, respectively. Link Detox is recommended to scope out bad backlinks as well.

  7. Inspect the comparative ratios of (a) the key phrases you want to get rankings from and the more natural anchor text like your brand name, website name, click instructions, etc. You don’t want to over-optimize your anchor text. Majestic SEO is recommended for scoping this out, in terms of comprehensive backlink scoping.

  8. When you remove potentially problematic backlinks, be sure to remove them from the whole domain, rather than just the specific pages where they apply. (Using an SEO company is recommended for comprehensive removal.) Alternately, use Google’s Disavowal function to “disavow” the domain, thus isolating it from a backlink profile and “starting fresh” (in a way).

  9. Contrary to past announcements, Penguin doesn’t just investigate your homepage; it’s a site-wide application that scopes out all your backlinks.

  10. Start building more natural backlinks. This will, in the long run, help “dilute” what Penguin might consider more spammy and intrusive keywords/anchor text links, thus diversifying your site while keeping Penguin at bay at the same time. Everybody wins!

So get ready! Next month will likely see the newest Penguin update, and it’ll only get more and more in-depth and labyrinthine from hereon. Consider it an annoyance or an obstacle if you will, but look on the bright side: it focuses your site on honest content and discourages anything else. Again: everybody wins.

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