A big reason why many blogs, businesses and websites have suffered from Google's Penguin and Panda updates this year is due to inexperienced, Black Hat, or just plain bad SEOs. If you've paid for these inexperienced, Black Hat or bad SEOs, or are one yourself, you were waiting to be penalised. And now you may have a big mess to tidy up.
Perhaps the Panda and Penguin updates would never have existed if not for bad SEO work, or those "tricks" and techniques used to manipulate the rankings. But a clean-up of Google results was long overdue, even if these updates have provided a few strange results of their own.
Separating the experts from the amateurs in SEO comes down to you doing one thing. Research. Simple research. Of course, no Black Hat or amateur is going to admit they're one, but if you have the right questions to ask, see the results of previous work they have done, and maybe even getting a testimonial or two from the companies they have previously worked with will go a long way to making sure you're working with the right SEO for your site. And certainly avoiding any penalties that bad SEOs and Black Hat techniques are vulnerable to.
Finding A Good SEO
You probably expect the more reputable SEO agencies generally tend to appear on the first page of Google results:
Search Engine Optimisation is one of the most beneficial investments a business can make in today's world. And saying "one of" is probably understating its importance. The benefits SEO can do for your online promotion and ROI is significant. Whilst more and more High Street shops are closing down year-on-year, lots of businesses are flourishing online. If you're a website or business owner who hasn't properly implemented SEO on your site then I have to question the reason of having that site - no-one's going to see it.
SEO gives you the opportunity to drive plenty of free traffic to your website, depending on the success of your strategy and implementation. Bad SEO and no SEO takes away any opportunity of traffic reaching your site organically.
As an employee at a long-existing and successful internet marketing company myself, I am aware of the large number of enquiries we receive asking to get to the top of Google on a bootstrap budget, or to drive thousands of enquiries for pennies. It doesn't happen like that. Those who use to take on the budget clients and outsourced their link building overseas will now, no doubt be suffering due to their poor link building and SEO strategies. Budget SEO and cheap link building does not work. And in the long run, it's costing you a lot more.
When you come to hiring an SEO and/or link building company that's right for your business, try not to let your budget make the decision for you. If your budget is too small, it may be advised to hold off on hiring an SEO company until you can afford a professional, with some successful experience.
What We Believe We Know About The Penguin
Although specific details of Google's algorithm and updates never get revealed, here are a few things we believe the Penguin update is penalising sites for:
Unnatural Links - Google is having a crackdown on those purchasing links, building them on unrelated sites and generally just building low-quality links for the sake of building links.
Little Anchor Text Variation - There's nothing natural about building all of your links targeting the anchor text you're looking to rank for. This needs to be spread out and the majority of your links should be brand name-related.
Over Optimisation - Earlier this year, Matt Cutts said that Google are working on a penalty for "over-optimised" sites. So cut back on your keyword stuffing and other tactics now.
How To Recover From The Penguin
I've read a lot of guff on the internet about how to recover from a Penguin penalty. I've only worked on and fixed a few sites that have been hit by the penalty so it's hard for me to give a definitive answer on what exactly it is that fixed them. But here are a few suggestions:
Make Your Anchor Text Look Natural - You're putting yourself (or your website) at risk by purchasing or forcing unnatural anchor text links in posts or on blog rolls. The safer option will be to make them look natural. There's no harm in it being of low-value anchor text (such as http://yourdomain.com) because at least you're not penalising yourself then.
Dilute Your Anchor Text - Building 90% of your links to one keyword doesn't work anymore. Do that and expect to be penalised. Find variants of your anchor text, link to other parts of your website, and link to your brand name a lot.
Get Quality Links Pointing to Your Website - Don't just build any link these days. Go for the quality ones. If you have a great, genuine product or service to sell then this shouldn't be a problem. If you're an affiliate this will be tougher for you.
De-optimise Your Website - If it's obvious to a user that you're over-pushing a keyword on your website, then it's obvious to Google.
Scale down Internal Links - A problem we found with one of our client's sites was the number of links in their drop down menu which was in the header of every page. We removed this and shortly after their rankings started coming back. Simple changes like removing the large number of internal links on your site appears to make an impact.
Produce Better Content - "Content is King" is the old phrase and it's coming back into fashion again. Google, and no-doubt users alike want to read the best content out there. So make sure you're writing worthy content if you want it to be read.
Get Social - I'm still unsure of how big social is as a factor in Google's rankings just yet, but I've certainly experienced it having a positive effect in the short-term at least. And that's something worthwhile certainly. So add social buttons on your site, get active on Google+, Twitter etc.
7 thoughts on “Why So Many Suffered from Google Penguin Update + How to Recover”
This is inded an exceptionally well written post and informative one about the recent changes in Google which we all now have to revisit our previous strategies and adjust them accordingly. I would just like to point out one fact and that is in fairness to all those guys out there who are getting castegated for how they used to go about seo, they were simply playing by the rules as they existed. It was not their fault that Google allowed this to happen, if they had played the totally ‘white hat’ card I would say that their clients would have been shooting them down saying our competitors are kicking our butts so what are you going to do about it. So I do not think that all is necessarily black and white so to speak. The goal posts have changed and we all have to react to that, the top seo guys will recognise that and change their strategy accordingly the others will fall by the wayside.
“Scale down Internal Links – A problem we found with one of our client’s sites was the number of links in their drop down menu which was in the header of every page”
Probably the problem with “bed” internal links is the same problem Google has with external links: linking with the same ‘money’ keyword over and over and probably not even linking to highly relevant pages for that keyword.
However, having a horizontal nav. bar at the top of your site with drop down submenu items to your main pages is good usability, i.e., you want site user have have access to your main navigation no matter what page they’re on. The last thing you want is people getting lost on your site trying to find their way back to some page or area. A horizontal (or vertical sidebar) with the same links to the same pages on every page helps the user (just search for “best practice website navigation site:.edu” to see current thinking and research about this, thinking and research Google is well aware of). I doubt Google would frown on that.
This is a great post. Thank you for writing it. Many of our clients are small business owners that understand they need their sites to be found but don’t understand the in’s and out’s and complexity of Google. You have summed it up really well here in a way that will make this content easy to share with my clients – thank you.
Solid advice Barrie on how to recover from the Google Penguin update. I love the penguin graphic too, how appropriate! As many have learned the hard way, the wrong kind of SEO can be catastrophic, just asked those penalized by Panda and Penguin. Record numbers of websites were negatively affective by “unnatural links.” Few impacted have fully recovered based on talking with impacted businesses. Without unique quality content that fills an information need and adds values to readers, its very difficult, nearly impossible to get natural, inbound links. Your suggestions on how to recover from the Penguin are right on in our experience. Thanks for sharing.
I’ve linked dozens of pages internally using the same anchor text for backup WordPress as these posts contain php tutorials. Google has penalized me for this because i have a warning on each of these posts to backup before editing php files. Google is using the shotgun method and wiping out quality content because their algorithm is poor quality. The reason they keep on changing it is because they cannot get it right. Because the people who write the algorithm are poor quality
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