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Category Archive: Penguin

  1. What’s Next After Panda, Penguin, and Pigeon?

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    Google likes to keep search marketers on their toes. Its search engine algorithm, kept top secret, has evolved gradually over the course of more than 15 years, but its biggest changes have come in the form of incidental spikes. Google releases major updates to its algorithm in big packages, which roll out over the course of a few days, and have traditionally caused great volatility in the search rankings of countless businesses. Google also releases tiny updates, fixes, and data refreshes as follow-ups to these massive updates, but they don’t make nearly as many waves.

    The big players of the past decade have been the Panda update of 2011, the Penguin update of 2012, and the Pigeon update from earlier this year. These updates all fundamentally disrupted certain ranking principles we had all taken for granted, and their impact has dictated the shape of search marketing today.

    Today, it’s easy to understand why Google released each of these updates, but when they first rolled out, they were surprising to everyone. While there is a certain predictable calm in the current search marketing world, it’s only a matter of time before Google changes the game again with another revolutionary new update.

    So what will the nature of the next update be? And what can we do to prepare for it?

    Panda and Penguin: Two Sides of the Same Coin

    articleimage637Panda and Penguin

    In order to understand the possibilities for the future, we have to understand the context of the past. The Panda and Penguin updates served as complementary rollouts, targeting the negative practices of onsite SEO and offsite SEO, respectively.

    The Panda update came first in 2011, shaking up the results of almost 12 percent of all search queries. The update came as a surprise, but it was only a natural response to some of the practices that were rampant at the time. The update’s primary target was onsite content, and culprits who used low-quality content as a mechanism solely to drive rank. Accordingly, it penalized those sites and rewarded sites that maintained a focus in providing valuable, enjoyable content.Low-quality spam-like practices, such as stuffing content with keywords and copying content from other sites, were virtually eradicated.

    The Penguin update came out as a counterpoint to Panda in 2012, doing for offsite link building what Panda did for onsite copywriting. Penguin 1.0 affected just over three percent of search queries, giving it a narrower range than Panda, but the sites it did affect were affected enormously. Penguin targeted sites that paid for external links, built external links on irrelevant sites, or spammed links in irrelevant conversations. Conversely, it rewarded sites that built more natural links in a diversified strategy.

    Enter the Pigeon Update

    articleimage637pigeionupdate

    The Pigeon update was slightly different from its cousins. Like them it was a major update that fundamentally changed an element of SEO, but it was never officially named by Google. It was released in the early summer of 2014.

    The Pigeon update was designed to change results for local searches. Rather than attempting a global change, like with Panda and Penguin, Pigeon is focused only on redefining searches for local businesses. Through Pigeon, local directory sites like Yelp and UrbanSpoon got a significant boost in authority, and businesses with significant high ratings on those sites also received a boost. Now, local businesses can get as much visibility by increasing the number of positive reviews posted about them than they can by pursuing traditional content marketing strategies.

    The Bottom Line

    While these updates all surprised people when they came out, and their specific changes are still being analyzed and debated, they all share one fundamental quality: they were rolled out to improve user experience.

    Panda was rolled out because too many webmasters were posting spammy, low-quality, and keyword stuffed content. The update sought to improve user experience by promoting sites with more relevant, valuable content.

    Penguin was rolled out because the web was filling up with keyword stuffed, random backlinks. The update sought to improve user experience by penalizing the culprits behind such spammy practices.

    Pigeon was rolled out because the scope of local businesses online was getting more diverse, and users needed a more intuitive way to find the ones that best met their needs. Pigeon sough to improve user experience by adding sophistication to its local business ranking process.

    User experience is the name of the game, and it’s the sole motivation behind each of Google’s landmark updates.

    Building Off of Old Structures

    Since their release, Panda and Penguin have been subject to countless new iterations. Data refreshes and updates tend to occur on an almost monthly basis, while major updates have been rolled out annually—Panda 4.0 and Penguin 3.0 both rolled out in the past few months. Pigeon is still relatively new, but chances are it will see some expansion as well.

    For now, it seems that Google is trying to build off of the structures that already exist within the confines of its greater algorithm. Rather than trying to introduce new categories of search ranking factors, Google is refining the categories it’s already introduced: onsite, offsite, and now local. It’s likely that Google will continue this trend for as long as it continues to improve user experience, gently refining their quality criteria and targeting emerging black hat tactics as they arise.

    However, it’s only a matter of time before Google discovers a new category of refinement. When it does, the update will likely be just as surprising as the big three, and will warrant its own series of updates and refinements.

    What the Next Overhaul Could Bring

    articleimage637 What the Next Overhaul Could Bring

    If we’re going to predict the nature of the next update, we need to understand two things: the emergence of new technology and the fundamental focus Google maintains on improving user experience. The next major Google update will probably have something to do with significantly improving the way users interact with one or more rising technologies.

    The Knowledge Graph

    One option is a radical expansion of the Google Knowledge Graph. The Knowledge Graph, that box of helpful information that appears to the side when you search for a specific person, place or thing, is changing the way that people search—instead of clicking on one of the highest ranking links, they’re consulting the information displayed in the box. The next Google update could change how significant this box appears, and how it draws and presents information from other sites.

    Third Party Apps

    Google has already shown its commitment to improving user experience through the integration of third party apps—it’s favoring third party sites like Yelp and UrbanSpoon in search results, and is integrating services like OpenTable and Uber in its Maps application. The next search algorithm update could start drawing more information in from these independent applications, rather than web pages themselves, or it could use app integrations as a new basis for establishing authority.

    The Rise of Mobile

    Smart phones are ubiquitous at this point, but wearable technology is still on the rise. The swell of user acceptance for smart watches could trigger some new update based around proximity searches, voice searches, or some other facet of smart watch technology. Since smart watches are in their infancy, it’s difficult to tell exactly what impacts on search they will have.

    No matter what kind of update Google has in store for us next, it’s bound to take us by surprise at least slightly. We can study its past updates and the new technologies on the horizon all we want, but Google will always be a step ahead of us because it’s the one in control of the search results. The only things we know for sure at this juncture arethat Google will eventually release another new massive update at some point, and its goal will be improving user experience.

  2. 5 New Link Building Strategies for a Post-Penguin 3.0 World

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    Penguin 3.0 is finally here, and it’s delivered a similarly powerful scope of changes to the world of optimization as its predecessors. Penguin 1.0 started altering the linkbuilding landscape back in 2012 with an algorithmic change that impacted more than three percent of all search queries. The update targeted low-quality backlinks, such as those stuffed with keywords or those posted on sites whose specific purpose was hosting external links.

    Now, more than two years later and more than a year after the last Penguin refresh, Penguin 3.0 is forcing link builders to alter their strategies yet again. Fortunately, there are several new tactics that can keep you afloat and push you forward, free of ranking penalties.

    Penguin 3.0’s Refinement

    Penguin 3.0 has continued in the tradition of Penguin updates, refining what constitutes a “good” link in the eyes of Google and launching a more sophisticated algorithm for weeding out the negative offenders. Since most obvious negative links have already been caught and penalized with previous updates, Penguin 3.0 has focused on targeting previously unnoticed low-quality links. While the exact algorithmic changes remain undisclosed and therefore unclear, it’s reasonable to expect that the “naturalness” of external links can be somehow measured with even greater precision.

    Your goal as a link builder should therefore be to build as many natural links as possible, while cutting out any strategies that could make it seem like you’re building links only for higher ranks.

    Strategy 1: Get More Local

    articleimage572getmorelocal

    Local optimization isn’t just a strategy for mom-and-pop gift stores or hole-in-the-wall restaurants. It can and should be harnessed by all businesses with a physical office, even if they operate nationally. Pursuing a local SEO campaign gives you a much higher relevance to a slightly smaller audience, with much less competition to deal with. You’ll immediately get more visibility with a wider range of keywords that deal with local-specific terms, but more importantly, you’ll open the door to a new world of link possibilities.

    Local optimization demands attention for local-specific publications and PR opportunities. For example, if you want to build links with some region-specific language around them, it’s a good idea to attend local events and publish press releases around the opportunity. You can also post more on your social media profiles about local events, and make blog posts about local developments. It’s an easy opportunity to attract new links, and it will give you immediate authority for local-specific keywords. All you have to do is pay attention to the local news, and put yourself out there.

    Strategy 2: Create Infographics for Niche Topics

    articleimage572 Create Infographics for Niche Topics

    Infographics have always been a high-quality link building strategy because they’re permanent, high-quality pieces of content that are easily shareable and naturally attract tons of backlinks. However, the modern market has been saturated with infographics, and building one that’s both relevant and interesting is becoming more difficult. Churning out infographics that are redundant or ones that serve no purpose could earn you a penalty, or worse—a poor reputation.

    Instead, start creating infographics for niche topics—the hyper-specific topics that no one in your industry has tried to do before. You’ll sacrifice the sheer volume of your audience, but the audience you have left will be much more appreciative, and your infographic will get much more visibility. For example, making an infographic about the most powerful buzzwords in Twitter marketing is much more specific than making one about “social media marketing” in general. In the end, this strategy will earn you more links and give your infographics a much better shot at getting found (though you may have to perform some original research to put them together).

    Strategy 3: Selectively Hunt High-Quality Link Sources

    articleimage572Selectively Hunt High-Quality Link Sour

    The highest quality link sources are also the most difficult to build links with. Governmental sites ending in .gov and colleges and universities that end in .edu tend to be some of the most powerful and authoritative link building platforms, but getting your links on those sites is difficult and occasionally problematic—first, you have to find a way to build a relevant, valuable link, and second, you have to convince the webmaster to host it.

    Instead of trying to post links yourself on these sites or sending out a mass email to fish for an opportunity, take time every week to hunt down a handful of key opportunities. Offer a new program or product that fits with their purpose—such as a scholarship that can apply to several colleges and universities. Then, reach out to each webmaster individually and politely request that one of your links be featured on their sites. Don’t be surprised if your response rate is low—the links you do win will be that much more valuable to your strategy.

    Strategy 4: Diversify, Now More Than Ever

    Diversifying your link profile has always been a good strategy, but in a post-Penguin 3.0 world, it’s not enough to simply build links on different sites. You have to build several different kinds of links (such as 301 redirects, nofollow links, and broken links) on several different sources, in several different ways. Diversity is an understatement—no two links you build should be alike.

    It’s a difficult strategy to manage, especially if you’re running thin on sources to build links on, but the payoff is worth it. Every couple of weeks, you should do a run-through of your link profile as it currently exists using a tool like Moz’sOpen Site Explorer, which is free and open to the public. You’ll be able to see all the links currently pointing back to your site, including the domains they’re hosted on, and you should be able to infer broad themes about your link building strategy and note key areas for improvement or development.

    Strategy 5: Link Build Without the Links

    It sounds counterintuitive, but there’s a way to build links without actually building links. Google recently disclosed that brand mentions (instances of your brand’s name on the web), even without an accompanying link pointing back to your site, pass authority to the appropriate site. This means you can build “brand mentions” instead of links to get a similar boost in page rank.

    As with links, you’ll have to keep your diversity in mind. You don’t want a backlink profile that exists entirely of backlinks, nor do you want a profile that exists entirely of linkless brand mentions. Vary up the format of your brand mentions too—for example, if you’re running a company called “Bunker Media Marketing and Advertising,” you could build brand mentions such as “Bunker Media Marketing” or simply “Bunker Media.” Those variations add up to register as natural occurrences, since no “real” customers are likely to use the exact trademarked brand in every single instance.

    These strategies can all help you achieve a more natural, more authoritative link profile, but keep in mind your direct efforts are not nearly as significant unless you have a dedicated audience building links for you. The true key to cultivating a high-quality, Penguin-proof link profile is nurturing a linkworthy content strategy that people want to link to. Spend your efforts making and distributing great content, and you’ll never have to worry about links.

  3. Which Types of Links Will Be At Risk from Penguin 3?

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    articleimage560Which Types of Links Will Be At Risk from Penguin 3After more than a year of total inactivity from the Penguin side of Google, Penguin version 3.0 rolled out over the weekend of October 17th. Like its predecessors, Penguin 1.0, 2.0, and the countless refreshers that followed, Penguin 3.0 is intended to streamline users’ web experiences and weed out shady SEO practices pertaining to unfit or spammy backlinks.

    Backlinks are an integral process of offsite search engine optimization, passing authority and page rank on to the link’s destination. But too many webmasters abused this property by posting hundreds of irrelevant, annoying backlinks on random sites in an effort to gain rank quickly. Penguin 1.0 and 2.0 fought back against these practices by introducing a more sophisticated way of determining what constitutes a “natural” backlink. With each iteration, that algorithm becomes more advanced and is capable of targeting different varieties of backlink offenders.

    After the debut of Penguin 1.0 in May 2012 and its follow-up 2.0 in May 2013, search marketers have been anticipating the debut of a 3.0 version for the past several months. Only now are we seeing the update roll out, and only now are we able to identify the types of links that are being targeted by this latest iteration.

    Perform a thorough review of your link building strategy, and watch out for any of the following link types—they could be subject to new penalties from Penguin 3.0.

    Links Rooted in Optimized Anchor Text

    Anchor text-related practices have been on their way out for a while now. In the early days of SEO, it was advisable to root your links in keyword-specific anchor text, such as “cheap cat toys.” Gradually, Google’s updates worked against such practices, and even reduced the authority of links whose anchor text exactly matched a page title (such as “Cat Toys” leading to a page ending with “/cat-toys”) as of Penguin 2.0. Now, it appears that Google is further tightening its grip on optimized anchor text. While it’s still unclear exactly which factors affect the determination of which anchor text is acceptable and which is not, we do know that any anchor text that looks unnatural or contrived can—and probably will—be penalized under Penguin 3.0.

    Backlinks on Questionable Sources

    The source of your backlinks has always been important, and Penguin 3.0 is revisiting the guidelines of what is considered a quality source. High-authority sources, such as .gov or .edu sites, are still the cream of the crop—get a link on one of these sites, and you’ll definitely be fine. Other sites with high domain authority are also good choices. Low-quality sources, such as article mills and unfocused directories, are still carrying the penalties that came with Penguin 1.0 and 2.0, but Penguin 3.0 could be expanding the roster of what is considered a “low-quality” site. If you’re posting a link on a site and you’re not 100 percent sure it’s a safe source, you’re better off not posting. One high-quality link is worth much more than a handful of low-quality ones.

    Irrelevant or Unhelpful Backlinks

    articleimage560irrelevantbacklinks

    Relevance is a subjective quality, but Penguin 3.0 is rolling out new, sophisticated algorithms that can allegedly determine the relevance of a given link. By analyzing the destination of the link, the relevance to it in the context of the conversation, and the qualities of the link’s source, Penguin 3.0 can improve on its predecessors by weeding out the links that appear to be built unnaturally.

    As a general rule, you should already be focused on building links that provide some type of value to readers and users. For example, if your link can justify a fact or contribute something positive to a conversation, it’s considered relevant, but if it only exists to shuttle people to your site, it could be considered irrelevant or unhelpful. Scrutinize your links through the lens of a harsh critic; would an annoyed, picky user feel like this link was necessary or helpful? If not, it could be the subject of a Penguin 3.0 penalty.

    Links on Guest Blogging Networks

    Guest blogging has long been an excellent strategy for brand visibility and link building alike, but some types of guest blogging are getting a crackdown from Google. Back in March, the guest blogging network MyGuestBlog was taken down with a massive penalty, and with the Penguin 3.0 update, it looks like that type of penalty could roll out to other, similar guest blogging networks. Posting a guest article on an outside site, especially one that’s relevant to your industry, is still a great way to build connections, share audiences, and build mutual authority. But posting blogs randomly on sources specifically designed to aggregate others’ blogs is a bad idea. Watch out for links on these sites, and try to keep your guest blogging focused on the most relevant hosts.

    Paid Links

    articleimage560paidlinks

    Unless you’re working with some type of affiliate program, paid links have always been—and continue to be—a bad idea. If you’re paying someone directly to build or host a link pointing back to your site, you can almost guarantee a penalty if your caught. Penguin 3.0 is able to detect paid link building efforts more accurately than either of its major predecessors, so review your past work and get rid of any paid links if you haven’t already.

    How to Know When You’ve Been Hit—and How to Recover

    If you’ve had any of these links before the onset of Penguin 3.0, there’s a chance you have been penalized as a result. Check your rankings, and if any have mysteriously dropped at some point between October 17th and today, odds are you have suffered a drop because of the newest update. Don’t fear! Penalties are only temporary, as long as you take corrective action to remove the offending links and replace them with long-term improvements to your link building campaign.

    If you have been penalized, your first step is to do a thorough review of your link profile and identify any potentially problematic links or link sources. You can use the free tool at Open Site Explorer to discover and analyze every backlink pointing to your site. Look out for links resembling the usual culprits we identified above, and make every effort to take them down.

    If you can’t remove them yourself, contact the webmaster of the source in question and formally request a removal. If you don’t get a response, try following up. If, after several attempts, you still cannot get the link down, you can try using Google’s Disavowal Tool to have each link ignored by Google’s robots. Only use it as a final option, however, because Google only approves a small percentage of requests.

    Over the course of the next several months, work on adjusting and perfecting your link building strategy to fall in line with Google’s latest standards. If you commit yourself to natural, valuable link building, you can expect to restore any ranking you lost, and inch closer to your long-term goals.

    If you need any help with recovering from the latest round of Penguin, consider using our Penguin Recovery services—we’re here to help restore your rank and improve your online reputation.

  4. How to Prepare for The Next Penguin Refresh

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    If you were around for the first few iterations of Google’s Penguin update, you know just how much of an impact it had on the world of link building and search marketing. For months, Penguin refreshes served as follow-up attacks to Google’s initial release, and search marketers were kept on edge, trying desperately to stay ahead of the curve.

    Now, it’s been quiet on the Penguin front since late 2013, and many search marketers believe we’re long overdue for a new update, or at least a refresh. With the recent release of Panda 4.1 marking a quarterly rhythm for the search giant back in September, experts suspect a Penguin refresh could be right around the corner. If you incorporate link building as part of your offsite SEO strategy, it’s vital that you take immediate measures to protect yourself against the inevitable refresh.

    A Glimpse Into Penguin’s History

    articleimage540A Glimpse Into Penguinu2019s History

    First, we’ll take a look into the chain of events that led to the most recent Penguin release, and why so many webmasters were hit with ranking penalties in the first place. Penguin 1.0 was first rolled out in April of 2012, designed as a complement and a follow-up to its predecessor in 2011, Panda. While the Panda update was created to penalize websites with low-quality or keyword-stuffed content, Penguin was created to penalize sites with low-quality or keyword-dense backlinks. It was a one-two punch that sent both onsite and offsite black-hat SEO practitioners scrambling.

    While Penguin 1.0 only affected around three percent of all search queries, the long-term impact it had on the world of link building was tremendous. Link builders could no longer build large quantities of keyword-stuffed, irrelevant links wherever they pleased. Instead, links had to be on-topic, posted in a relevant forum, and had to appear as a valuable and realistic part of the conversation.

    Between May and October of 2012, various refreshes of the Penguin update hit on an almost monthly basis, rolling out new penalties to link schemers who might have otherwise survived Penguin 1.0 without a penalty. In May of 2013, Penguin 2.0 was released, introducing even more sophisticated changes to Google’s ranking algorithm and affecting another 2.3 percent of all search queries.

    A handful of refreshes came between May and October, repeating the same pattern as 1.0. It led many to believe that Penguin 3.0 would hit in May of 2014, following the pattern, but it never did. Here we are in October, a year after the last known Penguin refresh, and we still haven’t seen an update.

    What to Expect From a Refresh

    articleimage540What to Expect From a Refresh

    There are two reasons to expect a new update. First, we’re overdue for one. It’s been more than a year now without any follow-up from Google, and it’s highly likely that they’ve developed some new sophisticated tricks to catch link schemers and penalize irrelevant links by now. Second, Panda 4.1 hit last month, just four months after the second latest major Google update. This may indicate a new, almost quarterly pattern for the search engine giant’s updates, putting a new Penguin update anytime between now and December.

    The next Penguin update could be a simple refresh—a new addition of data that Google then uses to distribute penalties or change ranks for sites whose backlink profiles have changed since the last refresh. The update could also be a major overhaul, the long-awaited Penguin 3.0, which would change some of the criteria for how backlinks are viewed, analyzed, and determined to calculate page rank.

    Either way, the update could affect your site’s rank if you aren’t up to speed with Google’s best practices for user experience and link building.

    How to Prepare

    articleimage540How to Prepare

    It’s impossible to tell whether the update will be a refresh or a major overhaul, but any update will require you to reevaluate your link building strategy, and proactively eliminate any questionable practices that could put you in jeopardy of getting a penalty.

    We’ve put together a step-by-step guide to help you do just that:

    Step One: Hunt Down and Disavow Any Questionable Links

    Your first step should actually be a part of your regular link building process. Once a month or so, it’s a good idea to go through your existing links and weed out any that might look suspicious, or ones that you haven’t built yourself. You can use a free tool, like Moz’s so-called “search engine for links, Open Site Explorer. Don’t judge too harshly, but if you do see a link that stands out from the rest, consider it for removal. First, try and delete the link yourself. If you cannot, contact the webmaster in charge of the site—you can usually find this contact information through a contact page or through the domain registrar. If the webmaster refuses to take the link down, you can file a request for disavowal with Google directly.

    Step Two: Review Your Sources and Timing

    Next, review the totality of your current strategy. Take a look at your “usual suspects” of link sources, and weed out any that might be considered irrelevant, spammy, or of low authority. Examples of bad sources include article directories, link building schemes, or blogs and forums not directly related to your industry. Replace these sources with higher quality sites like news affiliates and relevant forums. You’ll also want to review how many links you’re building, and how often you’re building them. Posting too many links too quickly could send a red flag to Google.

    Step Three: Increase Your Brand Mentions and Nofollow Links

    It may sound counterintuitive, but your link building strategy shouldn’t be solely reliant on traditional links. Instead of posting nothing but links, work more brand mentions and nofollow links into your strategy. Google’s algorithm detects non-linked brand mentions—that is to say, mentions of your company name, product names, etc.—and treats them as similar to links. Posting more brand mentions and fewer traditional links will give you a similar increase in domain authority without putting you at risk of a penalty. Nofollow links, which are links marked with a rel=nofollow tag, will not affect your rank at all, but will allow you to post links to your site without seeming spammy.

    Step Four: Encourage More Natural Link Building

    Finally, establish more avenues for natural link building. Your goal shouldn’t be to make your links appear more natural. It should be to make more natural links. You can do this by posting more relevant, engaging, amusing, or insightful forms of content such as infographics, videos, and detailed blog posts. Syndicate these through your social media channels, and if your content catches the public eye, you’ll easily attract hundreds of new links—and you’ll never have to worry about any of them triggering a penalty.

    Watch Out for Penguins

    Take the time to review and adjust your link building strategy—even if the next Penguin refresh doesn’t hit this year, you’ll still receive the benefits of the extra offsite authority, and reduce your chances of a future penalty.

    If the update does hit and your site seems to be affected—don’t panic. Contact us, and we’ll work with you to determine the root of your penalty, and rebuild your link profile to restore your rank.

  5. How to Recover From a Penguin 3 Penalty

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    Sooner or later, Penguin 3.0 is going to hit, and if it’s anything like its predecessors, it’s going to hit hard. Like previous Penguin updates, its intentions will probably revolve around rewarding sites with natural, relevant backlinks and penalizing sites with questionable practices. It’s best to be proactive and possibly prevent yourself from being penalized by adhering to best backlinking practices, but all it takes is a handful of suspicious links to garner a Google penalty.

    If you find yourself struck by the onset of Penguin 3.0, don’t worry. It might cause a temporary hiccup in your SEO strategy, but if you respond quickly and patiently rebuild your authority, you should be able to make a full recovery.

    Waiting for Penguin 3.0

    articleimage431waitingforpenguin

    While Penguin 3.0 hasn’t yet been deployed, we speculate that it could happen any day now. Penguin 1.0 and 2.0 made major waves and as of the writing of this article, it has been 10 months since the last major rollout.

    Penguin 1.0 and 2.0

    Google Penguin 1.0—the first major backlink-specific update from Google—appeared on April 24, 2012, affecting approximately three percent of all search queries on the web. Designed to fight back against the backlink spamming practices associated with black hat search engine marketing, Penguin 1.0 unleashed a wave of penalties on sites whose backlinks were determined to be irrelevant, spammy, or otherwise intended solely to manipulate rank.

    Penguin 2.0 came out over a year later (after a handful of minor refreshes to 1.0) on May 22, 2013. It affected another 2.3 percent of all search queries, doling out another strong wave of penalties to sites with questionable backlink building practices.

    As a result, the world of link building changed completely. Search marketers were no longer able to rely on traditional practices, which favored the sheer number of backlinks over any other factor. Instead, search marketers were now forced to comply with Google’s new web experience standards—only posting links that are relevant and valuable to the reader, and only on authoritative, legitimate sites.

    What will the Penguin 3.0 update affect?

    Penguin 3.0 will undoubtedly be focused on improving backlink practices, just like its predecessors, but beyond that it’s difficult to tell. It could follow in the footsteps of its counterparts, affecting roughly three percent of all search queries, but there’s always the possibility that it could hit harder, closer to the 11 percent of search queries that Panda hit back in 2011.

    No matter how impactful it is, it’s highly likely that Penguin 3.0 will simply reinforce the standards that Google has already put in place: backlinks need to be varied in content, appropriate for context, valuable to the reader, and relevant to the site on which it is posted.

    When will it come?

    Since the release of the last Penguin 2.0 refresh, things have been relatively quiet. There have been regular Panda refreshes building upon the Panda update, as well as a handful of new updates designed to improve local searches and other peripheral factors, but there have been no major backlink-related updates since the last 2.0 refresh in October of 2013. That’s a gap of almost 11 months, putting search marketers on edge. The gap between Penguin 1.0 and 2.0 was slightly over a year, so if history is any indication, the 3.0 update should be coming by the end of 2014.

    Of course, Google is somewhat unpredictable. It could be another year before we see 3.0, or it could be tomorrow. Stranger still, it could never come at all. But our best guess is that Penguin 3.0 will be coming out by December.

    How to Know You’ve Been Penalized

    articleimage431How to Know You’ve Been Penalized

    The word “penalty” gets thrown around often as a way to describe a sudden loss of search engine rank, but there is an important distinction between manual penalties specifically created to target a domain and the automatic search rank drops that come about as a result of an algorithm update. As a victim of the Penguin 3.0 update, it’s far more likely that you’ve suffered a loss as an indirect, automatic result of the algorithm change.

    If you keep track of your search engine ranks and domain authority (as you should), the penalty will be evident within a day or two of the algorithm’s official release. Depending on the severity of the penalty and the significance of the algorithm change, you could drop a few ranks or a few pages, for any or all of your keywords. If you notice a significant drop across the board, or notice that your domain authority has taken a heavy dip, it’s a clear indication that you’ve been penalized.

    If you have been penalized, try not to panic. Unless you’re engaging in heavy spam and shady link buying practices, your penalties will be short-lived as long as you respond appropriately—and even if you are engaging in spammy tactics, odds are Penguin 1.0 and 2.0 have already penalized you.

    Link Removal and Disavowal

    articleimage431Link Removal and Disavowal

    The first and most important step to take after identifying a Penguin 3.0 penalty is to start removing questionable links and disavowing links that are particularly bad offenders. Go through your backlink sources and immediately delete any links that feature the following:

    • Placement on a low-quality or irrelevant link directory
    • Placement on a blog or forum irrelevant to your industry
    • Spam-like qualities, in any context
    • Mass duplication of anchor text
    • Mass duplication of link destination (for example, if all your links point to your homepage)

    However, even deleted links can have a legacy effect on your site. If there are major offenders, such as a host of links coming from a known paid source, it’s better to perform a disavowal, which is essentially a notice sent to Google that requests them to ignore those links permanently in their search algorithm.

    Once your link profile has been cleaned of any possible offenders, your immediate actions are complete. All you can do at this point is maintain solid, high quality link building practices, and patiently wait until your rankings return to normal.

    Best Practices

    Moving forward, in order to recover from your Penguin 3.0 penalty or simply prevent a new penalty from occurring, you’ll need to follow best practices for backlink building:

    • Use a variety of sources.

    It’s a good long-term strategy to build links on as many external sources as reasonably possible. Play it like an investment strategy: diversify your portfolio.

    • Use high quality sources.

    Make sure all your sources are somewhat authoritative, relevant to your industry, and supportive of Google’s best practices. Don’t get caught in a web of spam.

    • Point links deep within your site.

    Only using links that point to your homepage is penalty bait. Instead, use a variety of links that point to your internal pages as well.

    • Blend backlinks and brand mentions.

    Links aren’t the only thing that counts anymore. Use links in combination with linked brand mentions and non-linked brand mentions for a multifaceted, conservative approach.

    • Use viral content to encourage natural link building.

    The best way to build links is to let your audience do it for you. Use high-quality, viral-sensitive content like infographics and whitepapers to attract sharers and link builders to point to your site.

    It will take time to recover from a penalty, even if you do everything right. But it’s important to be patient and comply with Google’s standards; spend your time giving your users a good experience and try not to worry about your specific ranks.

  6. When Will The Next Google Penguin Refresh Be?

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    When it first came on the scene, Google’s Penguin update hit businesses with questionable backlinking practices hard. Harsh penalties were common across the web, and traditional link building strategies were made almost completely obsolete. Google’s updates are iterative, and multiple rounds of Penguin updates and refreshes have followed up on the initial dramatic release. Now, search marketers and business owners are keeping watch for signs of the next Penguin refresh to proactively guard against its potential penalties. Google makes it next to impossible to accurately predict the scope and timing of their algorithm changes, but there hasn’t been a Penguin refresh for some time, and we’re overdue for one.

    A Short History of Penguin

    articleimage425 historyofpenguin

    For those of you who are unfamiliar, Google Penguin first hit the web on April 24, 2012 as a follow up to the game-changing Panda update the year before. Where Panda cleaned up the web by penalizing sites with low-quality content, Penguin cleaned up the web by penalizing sites with irrelevant, unnatural, or otherwise “spammy” backlinks. Overall, Penguin 1.0 affected just over three percent of all search queries, but the long-term impact it had on the world of search marketing was substantial.

    After the update, the process of link building was completely transformed—rather than being mostly a numbers game, link building suddenly required finesse and careful attention to ensure that all links are relevant, valuable, and natural. Previous strategies revolved around posting a specific number of links on a regular basis to external sites, including a blend of industry-specific authorities and easy-to-find link directories. Penguin 1.0 intended to put a stop to link building for the sole purpose of increasing page rank, and targeted “low-quality” links that seemed to have no primary purpose other than for search engine rank building.

    Over the course of the next several months, Google released a series of follow-ups, including refreshes on May 26 and October 5 of 2012 designed to refine and perfect the original algorithm release. The next major Penguin algorithm release wasn’t until May 22, 2013 when Penguin 2.0 impacted another 2.3 percent of search queries. Several new sites with questionable backlinking practices got hit, despite making it out of Penguin 1.0 unscathed. Google also followed up with a refresher to this major update on October 4, 2013, impacting about one percent of all search queries.

    Since then, things on the Penguin front have been relatively quiet. There have been a few rumors of data refreshes and speculation on a “Penguin 3.0” yet to come, but there have been no formal announcements or indications of a specific date.

    Why a New Penguin Update Is Expected

    We’ve mentioned before that Google releases algorithm changes iteratively. They have a long history of releasing updates upon updates and gradual refreshes since they first started releasing regular updates to their algorithm in 2003. Since they’re always interested in refining their process and building upon their established frameworks, there is always room for further advancement.

    As an example, let’s take a look at the Panda update. February 24, 2011 was the first big Panda hit, affecting nearly 12 percent of all search queries, but that was only the beginning. Several refreshes rolled out over the course of the next few years, some of which were announced and some of which were unannounced. In March 2013, Google made a public announcement that they intended to keep rolling out data refreshes for the Panda update on a more-or-less monthly basis. Since then, we haven’t received any formal announcements of updates, but we have seen the quiet results of their release.

    An objective look at Google’s history makes it seem likely that we haven’t seen the last of Penguin. As the two major pillars of modern search engine progress, Panda and Penguin continue to be the most significant considerations for search marketers, and it makes sense that Google would want to continue making those algorithm revisions increasingly sophisticated.

    When Will It Happen?

    articleimage425When Will It Happen

    Even though Google’s history makes it seem likely that a new Penguin refresh is inevitable, it’s no surprise that there hasn’t been a formal announcement regarding its release date. Google likes to keep things under tight wraps for several reasons, most notably to throw search marketers off their game. The motivation behind these updates is to prevent people from being able to easily manipulate page ranks so that users can find relevant results more easily. Withholding critical information, such as the specifics included in each update and upcoming release dates, helps to ensure that site owners engage in long-term best practices rather than trying to find loopholes.

    That being said, it pays to be prepared, and we can make a best guess at when the next Penguin refresh will occur. It’s already been more than a year since Google Penguin had its last major update. The big dates for Penguin have been April 2012, May 2012, October 2012, May 2013, and October 2013, showing spans as big as 5-7 months between releases. At that pace, we could have expected Penguin 3.0, or at least a data refresh, back in April 2014.

    Obviously, that didn’t happen, but unless Google considers the Penguin update to be perfect (which is unlikely), it’s likely we’ll see at least one refresh by the end of 2014. Just following the pattern of major October releases, a new Penguin update in October 2014 seems likely, if not inevitable.

    How to Prepare Your Site

    articleimage425howtoprepareyoursite

    If you haven’t already, it’s time to guard yourself against the possibility of a new Penguin update and respond to the changes of the previous ones. Penguin is all about encouraging a more valuable, sustainable link building process, so implement these strategies as part of your preparation:

    • Check your sources.

    Not all backlinking sources are equal. Article directories, link farms, and external sites not related directly to your industry are all bad news. Instead, focus on building links with a diverse range of sources that include high-authority sites like .edu or .gov domains, quality blogs and forums, and niche-specific industry directories.

    • Encourage natural link building.

    Let your users build your links for you. Use content with a high potential to go viral, such as unique infographics or entertaining videos, to subtly encourage people to link back to your site.

    • Forget about raw numbers.

    Quality is better than quantity. If you go crazy posting dozens of links all over the web, you’ll appear to be spam and you could suffer a penalty as a result.

    • Use brand mentions and Nofollow links.

    Build your authority and generate more web traffic by using more brand mentions (explicitly naming your brand without a link) and Nofollow links (marked by a rel=”nofollow” expression). These promote your name and authority without counting as explicit links to search engines who might otherwise see it as spam.

    Conclusion

    Google Penguin is still one of the most significant SEO disrupters in play, and because there is still room for improvement, it’s only a matter of time before we see another update. At 10 months and counting since the last major update, Penguin is overdue for some new energy. As of now, our best guess is October 2014 to see Penguin 3.0 (or at least a data refresh).

    Regardless of whether this new update is or is not on the horizon, it’s important that you continue to polish your link building practices. The more natural and relevant your backlinks are, the more traffic you’ll receive, and the better protected you’ll be against future Google updates.

  7. How Guest Blogging Is Affected after Penguin 2.0 and 2.1

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    Guest blogging is popular because it creates a win-win situation for everyone. It works well to drive traffic back to a blog. It works well to give a new blogger exposure on other more established blogs. It works well to provide blog owners fresh content. And it works well to gives readers interesting content from a new perspective.

    There are other benefits, too.

    For one thing, guest blogging is a great vehicle to allow good writers to quickly become popular bloggers. It’s a way to build your reputation even if you have only recently started blogging and are not getting many visitors to your blog. If you write on a specific niche well—in a clear and authoritative way—then you are attracting positive interest with your work. You are also winning the silent endorsement of the blogger who shares your content with his or her audience.

    For another, guest blogging is way of building backlinks back to a site. Consequently, it provides excellent search engine optimization. But that’s not all. Guest blogging, when done right, gives readers high quality, relevant content.

    In fact, guest blogging has become so popular that many top blogs now are inundated with requests for guest posting.

    Why, then, if guest blogging is so beneficial, providing a wonderful service for writers, publishers, readers and even search engines would Google try to discourage guest blogging?

    Actually, Google is not targeting guest blogging. If guest blogging is in some way hampered by Penguin 2.0 or 2.1, then it is just an accidental casualty to a major larger issue Google is trying to tackle with its change in algorithms.

    New Algorithms Will Not Wipe Out Guest Blogging

    After the dust from Penguin 2.0 and 2.1 settles it may put a dent in this unique win-win strategy for driving traffic back to a website, but, all things considered, while it may damage the enthusiasm shown for guest blogging, it will not be devastating enough to stop it.

    It’s unlikely that we are going to see articles and reports on the demise of guest blogging.

    While Google is not exactly targeting guest blogs, some devaluing may occur to backlinks and author ranking as a result of the new algorithms.

    It’s still too early to say what has changed, but four trends are slowly showing up.

    How Life As We Know It May Change

    Here are four probable ways that Penguin 2.0 and 2.1 will affect life as we know it on the Internet.

    1. Google will be more discriminating about rewarding social signals.

    articleimage545Google will be more discriminating about rewarding social signals

    In the past, social signals were a sign that a guest post was popular. After all, if people liked something they might be inclined to share it with friends and followers on Facebook, Twitter, and the other popular social media platforms.

    Why, then, would Google want to discourage this level of sharing and enthusiasm?

    It’s because Google’s unstated prime directive is relevancy and with many people gaming the social signal system by buying hundreds, even thousands, of Tweets or Likes on cheap outsourcing websites like Fiverr and other clones, the relevancy test will fail.

    Google’s battle is not actually against people sharing content that they like. It’s really a battle against bots and spam purveyors who are mimicking real Tweets and real Likes.

    One sign that an author is gaming the system is the author’s reluctance to mention their guest posts on their own social media platforms. Google reasons that an author who wrote a great piece is inclined to share it with his friends and followers on some major social media websites while an author who had already purchased tweets and likes would probably not be bothered to share it on his or her own social profile.

    Still, although things may look grim, one way to resolve Google’s loss of confidence in social signals is to write great posts, share them on your own profiles in social media, and ask influencer’s to do the same. At some point, Google’s algorithms will probably be able to distinguish between real human approval and the footprints left by bots.

    2. Google will be looking at author rank.

    articleimage545 Google will be looking at author rank

    A new benchmark is author rank. This will show Google where you are publishing your content and how well people like it on the Internet. While author rank can work in your favor, you also run the risk of having your rank devalued.

    Here are two ways to resolve this potential risk of getting your author rank devalued:

    • First, write great content that will naturally attract social signals and comments. Avoid short, hackneyed, uninteresting or even spun content. In other words, stuff that people will not want to read if they can find something better.
    • Second, get your backlinks from multiple content creation strategies rather than from guest blogging alone.

    It’s important to note that with the new algorithms, publishing on an authority website alone is no guarantee that your author rank will be safe.

    3. Google will give less weight to links.

    articleimage545Google will give less weight to links

    Before the change in algorithms, a link was a link. Now, Google questions links, deciding which to value and which to devalue.

    If you write a long piece, full of valuable information, then the link will probably be valued, but if you post an infographic, the link will probably be devalued.

    What this change basically means is that the rapid link building methods deployed by SEO experts will now be under suspicion.

    4. Lack of link relevance could be penalized.

    The worst penalty Google can mete out is to devalue your site. This may happen if you create irrelevant links.

    What is an irrelevant link? Suppose, you wrote a guest post on the best places to invest in 2014. Then relevant links might be those going out to Huffington Post, Forbes, and the Wall Street Journal. Relevant links might also include reference to pertinant dictionaries and encyclopedias like Investopedia or Wikipedia. An irrelevant link would be linking your article to a car website, a plastic surgeon’s website, or a dog grooming website.

    While you could probably create irrelevant links a few times, if you do it often enough, your site itself might be devalued. Google would rightly argue, based on the latent semantic index of your guest post, about the relationship between the world of investments and the world of car dealerships, cosmetic surgery, and pet care.

    Don’t Panic, Write Well

    Ultimately, what Google is trying to do is in line with what they have always tried to do—encourage quality content and discourage poor content on the Internet. Quality content is one that informs and educates. Great content wins attention and approval in the form of social media sharing, blog comments, and other forms of popularity. Alternatively, if content is just written for the sake of keywords, backlinks, and other SEO favors, then under the new algorithms, it will be more quickly detected and devalued. Guest blogs that show signs of poor content will suffer. But guest blogs that give circumstantial evidence of good content will actually rise to the surface. The best strategy, then, is to continue to write well and avoid appearing to game the system, either accidentally or intentionally.

  8. Penguin 2.0: What Happened, and How to Recover

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    If you’ve spent any time recently in the world of SEO, you’ve probably heard about Penguin 2.0 — Google’s search engine algorithm change that was just launched on May 22nd, 2013. By the way that some SEOs were talking, you’d think it was the Zombie Apocalypse. Whatever it is, you can be sure that it will have a dramatic change on the web landscape. Here are five important questions and answers about Penguin 2.0.

    What is Penguin 2.0?

    To understand the 2.0 of anything, you need to understand the 1.0. The original Penguin is the moniker for Google’s algorithm update of April 24, 2012. When Google tweaked the algorithm in a big way, 3.1% of all English-language queries were affected by the update. Penguin was carefully designed to penalize certain types of webspam. Here are some of the main factors that Penguin targeted:

    1.  Lots of exact-match anchor texts (30% or more of a link profile)

    2.  Low quality site linkbacks, including directories and blogs

    3.  Keyword intensive anchors

    The aftershocks of Penguin continued long after April 24. Several mini Penguins were released since then, which is why some SEOs prefer to call the coming change “Penguin 4.” The new Penguin is predicted to do the following:

    • Penalize paid links, especially those without “nofollow”
    • Penalize spamdexing in a more effective way
    • Penalize advertorial spam.
    • Tightening penalties on link spamming/directory listings
    • Removing hacked sites from search engine results
    • Boost ranks for sites that have a proven authority within a niche

    How much different is it from Penguin 1.0?

    Calling this Penguin 2.0 is slightly misleading. We shouldn’t think of algorithm changes in the same way we think of software updates — better features, faster architecture, whatever. Penguin is not a software update. It’s a change in the way that a search engine delivers results to users.

    Here is a brief explanation of search engines, and how they change. Search engines are designed to give people the most accurate, trustworthy, and relevant results for a specific search query. So, if you type in “how to cook lima beans,” the search engine attempts to find the very best site on the Internet to help you cook your lima beans. Obviously, every lima bean recipe site wants to have the top dog spot on the search engine results page (SERP).

    Some webmasters will cook up clever tricks to do so. Thus, a site with hordes of banner ads, hordes of affiliate links, and barely a word about cooking lima beans could, with a few black hat techniques, climb in the rankings. The search engine doesn’t want that. They want people to have their lima bean recipe — great content — not just a bunch of ads.

    Thus, they change things deep within the algorithm to prevent those unscrupulous tricks from working. But the slithery lima bean site figures out a new way to slip by the algorithm. And the algorithm figures out another way to block them. And so on, and so forth.

    As all of this is happening, several key points emerge:

    1.  Search engine algorithms become more sophisticated and intelligent.

    2.  It becomes less likely for sites to game the system.

    At AudienceBloom, we follow white-hat SEO principles. We understand that there are a few tricks that we could use that might bump your site higher in the short term. However, we don’t engage in those practices. We want our clients to be successful for the long haul, which is why we engage in SEO techniques that are truly legitimate.

    What’s going to happen? 

    Now that Penguin 2.0 is rolling out, one of two things will happen to your site (as Google’s data centers propagate with the algorithm rollout and your rankings are adjusted accordingly):

    1. Nothing.

    2. Your rankings will drop, organic traffic will tank, and your site will begin to flounder.

    If, unfortunately, number 2 strikes, you may not realize it for a few days unless you are a big site with 10k+ visits with 30%+ organic a day.  In order to answer “what’s going to happen” for your site, you need to understand whether or not your site is in violation of any Penguin 2.0 targets. That question is better answered with an entire article of its own, but here are a few warning signs that your site could be targeted by Penguin 2.0.

    • You’ve had unscrupulous link building efforts conducted on your site.
    • You purchased paid links from another site (e.g., advertorials)
    • You rely on spam-like search queries (for example “pay day loans,” “cheap computers,” “free gambling site,” etc.).
    • You have aggressively pursued link networks listings on unreliable directories.

    Each of the above four points are common SEO tactics. Some SEOs have become sneakier than the algorithm, which is why Google is making these important changes.

    What should I do to prepare or recover?

    The most important thing you can do right now is to follow Matt Cutt’s advice in his recent video:

    “If you’re doing high quality content whenever you’re doing SEO, this (the Penguin update) should not be a big surprise. You shouldn’t have to worry about a lot of changes. If you have been hanging out in a lot of blackhat forums, trading different types of spamming package tips and that sort of stuff, then this might be a more eventful summer for you.”

    Content is the most important thing, of course, but that’s more of a proactive preparation than an actual defense. Is there a way to actually defend yourself from the onslaught of Penguin 2.0? What if you’ve already been affected by it?

    One important thing you can do right now is to analyze your site’s link profile to ensure that your site is free of harmful links. Then, you should remove and perform disavow requests on the bad links to keep your site’s inbound link profile clean. This is the equivalent of a major surgery on your site, and it could take a long time to recover. Here’s what Matt Cutts said about it on May 13:

    Cutts on Penguin 2.0

    Here are the steps you need to take to recover from Penguin 2.0:

    Step 1. Identify which inbound links are “unclean” or could be hurting your rankings (ie, causing you to be affected by Penguin 2.0). To do this, you’ll need to perform an inbound link profile audit (or have us do that for you).

    Step 2. Perform major surgery on your site’s link profile in order to make it as clean as possible. This includes removing links identified in the link profile audit, and then disavowing them as well.

    Step 3. Build new inbound links using white-hat tactics like guest blogging, while abiding by proper anchor text rules with your new inbound links.

    Step 4. Establish a content calendar to keep pushing out high-quality content, engage in social media, and avoid spammy techniques of any kind.

    If you’re looking for SEO help, AudienceBloom is prepared to help. One of our major efforts in the wake of Penguin 1.0 was helping sites to recover their rankings and clean up from their past. If you’ve been hit by Penguin 2.0, now is the time to take action to recover your rankings and search traffic. Contact us for a complimentary assessment and action plan.

  9. How to Prepare for Penguin 2.0: Take Off that Black Hat!

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    Google Penguin 2.0What do Penguins, Pandas, and black hats have in common? Lots! Penguin is the most recent set of guidelines published by Google designed to clean up abuses in the field of SEO, and a new version is due out soon, according to Google’s Web Spam Czar, Matt Cutts. The impending event has marketers, reputation managers, and webmasters scurrying for cover.

    SEO – A Concept Recap

    SEO (search engine optimization) is the relatively newborn public relations field that tries to increase the visibility of websites by the strategic placement of keywords, content, and social media interaction, and the industry has grown rapidly in a little over a decade.

    Carried to extremes, as such things always are, black-hat SEO is a subdivision within the field that tries to achieve money-making results in an unsustainable way (ie, against Google’s webmaster guidelines). It frustrates the very purpose of a search engine, which is to help users find the information they need. Instead, rampant SEO gone amok serves only the needs of online marketers wishing to increase sales for themselves or their clients.

    To readjust the proper balance, Mr. Cutts and his team of “penguin” police have attempted to establish guidelines that will rule out the most abusive practices of black hat SEO.

    BlackHat SEO – Are You Doing It?

    The predecessor to Penguin was Panda, with much the same purpose. Panda included a series of algorithm updates, begun in early 2011. These were aimed at downgrading websites that did not provide positive user experiences.

    Panda updates of the algorithm were largely directed at website quality. The term “above the fold” is sometimes used to refer to the section of a website that a user sees before one begins to scroll down. The term comes from newspapers, which are delivered folded in two. The section that is “above the fold” is the section one sees before opening the paper, or unfolding it.

    Typically, marketers wish to cram as much eye-catching, commercial material as possible into this section, while responsible journalists wish to pack it with the most relevant and useful information.

    Penguin, on the other hand, is targeted more specifically at keyword stuffing and manipulative link building techniques.

    One targeted abuse, keyword stuffing, is not a tasty Thanksgiving delicacy, but the practice of loading the meta tag section of a site, and the site itself, with useless repetition of certain words. Sites can lose their ranking altogether as a result of such stuffing.

    Abusive practitioners of keyword stuffing are not above using keywords that are rendered invisible because their font color is identical with the background color. The user doesn’t see them, but the search engine spider does. This practice was soon discovered, however, and dealt with by the search engines.

    Meta tags are sometimes placed behind images, or in “alternative text” fields, so that the spiders pick them up while they remain invisible to users. Popular or profitable search keywords are sometimes included invisible to humans, but visible to the search crawlers. Very clever, but also soon discovered and dealt with. With Penguin, Google now analyzes the relevance and subject matter of a page much more effectively, without being tricked by keyword-stuffing schemes.

    “Cloaking” is another tactic that was used for a while to present a different version of a site to the search engine’s crawler than to the user. While a legitimate tactic when it tells the crawler about content embedded in a video or Flash component, it became abused as a Black Hat SEO technique, and is now rendered obsolete by the technique of “progressive enhancement,” which tailors a site’s visibility to the capabilities of the user or crawler. Pornographic sites have often been “cloaked” in non-pornographic form as a way of avoiding being labeled as such.

    The first set of Penguin guidelines and algorithms went live in April 2012, and the second main wave is due out any day now (though Penguin has gone through several periodic updates since its initial release). It’s designed to combat an excessive use of exact-match anchor text. It will also be directed against links from sources of dubious quality and links that are seen as unnatural or manipulative.

    The trading or buying of links will be targeted as well. The value of links from directories and bookmarking sites will be further downgraded, as will links from content that’s thin or poor-quality. Basically, the revision in the algorithms will be designed to rule out content that serves the marketer’s ends rather than the users’.

    Advice For SEO Marketers To Stay Clean

    If you are a professional SEO, the questions to ask yourself are:

    • Is this keyword being added in order to serve the customer’s potential needs, or is it designed merely to increase the number of hits? If the latter, then the additional users that would be brought to the site by the keyword are probably not high-quality conversion potential.
    • Is the added SEO material being hidden from the user or the search engine crawler? If so, with what purpose? If that purpose amounts to dishonest marketing practices, the material runs the risk of getting you in trouble with Penguin.
    • What’s the overall purpose of your SEO strategy? If it’s anything other than increasing sales by enhancing user experience, then you may expect an unwelcome visit from Penguin.

    If you’re a user, you’ll very likely not be as conscious of these changes, except inasmuch as they will alter the look of your search results page when you perform a search in Google. Will the new Penguin algorithms cut down on those ubiquitous “sponsored links” or “featured links”? Probably not. But savvy users know how to ignore those links by now, except of course when they turn out to be useful.

    Will the new algorithms enhance the overall usefulness of the search engine experience? Probably, at least marginally, and perhaps even in a major way. The whole field of internet marketing and e-Commerce is changing so rapidly and radically that it’s hard to keep track of the terminology, especially the proliferation of acronyms. But the ultimate goal will be an enhanced user experience.

  10. Caution: Don’t Overreact to Penguin (or Any Other Google Change)

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    If you got Penguin slapped, the last thing you wanna do is rush in to try to fix things without first making sure of what you’re doing. Soon as the big Google updates started to hit, people panicked.

    Even some so-called professional SEO service providers freaked out. Then there were the SEO specialists who decided this would be a great time to take advantage of people: they rushed out and promised near-instant recovery from these updates. They assured people “I can fix it for you!” — when in reality, they were only chasing $$$ signs.

    Don’t jump on board and take everything you read to heart. Check out some of the big mistakes people made (and are still making).

    Calling a Complete Halt to Backlink Building

    No! No! No! Don’t believe it when someone tells you that backlinks don’t matter anymore. Think about this: If Google didn’t place any value on backlinks as a ranking factor, then why did they get so strict about which links they’re willing to count? If anything, that seems to emphasize the importance of backlinks, to my eyes. How about you?

    Google is getting stricter about which links they place value on because links do matter. Google wants everyone to produce over-the-top, priceless content each and every time; content that will bring mass attention and leave everyone wanting to share your material with everyone they know.

    Really? Yeah, like that’s gonna happen. It just isn’t that easy to generate those “natural” backlinks they wanna see.

    So yes, be aware of what Google is cracking down on. Read the Google Webmaster Guidelines updates (as rare as they are) and stay away from those links that hover in the dark, beckoning you to buy them. They may be enticingly cheap, but they’re that cheap for a reason. In sum, don’t-don’t-don’t stop working to gain valuable quality links.

    Racing as Fast as Possible to Remove Backlinks

    There’s an underlying, irrational fear that’s driving people to remove lots of backlinks. True, there are cases when that’s perfectly justifiable. But only if you have shady, cheap backlinks you’ve paid for or clearly identified as part of a negative SEO campaign out to hurt you. (The latter is rare; and even more rare is for one of those campaigns to achieve its intended effect — but it’s been known to happen).

    It is heartwrenching to watch a small business that relies on its website do further damage by using the disavow tool or actually paying people to remove links that weren’t really doing it any harm. Not all backlinks are bad! Just because you didn’t create, initiate, or generate the link doesn’t mean it’s hurting you. Remember, Google wants you to have links that appear naturally without any involvement from your side.

    So before you start erasing parts of your backlink profile or disavowing links, please — please! — make sure you know what you’re doing. Don’t just take one person’s opinion as gospel truth.

    Ditching Any Kind of Anchor Link Usage

    Anchor text. It was kind of a buzzword of 2012, wasn’t it? Everywhere you turned after the Penguin arrived, people were talking about how using keyword anchor text for links got them buried in the search results. Truth is, using a multitude of anchor texts has always been the smart way to do things. If 99% of your backlinks say “Dallas DUI attorney,” it doesn’t look natural at all.

    Instead, a chunk of your backlinks should say “Dallas DUI attorney,” but another chunk could say “Dallas attorney for DUI charges”; another could say “this attorney,” another could say “his website here,” etc.

    If your links are coming from related pages on other sites, Google’s pretty good at picking up on that and knowing what your site is about. Even with anchor text that has nothing to do with your keywords “click here,” if it’s surrounded by text that talks about DUI attorneys or something similar then, yeah, they’ll know.

    Note: One of the newest “hot things” that’s getting a lot of talk is co-occurences — sometimes called co-citations. There’s evidence that you don’t have to get a true HTML’d link. If an article talks about what to do when you get a DUI and they say visit so-and-so.com (your site) just like that, with no actual link, that helps your ranking just as much as a real link. Google has a patent pending that deals with identifying phrases and “used to retrieve and rank documents” here. Whether it pans out to be related to this or not, we’ll just have to wait and see. What do you think it really means?

    Conclusion

    So these are just a few of the rash moves that site owners have been making. We hope that you’ll take heed. If you aren’t sure about your backlink profile or what you should be doing with it, we can help you. Visit our contact page and get in touch.

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