The Google Penguin update, much like its predecessor Panda, sent shockwaves around the Internet when it went live on April 24th. A lot of sites were impacted by this update and many are still struggling to recover. If you were lucky enough to avoid penalty (luckier still if you actually benefitted!) don't assume that your site is the clear forever more. Much like Panda had over a dozen subsequent tweaks, I believe that this isn't the last wave heard from Penguin.
In order to make sure your website isn't hurt by future Penguin updates, here are four things you should do with your SEO starting now:
1. Do A Full Link Audit Right Away
Penguin really impacted sites that had low-quality link portfolios, so you need to take a look under the hood of your own link portfolio and see what you are working with. Although it can be very time consuming, and definitely isn't the most glamorous SEO task you'll ever do, its critical to visit as many individual links as possible during the link audit. No matter how much or how little active link building you've been doing, know that other sites will naturally link to yours with time. Here are a few things to look out for during your link audit that might get your in trouble with future Penguin updates:
- Links from unrelated sites.
- Links in bad neighborhoods.
- Site-wide links (like being in the side level navigation of a directory) that produce thousands of links from one domain.
- Hidden links.
- Links buried in unrelated content.
- Percentage of no follow vs. do follow links (there should be a natural balance).
Keep in mind that unlike any other backlink tool, Google has the ability to crawl the ENTIRE Internet in just a few hours. This means they can find and follow every single inbound link that leads to your website. A few bad links shouldn't do much harm to your site, Google know we cant control every single inbound link, but if you see a lot of these kind of spammy links popping up in your link portfolio its time to rethink your link building strategy before Penguin 2.0 comes around.
2. Randomize Your Anchor Text
Most of the SEO community agrees that over use of exact match and keyword heavy anchor text was a big cause for Penguin penalties in a lot of sites.
You really want to move away from exact match anchor text and focus on using branded keywords more frequently for your link building. If you are going to use non-branded anchor text, be sure to vary it as much as possible.
Yes, you may want to rank well for small business IT services and that may be the most appropriate keyword for you to target, but incorporate a dozen versions of that anchor text into you link building and content to protect yourself and your site from future Penguin updates.
The key is for your anchor text to appear as natural as possible. To me, it seems like Penguin has little tolerance for black, or even grey, hat SEO.
3. Stop Any And All Link Schemes Right Now
You shouldn't have been doing link schemes in the first place (Google flat out forbids them in the Webmaster Guidelines), but if you've been getting away with it for a while now just stop.
Link exchanges and link networks are only going to land your site in hot water. That page you have of resources that just links to random other sites – get rid of it.
Before you place an outbound link on your site ask yourself, is this really going to help a visitor to my site? Am I willing to give traffic to this site and risk losing potential customers because of it?
There is nothing wrong with linking to partner companies or actual resources, but make sure there is real value in those outbound links. You should also pull any paid links you have on unrelated or low-quality websites; they aren't worth it. Anything that looks unnatural to the search engines is going to get your site in trouble eventually. Its best to stay as far away from that line in the sand as possible.
4. Invest In Other Sources Of Traffic
This might sound crazy coming from an SEO professional, but you should treat your SEO like there was no Google.
If the search engines didn't exist, what other avenues would people use to find your website? The less reliant you are on Google for your traffic the more stable your website will be in the long run.
Think about it like this; even if your site only felt the residual effects of Penguin you could still lose 20% of your traffic from the search engines. Can your business survive without that 20%? If all of your visitors are coming from the search engines even minor blows can have big repercussions. The more diversified your traffic sources the more protected you'll be from future Penguin updates.