The mighty Google has been working hard behind the scenes in recent years and as part of its fight against increasing numbers of ‘spam’ websites in the organic search engine results, it has tweaked its algorithms in the form of several key ‘updates’—most notably Panda and Penguin. As a result of Penguin and Panda (don’t let the cute names lull you into a false sense of security as there is nothing cute about either of them), the face of SEO has changed forever and if you want your website to achieve its potential, you need to rethink your SEO strategies: what worked a few years ago is no longer relevant in today’s tough climate and webmasters are being forced to adapt to the changes, or go under.
Penguin is the most recent major update rolled out by Google and over the course of a few days in May, thousands of webmasters saw their rankings slashed and their sites catapulted into the sandbox of doom. In some cases it was no bad thing (a lot of spammy sites were quite rightly obliterated), but many innocent white hat webmasters were left wondering what on earth they had done to offend Google.
What was Penguin all about?
Whereas the Panda update was primarily about content and on-page SEO (sites with thin content and no value to users were penalised heavily), Penguin was about off-page SEO strategies and, more specifically, links to a site. The Penguin update smacks down websites that had been over optimised and were heavily reliant on keyword anchor text whereas aged domains with more varied and natural back links fared far better. But even if you were hit, the good news is that you can fight Penguin and build a better site as a result!
Post-Penguin SEO tips
Build great links – having a poor link profile is the best way to see your website rank badly. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but it is usually the end result of webmasters failing to understand the value of ‘trust’ in establishing good SERPS results. Users want to link to good websites and if you have a useful website with interesting content, over time back links develop naturally. Good links come from well-respected websites with valuable content or a well-known brand. Bad links take users to spam sites or websites with no relevance to yours.
Build plenty of variety in your links – the more links you have the better, but if your link profile is comprised of 98% forum posts and 2% blog comments, Google will devalue your site and consider it less important than others in the same niche. Look at links by type and try and build a good variety of links slowly and naturally. Useful links include quality directory listings, authority links from well-respected sites in the same niche, links to .edu sites, or similar. The value of social media links (Facebook ‘likes’, Twitter, etc.) is also becoming increasingly important as Google places a greater emphasis on ‘trust’.
Look at your link anchor text – when a user links to your site naturally, he or she is likely to use the domain name as the anchor text, ‘click here’, or similar. They are less likely to use exact keyword matches to anchor a link. Too many exact keyword anchor texts in your links could be catastrophic, so be very careful when building new links.
Make sure your website is useful and relevant!
Although Penguin is more about off-page SEO rather than content, the importance of user experience should never be overlooked. Good websites full of relevant, interesting and original content will attract repeat visitors and lots of Google love as a result. Obviously if your website is basically a brochure for your business it can sometimes be difficult to make a boring subject fascinating, but beware of creating websites with too many pages of thin content—over time it will damage your SEO strategies and undermine any effort you make to improve search engine rankings and attract new customers.
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