Beware of the Penguins (Update)

Gyi Tsakalakis
May 7, 2012

Remember these commercials?

Well it looks like Penguins are once again on many people's minds. That's because of Google's recent webspam update, that has been adorably dubbed Penguin.

So What Is It?

From the horse's mouth:

In the next few days, we’re launching an important algorithm change targeted at webspam. The change will decrease rankings for sites that we believe are violating Google’s existing quality guidelines. We’ve always targeted webspam 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.

In case you haven't heard this before, you should focus on creating high quality sites that also create a good user experience.

However, what this might also mean is that some tactics that you might have believed to be white hat, may actually be black hat according to Google. Over at SEOmoz, Dr. Pete provides some details on what he believes are the most likely culprits at risk from Penguin:

Aggressive exact-match anchor text
Overuse of exact-match domains
Low-quality article marketing & blog spam
Keyword stuffing in internal/outbound links

Recovering From Penguin

If you believe you may be a Penguin victim, Danny Sullivan provides some recovery tips over at SearchEngineLand. Which basically boil-down to:

Since this was targeting spam, you need to remove any spam you might have. In some cases, Google may have sent messages to you about spam activity in the past. Messages may even be waiting for you in Google Webmaster Central, if you’ve never verified your account.

Obviously, correct anything that Google has flagged as spam with your site. If nothing’s been flagged — and you’re sure it was Penguin that hit you — then correct whatever you can think of that might be spam-like.

The problem is that if you have been engaging in a variety of off-site spam tactics (like aggressive exact-match anchor text), it may prove to be difficult to "undo" these methods. Many spammy sites that are linking to you may be difficult to contact. Furthermore, before you submit a reconsideration request, you had better be really confident that your site is clean. What you might think is clean and what Google thinks is clean might be two very different things.

However, as Dr. Pete warns, be careful not to overreact. You may end up doing even more damage to your back link profile. On the other hand, you should consider addressing the following:

Known, obvious paid links
Links in networks Google has recently delisted
Footer links with exact-match anchor text
Other site-wide links with exact-match anchors

Not Really Sure?

Think you might be a Penguin victim but aren't really sure? We'd be happy to take a look. Let's schedule a time to talk.

Gyi Tsakalakis
Co-Founder of AttorneySync
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