If your site got hit by Penguin or you’re worried that it might in the future, there are some things you need to know about Google’s second most-talked-about algorithm update.
Our Google Penguin infographic provides a little intro, along with suggestions for diagnosing and treating an attack from the Penguin Update.
Scroll down for a more detailed explanation using good, old-fashioned words.
What is Penguin?
The Penguin update was formally announced on Google’s Webmaster Central blog in April last year. It’s actually a series of updates to how Google’s algorithm works that are still being rolled out. These updates are aimed primarily at keyword-stuffing and link schemes.
What is it not?
Penguin is an adjustment to Google’s algorithm and is not the same as a manual penalty for breaching Google’s linking guidelines. If you’ve had a manual adjustment, you should get a message through Webmaster Tools. This means someone at Google has looked at your inbound links and decided you’re up to no good.
Google’s new algorithm, Hummingbird, which was unveiled earlier this month, incorporates all of the recent updates, including Panda and Penguin.
Did Penguin get me?
If you’ve seen your rankings drop on a particular keyword and you’ve not had a manual ranking penalty, it could well be because of the Penguin update. If you think your site has lost rankings as a result of the Penguin update, here are some things to check…
Title tags | Penguin is looking for evidence of keyword stuffing, so parts of the page that we all know Google pays more attention to are the first place to check. Your title tags, for example, should be unique and descriptive, but not crammed full of keywords. Rewriting your page titles and other meta tags is a good pre-emptive measure and will also help sites that have already been hit to start to claw their way back.
Anchor text | If you have an unusually high proportion of inbound links that use a particular keyword as the anchor text, you’re at risk of getting hit by Penguin. A lot of sites with exact match domains have reported losing rankings for this reason. It was aimed though at manipulation of the link graph. For example, if you run a law firm, you would expect most of the links pointing to your site to use your company name or a generic term, not “best divorce lawyer” or whatever your favourite keyword happened to be.
Links from bad neighbourhoods | Links that are too easy to obtain (article directories, sites set up just to give out links, sites that sell links etc) are also seen as evidence of manipulation. Penguin has been wiping out the credit sites used to get for having links from these “bad neighbourhoods”.
What can I do about it?
Cleaning up your title tags and other parts of your site where you may have overdone it with your keywords is relatively easy. It might be a big job, but it is at least one you can control. Sorting out your link profile can be a little trickier.
Disavow Tool | Google’s Disavow Tool allows website owners to distance themselves from bad links. The idea here was to give sites an opportunity to protect themselves against negative SEO (when a competitor creates links from bad neighbourhoods pointing to your site). It can also be useful for protecting against or responding to Penguin.
Manually removing links |In some cases, you might be able to manually remove some of the bad links pointing to your site. If you’ve still got access to old profiles on article directories, for example, you should be able to have any links taken down or changed. If you’ve been buying links, you might be able to sort that by sending a few emails.
Now for the bad news
An important thing to remember with Penguin is that it removes credit sites previously received for keyword stuffing and manipulating their inbound links. It’s not a manual punishment that will be lifted once you’ve demonstrated that you’ve stopped breaking the rules.
The road back from a Penguin setback can be a slow one. It’s aimed at removing the shortcuts to better rankings, so don’t expect your site to bounce back just because you’ve rewritten your title tags.
That might have you thinking that best action is no action. If Penguin is an algorithm change and not a manual adjustment, why not just continue getting the credit for those bad links until Google zaps them?
We certainly wouldn’t recommend that policy. If you’ve been breaking the rules, the sooner you start cleaning up your act, the better. We’re working on a couple of assumptions here: 1) when in doubt, follow Google’s best practice: and 2) Penguin might not be a manual adjustment but it must have a punitive element.
Just like on Wall Street, coming clean should mean a shorter sentence!!
By Kate Davidson