Recovery from Google’s Penguin Update
It’s been a month since Google rolled out the Penguin update, one of the most talked and fretted about updates in my SEO tenure. The primary goal of Penguin is to target “unnatural” backlinks, obviously knocking offenders down in the SERPs. Some of the main flags for unnatural links are:
- Over-optimized anchor text, resulting in high percentage of exact match anchor text to specific landing pages.
- A large percentage of links to small percentage of landing pages
- Links from less than favorable sources or sites classically used for SEO such as directories and article syndication
Impact from Penguin has been seen across the web on all different types of sites, big and small. Some claiming to never have engaged in link building practices at all have been hit, leaving many wondering if Google’s latest push is flawed (what?! Never!!!) I would say that this is the first time I’ve seen truly identifiable changes in both ranking and visits due to an algorithm change. While being another broadly publicized update, Panda was never a big concern because we weren’t in the business of publishing scraped or low quality content. However managing seo campaigns for enough years inevitably puts you in the risk zone for optimized anchor text and backlinks from at least a few directories. These are not just black hat link building tactics we’re talking about.
What’s the good news? Stories have already been cropping up about sites getting their groove back from a few positive, yet time & resource consuming changes:
Going through an entire backlink list may seem daunting, and in fact it is. Instead, if you have keywords that you’ve taken a hit on, start with all the backlinks utilizing that anchor text. Go to each site and determine whether or not the link is yay or nay. If it’s nay, contact the webmaster regarding removal. Remember to be nice, it’s no skin off their back if their link is hurting you.
If the site is still relevant and of good quality, look into changing the anchor text to something a little different or more natural sounding. Another option if the link is currently site-wide would be to ask the webmaster for content opportunities instead of sidebar.
If you find that you’re still engaging in the link building practices of old, those that will continue to put you in hot water, now’s the time to make a change:
- Use keyword variations and long tail for anchor text. This is probably the easiest change to make right off the bat, so start now.
- Link to a wider variety of landing pages. Sure you know that your top selling product page is the most important and therefore should get all the links, but that’s a sure fire way to make the links look “unnatural”. Instead link to other product or category pages, blog posts or resources related to the product. With a solid internal linking structure, those links are still going to provide benefit in the end.
- Back-off the directories. I still think that some directories carry value, such as local business directories for local SEO campaigns. However the multitude of generic, low-grade directories out there are probably best to stay away from.
- Build relationships, not links. This is probably the biggest philosophy shift for many who have been focused on link volume. Locate the influencers in your space, both from a content and a social media perspective, and work on establishing a mutually beneficial relationship that takes you beyond a sidebar link and into guest blogging, social sharing and reciprocal promotion.
As this algorithm change is in its early phases and people are still trying understanding the impact they’ve experienced, please feel free to share any of your findings in the comments. The more examples we share with each other, the more we can all benefit.
photo from Antarctica Bound