It is now widely known in the SEO industry that even if you’re strictly using white hat techniques, you can still be dealt with Google Penguin Update’s high kick. After all, following Google’s Webmaster Guidelines on SEO isn’t a guarantee that what you’re providing on your website is relevant to the keyword or niche that you’re trying to rank in, and surely you know by now that the search engine is all about relevance and value. So naturally, Google’s hackles will be raised by spamming and what they consider as red flags for rank and link manipulation. SEO is still highly important, but at present, you’ll need to turn your attention to the home base and make sure things are okay on that front because right now, what matters more is not how many websites you get to link with and how many keywords you rank in through SEO, but rather the quality of those links and the genuineness of how you achieved your page rank. This brings us to these three ultimate tips for surviving the Google Penguin update: improving your link profile, versatility in keywords, and a good website structure.
“Google hates spam”; repeat this mantra over and over again, and you might just refrain from doing the thing for your own website’s benefit.
Let’s face it, there’s no website today that hasn’t done a bit of spamming or link manipulation, either intentionally or not. Even an innocent blog comment may not be so innocent at all. But with the effectiveness of the Google Panda Update, even the backlinks that some websites earned in honest ways can still get axed.
Recall that Matt Cutts specifically said the Penguin is a “webspam algorithm update” and will target any hints of black hat or SEO spam. Since linking is heavily involved in search engine optimization, the algorithm will turn its beady little eyes on the link profile of a website.
Check your own link profile and clean out backlinks that are involved with one (or both!) of these two very vivid red flags: targeted or keyword-specific anchor texts and low-quality link sources.
Many SEO bloggers have given out tips like the following:
- Request lower-ranking websites to remove backlinks leading to your site
- Stop all link spamming activities
- Remove all backlinks gathered through link spamming activities
- Avoid using keyword-specific anchor texts
- Make sure anchor texts fit in naturally and are in perfect grammar sync with the sentence it goes with
All these activities are considered excessive or over-optimization. If the goal is to keep SERP quality as high as possible, then the results should be genuine—that the websites appear on the SERPs because they provide relevant and valuable information for the user.
That goal won’t be achieved if the websites that make it to the first SERPs are there only because of SEO.
The first three tips are logical and were the automatic response of most webmasters after the first wave of the Google Penguin Update was released. The latter two though are more difficult to avoid.
Matt Cutts had it right when he said that the term, “over-optimization” makes the line between white hat SEO and rank manipulation very vague. The matter with anchor texts falls here.
Using keywords as anchor texts is still necessary for any website to maximize its backlinks. Just do the following concessions though:
- Use only natural-sounding keywords
- Use only grammatically correct key phrases
- Use varied keywords and don’t overuse them (even use ‘click here’)
- Keep “money” keywords at a minimum
- Use even the URL of a page as a backlink
The recommendation of having a threshold of 60% or lower is the result of a statistical study at Search Engine Watch (“Google Penguin Update: Impact of Anchor Text Diversity & Link Relevancy”).
Websites that used “money” keywords on 65% or more of their inbound links were penalized by the Google Penguin Update.
There are many free online tools that you can use to analyze your anchor texts and links. There’s Open Site Explorer and Majestic SEO, for example.
Here’s another one that will give you a more detailed analysis of your links – the Link Detective. To use this online tool, download a CSV report on your link profile (if you run your website on Open Site Explorer, you can get a report for free). Upload the file into the Link Detective and you will get pie graphs of the following link analysis:
- Live vs. Dead
- Link Type (Known or Unknown)
- Followed vs. No-Followed
- Links by Type and Links by Anchor Text
This tool will give you an overview of how much work you need to do to clean up your link profile. You already know what a good link is, and what makes Google Penguin twitch (ex: too many links from directories and links lists).
Find out if your website is leaning more toward becoming a Penguin target and do something about it ASAP.
Once the link profile is clean, double-check how your website is structured. Create a sitemap, if you don’t have one yet so that you can see how your pages are supposed to be linked with each other.
The bigger purpose here is to make sure that your pages are crawled by Google. Your efforts in making your link profile as Penguin-friendly as possible and re-adjusting your website optimization strategies will be useless if your website won’t be indexed.
Here’s a tip: move the more important pages—the ones with the higher link authority – higher up your website’s crawl path. Use your sitemap to plan this.
Also, take the opportunity to check your on-page SEO and do the following:
- Remove anchor texts and links that are unnatural
- Evenly distribute keywords all over the page
- Use at most two keywords in the title tags
- Remove pages with thin or duplicate content
- Lower your site’s loading time
Staying friendly with Google Penguin Update basically boils down to these two concerns. If you have a very good link profile and your website is easy to crawl, you can easily pass the standards of Google Penguin Update.