Google Penguin Update 1.1
Matt Cutts, head of the Google webspam team, announced on Friday that the Penguin algorithm had been updated. If you’re thinking “Penguin algo..what?” you can read all about it by checking out our blog post here, but in short; Penguin is an algorithm change that launched back in April to target sites which spam the web in order to improve their search rankings.
Since its launch, the Penguin algorithm has resulted in tons of spammy sites being penalized, although there have also been numerous reports that other sites, which didn’t think they had done anything wrong, had also been affected. With this in mind, the news of an update may have some SEOs panicking, however, according to Matt, this update, or “data refresh”, will affect less than 0.1% of English language searches.
What to do if you’ve been penalised by the Penguin
If your site has experienced a drop in search rankings since Penguin launched, don’t panic as there could be a number of reasons for this. Of course, one of the most obvious reasons for a site to be penalised is if there is evidence that “black hat” SEO techniques have been used to manipulate its position. These techniques include keyword stuffing, spun articles and placing irrelevant links in content and should be avoided at all costs; Google is all about creating relevant, useful content on the web and these techniques do the complete opposite!
Identify Bad Links
If you’re not one of those naughty black hat-wearing SEOs, then you need to think about other potential issues with your site that Google won’t like. It could be the case that the sites which are linking to yours are seen by Google (possibly for the reasons laid out above) as low-quality or untrustworthy, making these links ‘bad links’. A good way to work out whether a link is bad is to look at the PageRank of the linking page. While Google PageRank isn’t necessarily the be all and end all of SEO, it’s a good indicator of how Google views a site, so if your links are coming from a lot of low or negatively ranked pages, it’s not going to do you any favours. Unfortunately, once bad links are identified, it’s just a case of contacting bloggers/site owners and asking them to remove them, which can be a time consuming and frustrating task.
Penguin has also targeted sites that have too much ‘exact match’ anchor text in their backlinks. This means keyword terms that have been highly targeted, making a sites backlink profile look unnatural. For example, if a website that sells shoes has a large proportion of backlinks all coming from the specific phrase “men’s leather shoes”, it’s unlikely that this has come about naturally and the Penguin’s “spidey senses” (…or should that be “spammy senses”?) will be alerted. If your anchor text links have been over-optimized, it’s a good idea to contact the sites in question and request that they change the links from an exact match phrase, to your brand name instead.
Rethink Your Links!
In the same way that backlinks from low quality sites have a negative effect on your rankings, so do the sites that you link out to. In Google’s all-seeing eyes, you’re guilty by association, so rethink any links that go to spammy or low trust sites. Use a tool such as Majestic to scrape your site for external links, then you can easily analyse which of these can be removed.
Contact Google For Re-inclusion
Once you’ve taken all of the necessary steps to tidy up your site and its backlinks, you can submit a re-consideration request to Google, explaining exactly what changes you’ve made and including a thorough list of links. Remember, you need to be completely transparent here as it’s at Google’s discretion whether or not to re-include your site in the rankings. If they don’t think you’ve done enough, or that you’re hiding something, they’ll probably refuse you.
If your site is small, it might be worth starting afresh and setting up a brand new domain. If you’ve kept a record of all of your backlinks, you could potentially realign them all to the new domain and, eventually, start ranking again.
Alternatively, you could create a new subdomain and see how these pages rank with the same keywords that your original site has been targeted for. It’s possible to then 301 redirect the original pages to the newly ranking subdomain pages.
Keep Calm and Carry On
All in all, the best thing to do in the instance of being hit by Google Penguin is to start by getting a total overview of the situation and gather as much information as possible about your site, links to and from it and any other technical issues that may have arisen. Only then can you start fixing things and hopefully, in time, restore your rankings.