If you own a website or work on a website then you may of heard about all the changes that has taken place in the Google algorithm over the last couple of weeks.
I don't normally post about SEO changes on here but I feel that the latest Google Penguin update is a big game changer to SEO and thought I had to find out more about it.
The month of April 2012 the SEO game changed, people trying to play with the Google SEO results have finally been shot down the rankings. People who rely on black hat link build techniques have been shot down, some from page 1 in Google to page 6-7+. Who goes to page 6 in Google? No one.
These websites have seen a massive amount of traffic loss, some websites losing up to 80% of Google traffic, this can be thousands of visitors a day...thousands.
Most of these businesses that rely on this traffic for them to function correct, there are companies going out of business all because of this update.
So...what do you think of the new Google Penguin update?
April Google Updates
Before we get into the Google Penguin update I think it's important to say that this update is different to the Google panda updates which have been taken place over the past year. The purpose of Panda is to return the highest quality content, this works with penguin to bring back the best results for your keyword.
There was a silent Google panda update on the 19th of April which cost some people about 30% of organic traffic from Google.
Google Penguin update was released on the 24th April which cost people the remaining 50% of organic traffic.
There is an easy way to check if you have been affected by one or both of these updates, just look at your Google analytics page and put in a date range of the start of April to the start of May. With this range you can see what your results were before and after the update. If your search engine traffic stayed the same on the 20th April then you were not affected by the Panda 3.5 update, but if you lost traffic on the 25th April then you were affected by the Penguin update.
First of all the name...Google are calling all their updates after black and white animals and will probably end up with a white animal to show white hat techniques win.
With Google using a different animal for this update so we can tell this is different than the Panda updates. But do we have anything to worry about?
You only need to worry about Penguin if you have been doing any black hat techniques on your website. Now you might think that of course you haven't you write your content, you publish it, you add it on social media and that's it.
The Google Penguin update was actually announced by Google in March, they stated that they were going to be doing a release to stop against over optimization on your website. But what is over optimization? This is when you try a bit too hard to get the attention of Google by:
- Keyword stuffing
- Exact match domains
- Suddenly get a massive amount of links to your website
- Duplicate content
All of these tactics are known web spamming efforts of sites to Google and they have now setup the algorithm to combat these web spamming tactics.
Google are now saying that you need to follow the Google Webmaster guidelines to understand how your website is suppose to behaviour.
Winners And Losers Of Penguin
With this update there was obviously some losers by the websites which have been hit by Penguin. But that means that there was some winners of penguin because of their competitors being affected.
Digital Trends has released a list of the biggest winners and lowers of Penguin.
Because of penguin we now understand that Google uses links as a very important factor in the search results. Google classes links as editorial votes of the content. This means that the site with the most links has the best content. But it's not about the quantity of links it's all about the quality of links.
There are many factors that make up your website link profile.
- What websites link to yours.
- How quickly you got these links.
- Are they using exact match anchor text.
When Google quickly sees a large number of links coming to your site from low quality websites, Google gets alerted. But you still want to get a lot of links to your website but it's how these links are made. This will happen if you use black hat techniques and submit your link to link networks or blog networks.
If you get a lot of links from high quality websites in a natural time span, will tell Google that this is a high quality page.
So the best way to get lots links to your website is to write the best content on the subject. If you write great content people will link to it naturally.
Unnatural links are things that alert Google something spammy is happening. This is the activity that was affected by the penguin update, websites which used this technique were hit most by the penguin update.
There are 5 things which are classed as unnatural links.
- Paid links - Companies with large budgets used to try to get ahead in the ranking by buying links from other websites, using the exact anchor text of the article. Paid links are not natural links.
- Comment Spam - This is a big problem with websites owners and an easy way for websites trying get extra links. People will comment on hundreds of posts a days using exact match anchor text. This is people commenting with the name Website Design London and the comment will just be good post. These types of comments are so obviously just a way to get links back to their own site for the keywords they are targeting. Do this technique and Google will penalise you in the ranking.
- Guest posting on questionable sites - Guest posts are a great way to get links back to your site, and this activity will not penalise you with penguin. But what is a problem is doing guest posts on sites with low quality content. If you are going to do guest posting make sure it's on the highest quality website, it will take longer to write the post but it's quality over quantity.
- Links from dangerous sites - This goes with the guest posting on questionable sites, sites from sites which have been marked that they have malware or spammy issues then this can cause a problem on your site.
- Article marketing site - This is having links from article marketing sites like hub pages where you have created thin content just to have links back to your site. Now I'm not saying hub pages are a bad idea but it's creating small amount of content, putting it up on hub pages just for links.
Exact Match Keyword Domains
Websites have been doing this for years, buying domains which have their exact match keywords in the domain. This isn't a problem if it's on your own website, but the problem comes when people buy other domains and link to your main site from this other domain.
If you have a website which does web design in London then you will be penalised for buying domains like this and linking back to your site.
Hiding text off the page is a good way to get penalised by penguin. Many people would use this to hide keyword spamming off the page so the search engines will still see the text but the website visitors won't see it.
Google knows this is a obvious attempt to trick the search engines that this page has these keywords on it even if they don't.
How Do You Recover From Penguin?
Were your results affected by the Google penguin update? Here's what you can do to help recover.
First of all don't change anything on your website yet...it's still early days and SEOs still don't know the full details of the penguin update, but what we do know we can correct.
Make sure that your website is full of quality content, the better the content the more links your website will get. The more links your website has the more votes your pages has so the higher they will appear in the search results.
Go back through your website old pages and find places which you have thin content, add some extra information on this page. This will improve the quality of the article and improve your search ranking position.
Guest posts have always been a great way to get links back to your site, you write an article for a web page, place your link at the bottom and you have a free link back to your site with quality content next to it. But if you are going to do guest posts always make sure that you do this on the highest quality website.
Picking the right website will be good for both SEO and to get your article seen by the most people.
Diversify Traffic Sources
One of the main things to come out of this update is that it's very important not to rely on a single source of traffic. If your website only gets traffic from Google and now your website it's being ranked then suddenly you have no traffic on your site.
This has happened to a lot of business where they did not focus on getting traffic from anywhere else and now have no traffic and no sales.
It's not safe for any business to rely on one source of traffic so you need to focus on spreading out your traffic over multiple sources the more the better, then if one goes down you still have more to rely on.
The best way to get traffic outside of Google is by using social media networks. Make a profile on Twitter, Facebook and Google plus. If you can create a big following on here you will get even more traffic on these than on Google.
Then if you get hit by another Google update you will always be getting traffic from these sources.
The problem with social media is that it takes up a lot of time, but the benefits are massive. You get to chat to your visitors directly and you are able to get a lot of traffic if done correctly.
Build A Mailing List
Email is still the best way to keep your visitors and turn them into repeating visitors. If people can get your content directly to their inbox then they will never have to use search engines to get at your content.
I recommend building an email list straight away and make sure your visitors are returning visitors.
Forums have always been a good way to get traffic to your site if done correctly. You can't just talk about your site, forums are there to help people. If you keep answering peoples questions they will end up clicking through to your signature link.
If you can answer someone's question by linking to your own content then all the better.
Blog Comments (Done Correctly)
Earlier in the article I spoke about stop spamming blog comments, by putting things like "Nice post" or "Thanks for sharing".
But if done right then blog comments can be a really good way of getting traffic, so what do I mean by if done right. Blog comments are there to further the discussion with the author and adding something to the article. If you can reply to the article in a way to further the discussion then this adds value to the article with your comment, this is how comments are done correctly.
When you write a comment which has lots of information and furthers the discussion of the article then you will get visitors to your site from this comment. If you just comment "Nice post" then the moderator will either not allow your comment or you will not get any visitors clicking through to your site.
Petition To Kill The Penguin
As this is a new update Google are still working on the bugs, if you think that your site hasn't done any of the black hat techniques listed above and have still been hit people have created an e-petition they will try to get the penguin update reverted.
SEOMoz Penguin Recovery Advice
There is a good video on SEOMoz website which suggests improvements to your page to help recover from the Google penguin update.
You can see the video by clicking the link below.
The best way to fight back against the Google update is to stop all black hat techniques or even grey hat techniques and focus on creating great content.
Once you create great content the traffic will come.
Stop focusing on trying to get higher in the search engines and focus on your visitors, write for your visitors not the search engines, talk to your visitors on the social media networks and focus on building a brand.