**Please note that this article was originally published in August of 2012, and its content reflects that date, though it does remain relevant in 2015.
If you keep an eye on updates from the the SEO industry, you know that one of the most talked about topics in the industry currently is Matt Cutts’ statement on the Penguin algo change. Until now, there has only been one major Penguin update, but at the recent SES San Francisco conference Matt Cutts noted as follows:
“If you remember, in the early days of Panda, it took several months for us to iterate on the algorithm, and the Panda impact tended to be somewhat larger (e.g. the April 2011 update incorporated new signals like sites that users block). Later on, the Panda updates had less impact over time as we stabilized the signals/algorithm, and Panda moved closer to near-monthly updates. Likewise, we’re still in the early stages of Penguin where the engineers are incorporating new signals, and iterating to improve the algorithm. Because of that, expect that the next few Penguin updates will take longer, incorporate additional signals, and as a result will have more noticeable impact. It’s not the case that people should just expect data refreshes for Penguin quite yet.”
Many readers may not take this update seriously and will consider it just another update, but those who got hit by the first Penguin update or by other algo changes will understand just how significant this change is going to be. Unlike a minor data refresh, the next Penguin update is going to be a major SEO change which will cause many online businesses to go down, and many others to get a great push.
There is no deadline or expected time-frame for the next Penguin algo change, but once it is rolled out, it may be too late for many users to make necessary changes and get back to business.
Therefore, now is the time when you should work on your blog and on your link-building campaign, and start putting your brand in the front, in an attempt to avoid being penalized by the next penguin update.
Things to implement now to avoid a Penguin penalty:
Here are few things we can do today to ensure a safeguard against the next update:
A Penguin penalty is mostly related to links and anchor text. This includes external links from your site, incoming link quality and anchor text variation. There may be other signals, but links are the major reason for penalties.
You should also consider making your site Panda proof, because the update will also include signals from the Panda algo, and any of them could be the culprit for your site’s ranking drop.
Paid posts are a very useful way to monetize your blog, but Google is against link selling with the intent to pass link juice. If you have sold the paid post first with SEO-optimized linkbacks, go ahead and remove the link, or update the link to make it natural. You can also use a nofollow link if you have excessively linked out.
Another thing you can do is to add a few quality links (link from Wiki or other useful quality content), and add a few interlinks, which will dilute the paid link and bring it back to a normal link.
Tips for blogs allowing guest posting:
I have discussed this many times and I will repeat it again here: most blogs offering guest posting are more likely to be penalized, because most offer backlinks with anchor text. Addtionally, many times these blogs offer links to irrelevant domains. Imagine, how a link to a pet shop looks in an SEO blog? Moreover, if the links are anchor text optimized, they will have a negative effect on your blog’s SEO.
For these reasons, it’s time to check all of the guest posts published on your site, and begin making changes to the links.
- Remove/edit anchor text optimized backlinks
- Keep it natural
- Make sure links pointing out are relevant to your domain or at least to the article
If you are still not sure why you should make changes, read my previously published guide on how outbound links help to improve optimization.
Free product for anchor text links:
How many times have you released a theme or plugin trying to get lots of exact anchor text backlinks? The problem with this is that you may end up getting thousands of anchor text links as well as a penalization of your site! WPMU and QuickOnlineTips are two blogs that became victims of this very type of anchor text spam.
So — update your free theme or plugin, and add nofollow tags to links. Changing your keyword variation may be helpful as well.
Anchor text variation:
If you are wondering what anchor text variation is, you can read about Anchor text, and this will allow you to discover how important anchor text is for SEO. Anchor text helps to improve search engine ranking and helps search engine bots to understand what the keywords are for particular posts.
Once this became clear, many webmasters and internet marketers started to abuse the system either by buying paid links, or by guest posting using many of the same anchor text links, which will again put them in line for a Penguin penalty.
Go to Ahrefs and check the anchor text variation for your domain. If you or your SEO person have generated exact anchor text backlinks to your page, it’s time for you to roll up your sleeves and start working on this issue in order to avoid penalty.
- Make a list of pages from which you are getting maximum SEO optimized links.
- Drop an email to the admin/webmaster of these pages to change the anchor text. Use variations like plurals, brand names, or non-money links.
- If you still have too many exact anchor text links pointing to your site, start working on a new link-building campaign. Create new links with anchor text variations via guest posting, blog commenting or any other method you like to use.
Avoid link farm and paid links:
I’m going to repeat this again: Google has made it official that they are against paid links and private blog networks.
Many bloggers still fall for those $5 Fiverr backlinks or paid link services offered by forums. Google will identify the footprint for these types of links, and your domain will be penalized. It’s that simple. (And honestly – do you really expect high quality links for $5?)
If you have to build links, use legitimate and Google-safe ways to build them. Try guest posting, or even submitting high quality articles to directories. Create high-quality infographics or do case studies and grab natural links. The idea is to keep your link profile natural and not manipulative.
Site-wide links and internal links:
We often use site-wide links to key posts at the footer of the blog or on the sidebar, with exact matching anchor text, which could be one major reason for penalties. Google doesn’t hate SEO, but overly optimized SEO sites are the first ones to be affected by future Penguin updates. If you have been using this practice (when it used to work), it’s time to update your blog with the latest algo, and avoid such practices.
Also, while internal links are very useful, you must vary your anchor text while linking. You may not want to link all “SEO” words to one article targeting SEO keywords in the post. Keep it natural and meaningful, as this will not only be appreciated by users but also by bots. If you are using plugins like SEO Smart Links, which is actually useful, make sure to use plugins like WordPress Insights for adding manual links as well.
Keyword density :
On-page optimization is important, and I use the EasyWPSEO plugin to help me with optimization. Remember, though – if you are overdoing SEO optimization with keyword density and keyword stuffing, you are more likely to get penalized. Maintain a decent keyword density (1-2%) along with related keywords. Avoid, avoid, avoid over-optimization at any cost.
Integrate known Google signals
Over time, Google has officially announced some of the signals they consider for ranking. It’s time to implement them into your site, which will not only help in avoiding a Penguin penalty, but will also help in improving ranking.
- Improve site loading speed
- Implement Google authorship
- Avoid too many ads
- Improve readability
- Create a branded blog
- Avoid thin content
- Improve the user experience on your site
Finally, never rely only on search engines for traffic. Organic traffic is important, but expecting your business to run on only one form of traffic could be a very poor decision for the health of your website. Implement subscription options for your blog and work on things like video Blogging, developing your email list, and growing your blog via community building.
There are many actions you can take to improve your site, but for now, if your concern is the next Penguin update, it’s time to start working on a plan to make positive and constructive changes for your site.
If, despite your efforts, you still get hit by the next update, refer to our Penguin Recovery Guide.
Let me know what steps you are taking to work on avoiding Penguin penalties in the comments section below.