How To Deal With A Google Penguin Penalty
On the 24th April 2012, Google rolled out it’s latest algorithmic update named “Penguin”.
The aim of the Penguin update has been to penalise sites that are over optimised and using “aggressive web spam tactics” that go against Google’s guidelines.
The update is said to affect 3.1% of search queries and judging by the hundreds of complaints I have read via various blogs, many sites have seen there rankings and traffic levels plummet.
Google’s head of webspam Matt Cutts, recently said the following
In the next few days, we’re launching an important algorithm change targeted at webspam. The change will decrease rankings for sites that we believe are violating Google’s existing quality guidelines. We’ve always targeted webspam in our rankings, and this algorithm represents another improvement in our efforts to reduce webspam and promote high quality content. While we can’t divulge specific signals because we don’t want to give people a way to game our search results and worsen the experience for users, our advice for webmasters is to focus on creating high quality sites that create a good user experience and employ white hat SEO methods instead of engaging in aggressive webspam tactics.
If you have been affected by the update you will no doubt understand how damaging it can be to your business. Your sailing along, ranking well, lots of traffic and business and one day, BAM! Google takes you out! What’s worse, Google won’t even tell you why, which means you need to find out and take immediate action to minimise the impact and reduce downtime to your site.
How Do I Know If I have Been Hit By The Google Penguin Update?
So what do you do, where do you start? Below I give you a few things to look for to get you started.
1. Have you definitely been penalised? – If your site saw a major drop in traffic just after the 24th April, there is a good chance that your site has been hit.
2. Do you rank for broad keywords that your previously ranked well for? If not this is a good sign that you have been penalised.
3. Take a snippet of text on your home page, quote it in Google and see if you appear at the top of the search results. If not you may have a Penguin penalty.
4. Search for your brand name or domain. Do you show up in Google? Are there site links?
5. Are you still receiving traffic from the other search engines such as Bing and Yahoo?
I have noticed with one site that has a Penguin penalty that it still has site links, page rank, is still indexed and continues to receive a tiny amount of traffic for long tail search terms.
I also noticed with the site that it had approximately 20 internal links pointing back to the home page using highly targeted broad search terms and also previously been using link exchange and link exchange pages.
How Can I Recover From A Google Penguin Update Penalty?
The first thing you will need to do is be honest with yourself. If you feel that you have been over doing your SEO, i.e. using too many iterations of targeted keywords in your titles, alt tags and text or doing too much highly targeted internal linking, admit it too yourself and begin to clean things up.
1. Make sure that your internal linking is natural and varied. Don’t link back to your homepage too much using highly targeted anchor text.
2. Remove all of those spammy footer links from your site.
3. Linking out to sites that are not relevant to your own? Remove those links or at least no-follow them.
4. Make sure that your site contains original content and not spun content. Your site really needs to be 80% original. It’s ok to put the odd piece of duplicate content on your site but do not over do it.
5. Check your keyword density. Make sure that you are not constantly repeating keywords and that your content can be read and understood by a human being.
6. Remove any hidden text.
7. Do reciprocal linking? If you have a number of reciprocal link pages and these are linking out to non relevant sites this may be causing you issues. This is an old SEO technique which provides very little benefit. Your time could be used so much more effectively. Either remove all those links, no-follow the page and links or de-index it via the robots.txt file.
The main rule of thumb is to look at each of your pages and ask yourself.
1. Would I do this if search engines did not exist?
2. Does this look natural?
3. Are my primary viewers search engines or humans?
4. Am I building for the future?
I definitely feel that this update is a penalty against on-site practices only and NOT links. The reason I say this is that I know of a few sites that have very spammy link profiles with hundreds of highly targeted anchors yet they are still ranking well.
As this is an algorithmic update, filing a reconsideration request via Google Webmaster tools may not help at all but you can send feedback to Google if you feel that your site has been unfairly penalised. You can do this via the Penguin update feedback form.
It’s worth mentioning again that if your site has been manually penalised you will need to file a reconsideration request. If it is an algorithmic penalty, you will need to implement changes to your pages and then await a re-crawl. Matt Cutts, head of webspam at Google explains more in the video below.
If you have been hit by the Penguin update, I would love to hear about it. What measures have you taken? Are you back on track?
There are also unconfirmed rumours that the Penguin update also targets spammy link profiles, particularly over optimised anchor text. Try and keep your non branded links to around 10-20%. The rest should be “your company name” or “www.yourcompanyurl.com”.
So, you may also want to go through all those back links that you have been building and start doing some link pruning. Want to find out more about link pruning? Check out this post from Eric Enge of Stone Temple Consulting.
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Tagged google penguin algorithm, google penguin penalty, google penguin update, how can i recover from a google penguin penalty, how do i know if i have a google penalty, how do i know if i have been affected by the google penguin update