Google periodically rolls out updates to its search algorithm in order to make the web spam-free. One of the recent algorithm updates by Google is known as Penguin. The first version of Penguin was released in April 2012. This update lowered the search rankings of the sites that had links from bad neighborhoods. The second update of Penguin, effected recently, takes a more serious stand against poor user engagement and dishonest SEO techniques on sites. This article gives a few guidelines to conform to the Penguin updates by Google.
Each algorithm update by Google is intended to make the web better by removing spam and improving rankings of high quality sites. Since website owners rely on SEO techniques to bring their sites to the top of search results, certain high-quality sites may be undermined if they are not properly optimized for search ranking. This is not in the best interests of Google. Earlier, Google’s algorithm update codenamed ‘Panda’ focused on poor quality content on websites and made sure that low-quality sites ranked lower.
Penguin update, on the other hand, focuses on linking strategies and isolates sites with abnormal linking profiles. How does Google identify a bad link? Here are the four types of links that Google identifies as bad: paid links, links from unrelated websites, links from low quality sites or spam neighborhoods , and too many keyword-optimized links. A combination of such linking tactics can prove to be disastrous for your site. (A bad neighborhood is defined as a group of linking websites that are, in general not following the Google webmaster guidelines. It was a way to “cheat” Google and spam the web with interlinking backlinks)
The former Head of Google’s web spam team, Matt Cutts, has said that the Penguin update focuses on penalizing websites engaging in black-hat SEO techniques. What is black-hat SEO? During the early days of Internet marketing and search engine optimization, the search engines including Google were less sophisticated than they are today. At that time, although webmasters were required to follow proper SEO techniques, most of them knew they could game the system by gathering paid links, links from any website, and keyword-rich anchor texts. Some webmasters also engaged in some internal dishonest techniques, such as doorway pages, hidden content, hidden text links, etc. Now that search engines are highly sophisticated, they can easily spot these dishonest techniques. These techniques have been widely known as black-hat SEO tactics.
SEO company Moz has found that about 2.1 percent of all English language search queries have been affected by Penguin 2 update. Penguin update also targets the search queries with maximum competition, such as ‘auto insurance’, ‘payday loans’, etc.
Things Required for Better Ranking
If you want to avoid Google Penguin penalties for your website, you have to consider a number of things. First, the content on the website has to be as engaging and valuable as possible. It is found that most of the top-ranking sites now tend to have higher text-to-HTML ratio. This is important. You should have long articles of more than 500 words with images, videos, or interactive content. Such pages tend to provide greater user experience than poorly written 200-word articles.
In order to engage your customers better, use social media tactics too. Since the Penguin update, search engines rely much on social signals to rank web pages. The more the people sharing your content, the better your rankings will be.
Another important thing to look for is your link profile. When you build a website, you should carefully create links from other sites in order to bring your site to the top. Before Penguin update, this used to be very easy. Now, you have to have a little control over who links to you. You cannot let low quality and unrelated sites link to you, as that will affect your site’s ranking negatively.
Google provides a tool called ‘disavow tool’ that lets you remove the effect of any link that you feel is not good for your site. The tool is available from Google Webmaster Tools interface. If your site somehow acquired a number of links from bad neighborhood sites (maybe, your competitor did that to your site to undermine it), you can remove their effect by simply disavowing those links. This way, they will have neither a good effect nor a bad effect on your site’s SEO.
When building links, make sure that you do not overuse the keywords. In short, do not create too many links with your target keyword as the anchor text. You should change the link anchor every time to make these links look natural to the search engine. Unpaid links, created by other webmasters to your site, tend not to be keyword-targeted. In such cases, the anchor text may be just the name of your website or the URL itself.
Creating too many links in a short while is also a bad thing. When you launch a website, it is not possible to get too many links in a short while, unless your site is the official site of an upcoming movie or a popular celebrity. Gradually build a proper link profile that search engines will find natural.
SEO has become more straightforward today. In the search result pages of Google, you can now see only highly relevant sites. It is nearly impossible for spam websites to rank well on the search engine. Good content and proper web development are the only ways in which a website can gather visitors.