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Google Penguin Update: Details and Recovery Tips

It’s been more than a year since we all hated Panda. It seems like now it’s time for another animal to be hated by webmasters.

The Google Penguin update is the name of the recent Google algo update which happened a couple of days back. Matt Cutts has confirmed this with his recent tweet.

Like all other updates, this update affected around 3% of search engine results and affected a great number of high-ranking sites.

This is one of those updates (after Google Panda) which created a rage among webmasters.

People affected by this update have already started working on recovery and I have shared some of the working Penguin recovery tips later in this article.

Before I go more into this update, let me tell you that SEO is an integral part of maintaining the quality of a website. SEO is much more than building backlinks. It consists of many other factors like page layout, user experience, page load time, website social signals and more than 200_ other signals.

In short, the idea is to maintain a high-quality site in terms of content and usability. Use the latest technology and keep an eye on important announcements from Google regarding changes.

What is Google Penguin?

Back in Feb 2011, when Google first launched the Panda update, we never thought this would be such a major turning point of SEO. Many things have changed since then. The web is becoming more social.

If you are aware of the recent Google attack on private blog networks, not only did they deindex such websites, they also nulled down the link value.

  • Related Read: 5 Proven Ways To Optimize Your Site After Panda Updates

With the Google Penguin update, Google is targeting sites which fall under the category of “webspam”. This includes over optimized SEO sites, sites using black-hat techniques, keyword stuffing, and sites using link schemes to build backlinks.

Here’s the official announcement post:

In the next few days, we’re launching an important algorithm change targeted at web spam. The change will decrease rankings for sites that we believe are violating Google’s existing quality guidelines. We’ve always targeted web spam in our rankings, and this algorithm represents another improvement in our efforts to reduce webspam and promote high quality content. While we can’t divulge specific signals because we don’t want to give people a way to game our search results and worsen the experience for users, our advice for webmasters is to focus on creating high quality sites that create a good user experience and employ white hat SEO methods instead of engaging in aggressive webspam tactics.

Last year, the Panda update affected 12% of search engine results and this Penguin update has affected 3% of results.

We have seen some major issues with this algorithm update.

Examples:

  • The keyword “Make money online” was taken by a BlogSpot blog with 0 posts.
  • The keyword “Panda recovery” is showing irrelevant results.

WPMU has written a detailed article on this and about negative SEO which you can read here.

Most SEOs are referring to this as a bad SEO update.

According to the report, many quality sites like Geek.com, Cultofmac.com, and Digg.com lost a great amount of their high ranks.

Here are some of the reasons why your site might be affected by this recent Penguin update:

How to recover from Penguin update after traffic drop

First, you need to analyze which algo update slapped your site’s traffic. Check your analytic stats and notice if there is any traffic drop after April 19th, 2012 or April 24th, 2012.

April 19th the Panda data refreshed. April 24th was this recent Penguin update.

If it was after April 24th, it’s high-time you start working on Penguin recovery. (Damn! Penguins used to be such cute, flightless birds).

For April 19th’s traffic drop, you should consider referring to the Panda recovery guide. If your site has been penalized, it could be because one of the reasons mentioned above.

  • Important: Every update adds on to the old signals of previous updates. Don’t just focus on recovering; instead, focus on building a high-quality site.

In particular, on-page optimization has become an essential part of SEO.

I have already shared two guides which will help you to fix major SEO issues on your site and will help in recovering from the Penguin update:

Apart from the above two, here are some additional tips…

Increase Anchor Text Distribution

Most micro-niche sites which got hit by the Penguin update are due to anchor text distribution.

Most internet marketers use proper keywords within anchor text to get quality backlinks. If you have done the same, you should work on increasing the diversity of links.

Try to get links to your pages with different anchor text.

Link Quality

If you have used those services which offer 5000 backlinks for $5, you are more likely to get penalized (if not now, then definitely in the future).

Either you should get rid of such low quality backlinks or you have to work harder on getting high quality links to maintain a decent ratio of good to bad links.

One of the major issues which has been seen in the recent Penguin update:

  • Sites with a good number of high-quality links mixed with spammy links are getting penalized.

For example, Wpmu.org is a niche site for WordPress and it got penalized due to footer anchor text they were getting due to theme distribution.

Another reason for their penalty was the link variation. Many links were coming from non-relevant niches and spam sites.

Create a new link-building campaign and this time the focus should be on getting rid of old low-quality links and gaining new HQ links with the help of quality content, guest posting, and interviews.

Google Webmaster Tool Is Your Friend

The Google Webmaster Tool is an official product from Google.

It lets you analyze your site’s SEO in detail.

Recently, Google has even started sending emails to Webmaster Tool users if there are any issues or changes in your site’s traffic. If there are too many spam links pointing to your site (creating negative SEO), you will get a notification.

Stop Building Unusual Links

This tip is both for link builders and for bloggers who allow guest posting.

I have already talked about the outbound link effect in SEO, which every blogger should know.

Most of us start putting up guest posts on any niche and grab 1-2 quick backlinks. Although those backlinks are not relevant to the blog topic, link builders still get a backlink. According to Google, such links are unusual.

For bloggers who allow guest posting, if you accept irrelevant niche posts, you are diluting the quality of your site. 

You should stop now.

Keyword Density

If you are keyword stuffing, you should stop doing it. Instead, use LSI words.

I prefer to maintain a density of 1.5% max and target long tail keywords which are easier to rank. If your old post is stuffed with keywords, it’s time to re-edit your content and make it genuine. 

Maintain a decent keyword density along with LSI Words. If you are using WordPress, you can use the SEO writing assistant plugin for proper optimization.

While I was analyzing one of my client’s site for Panda’s impact, I realized he had been adding at least 12+ meta keywords and many of them are not even targeted or relevant. This is something very common with old micro-niche sites.

If you are one of those niche marketers whose niche site was badly affected by this update, I highly recommend you make changes in your content.

Avoid Keyword Stuffing

There are a few plugins in WordPress (Income Search Alert, Search Term Tagging 2) which adds the search query result at the end of the post. This results in keyword stuffing.

At some point (if not already), your site will be hit by one of these algorithm updates. Bloggers who are using hidden texts for stuffing, this Penguin update will penalize such sites.

If you have been keyword stuffing, you should improve your content.

Write For Users first and then optimize for searches:

If you have been pushing low quality but on-page optimized articles, you might be the next victim. We have already shared about what high-quality content is from an SEO perspective.

Work on the quality of your articles and make them as informative as possible. Take care of heading tags (H1, H2, H3) and make your content presentable.

Stop SEO Automation

Many people have asked me, and my answer is this:

If you are using some automated ways to optimize your site (ex: “WebPosition Gold”) for sending automatic queries, it violates Google’s TOS and such practices should be avoided.

Go Social

Go social and think social.

If you are working on micro-niche sites and have been penalized by the Penguin update, it’s time to look into the social factor of your site.

If not, it’s time to make a proper strategy and work on building your social network.

If you are still thinking that Google hates SEO or SEO is dead, you are mistaken. Even on this official post, Google has made it clear that white-hat SEO helps in improving the overall quality of the site and is a necessary part of marketing.

The only catch is that you should not over do the SEO. Keep things natural by following quality guidelines and white-hat SEO practices.

I hope this article has helped you to understand the Penguin update and what steps you can take to get your site out of this Penguin penalty.

What do you think about such frequent and major changes in Google’s search engine? Do you think Google is justifying itself with such quick algorithm updates? Let me know in the comments!