Penguin 2.0 was released on 22nd May 2013 and affected 2.3% of English queries. Below are some initial observations and notes on Penguin 2.0 …
And, as I said previously – a lot of the new mumbo jumbo does not apply to the very small micro-niches that Google’s algorithm has not (yet) targeted. Micro-niches where old school SEO are still commonplace and are in fact thriving. I am still seeing many of my clients holding ranks for these very small and obscure niches. However, do note that these niches exist in millions of variety and follow a “The Long Tail” phenomena.
The most important first step you can take if your website has been hit is to stay calm and composed. This is difficult – but a requirement if you want to recover. So, get a grip of yourself and get ready to face the challenge that lies ahead.
Penguin 2.0 – Do’s and Don’ts
The Partial Match Domain (PMD) Update
On June 26th it looks as though Google released an update that hit out on PMDs. You can read more about it here…
Here’s the Top Items You need to focus on immediately
Long Term – High Quality SEO
If you are making authority sites for the long term, then this is what you need to focus on…
Factors that Penguin2.0 and beyond will be tightening down on…
Tiered Link Building – In a recent video Matt Cutts has said that Google is going more upstream with the way it handles webspam. This is directly referencing Tiered link building such as with Link Pyramid structures. If you have been doing this – its time to change your strategy.
Here is the video – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQmQeKU25zg
Disavow Tool – There has been a lot of discussion on the topic of weather one should file a disavow request or not. While there are pros and cons – my suggestion is that you really have no option if your site has been hit.
The big question with the Penguin 2.0 update is that – is Google going to use the data of bad link pages submitted by hundreds of thousands of webmasters. Will they integrate this into the Penguin 2.0 update?
Anchor Ratios – The original instance of Penguin focused heavily around the % of exact match anchors a domain had in its backlink profile. Too many links for 1 specific anchor text meant that you were very likely to be considered as “over optimised”. Likewise too much optimised anchor text Vs not enough branded anchor text meant bye bye rankings.
Authority Sites – You need to become a part of the authority sites in your niche. This is very difficult to do for new sites, but if you persist and network with the leaders and participate with insightful comments on their blogs – they will reciprocate and recognize you at some point IF you have good comments and insights. You can then strengthen the relationship with them. Make sure your site has fantastic content related to the niche.
Link Velocity – You need to make sure that you build links at a steady pace. Having fits of blasting mass domain 301 redirects overnight and then taking it easy for 2 weeks is a sure signal and red flag to Google. Google has become even tighter at spotting an “unnatural” link velocity spike. A completely natural looking link velocity graph would be steady and reasonably consistent.
Social Signals – On the face of it, social signals seem like the obvious next step for SEO. A Facebook like or a Twitter tweet would be the upmost endorsement a site receives from its readers. It reinforces the fact that the person reading the content has been impressed enough to put their own name behind it and recommend it to their friends.
However, there are some industries where social signals just aren’t very forthcoming. Most B2B websites being a prime example. Other examples would be smaller niche sites that really don’t have much “social buzz” around them as the products are not really “hot products” worth sharing. For example – “deer fences” for farmers.
So, you need to look at your niche and decide if a Social Signals boost is really something you should be doing. Another way to also determine this would be to look at your competitors who are holding the top ranks after penguin 2.0 and see if there is a trend to have social signals.
Guest Blogging – There is no doubt that Guest Blogging is THE most important method to get quality editorial links. It IS working even after Penguin 2.0. In fact it is working so well that bloggers are getting bombarded with dozens of emails a day asking if they accept guest posts.
Social Signals – They key take home here is that you need to stop buying a bunch of social signals for five bucks on Fiverr. Google realizes that it can be gamed. So, they are probably looking at real Social Signals in your profile from influential bloggers. If someone with a powerful network of 200 influential (and real) people shares your post, that will carry more weight in Google’s algorithm than a share by someone with a network of 2,000 bots and spam purveyors.
If you are Guest Posting actively – Google will also check to see if you are sharing your own Guest Posts with your audience… because if you write junk posts – the chances are higher that you wont share them in your own social circle connections. You need to start networking with influencers in your niche who have a large social following.
You should also message all of the authors who are in your space with popular social followings. When you write a great guest post, ping them to see if they will tweet about it. It’s much easier to get them to tweet or like your post than it is to get them to link to it.
Author Rank – Author Rank allows Google to see where all you post and publish your content online. It is a way for Google to keep tab on your contribution in the niche topic around the web. So, if you keep writing great content – Google will eventually place a lot more weight on your content … irrespective of which site you write and post on.
On the flip side – if you keep pushing out crappy posts and content, they will track it and devalue any links in these posts. It wont matter any more if you post on a top authority site like New York Times or a relatively smaller blog. They will just devalue anything you post and link to – if they get to know that your primary motive for the guest post is for the link and not to put awesome content out there.
Devaluing Links – Links from your author bio aren’t as effective as they used to be. Google is getting to be a bit picky on which links will carry more and less weight. Don’t push out an money keyword anchor link in the first paragraph of your guest post. Google is also aware that you can buy guest posts and links – so dont go for easy short cut link building methods and focus on providing more value. Don’t just take the same infographic and push it out to multiple sites – focus on combining infographics with good content.
Devaluing Sites – When you write great posts and you link out to authority sites in your post, then Google ads more trust to yoru post and the link juice it carries when you link to your site in that post. Make sure you link out to these authority sites to pages that carry a lot of value for your readers and the links are not just random links. Make sure you don’t push out spammy links in your posts. You CAN, if it makes sense, link out to your competitor. Also, make sure that when you choose a blog to guest post on – it has rich content that does not look spammy and like a content farm. The content has to be related to your niche.
Co-Citations – It is not necessary for you to get a link back to your site within every Guest post you do. It is not natural looking. It is very common to see top authority sites talking about a specific site and not really linking to it -but just mentinoing the domain name or brand name of the site without hot linking the keyword. So, don’t always try to go in for getting a link back. A “mention” is good and Google sees this. More so, a healthy fraction of say 20% to 30% mentions across all your editorial contents is just fine and looks natural.
Here’s a great guide to Guest Blogging for Businesses –
Top 5 On-site and Off-site Signals on Sites That Got Hit –
The patterns that stand out consistently in regard to what’s wrong can be summed up in five words.
All these signals matter. But, if you are weak in one, you can compensate for it by tightening the other signals. If you want to learn more on how you should be balancing these signals, you can read the full post here…
Insider Tip: Focus on generating Links and Social Profiles that have “Activity”
Make sure that you pages with your backlinks have “activity” on them if you want to get maximum link juice and rank movements from the backlinks. If you make sure this step is done – it will multiply the speed at which your ranks move upwards. Every effort you make will give you a better movement in rankings because Google will begin to trust your site more and more.
To do this you need…
Comments & Insights from Online SEO Communities
These comments are extracted from blog posts on various top SEO communities and forums online like TrafficPlanet, BlackHatWorld, WarriorForum, LinkResearchTools etc. This is an extraction of the meaty stuff that was significant and related to the Penguin 2.0 update, to help us understand the update better. Since different people report their individual real experiences it will help us reverse engineer and come to specific new conclusions as well as strengthen our past understanding.
301’ing of Sites – Penalties were said not to pass via 301 redirects in the past – did that change with Penguin 2.0?
301’ing domains, that already have PR and inbound links, to pass new link juice to sites being targeted for rankings was used for a while to get rid of penalties, and it looks like if that change it would open up a whole new can of worms for negative SEO.
But, without spending more hours diving into this for you, I can tell you that the redirecting sites don’t look healthy or natural at all.
And for like seven years now it was the “best-practice” to 301-redirect domains or pages that received a penalty or got filtered, simply because Google “forgot” about the penalty and just passed on the Juice.
It looks like… “NOT SO ANYMORE!”
Now if you have a website with a penalty and you setup a new site and simply do a 301 redirect from the site with a penalty to the new site – the penalty WILL pass down to the new site!
This is potentially opening up a whole new way to do Negative SEO. By simply redirecting several sites with a penalty to a competitor you can effectively get the competitors site hit!
However, I am sure Google has put in a “date stamp filter” and the negative juice is carried out only on domains that did the 301 redirect BEFORE this update and will not apply if done after the date. This will protect sites from being slammed by people doing Negative SEO.
Compound Words – The linked phrase “DoubleYourDating – The Best Pickup Lines” is what we call a compound keyword, where brand and money keyword are combined. This method to combine money and brand phrases became popular a while ago, but frankly, this doesn’t look to natural to me either. It will probably be less effective in the future.
Guest Posts – With the guest posts, the problem is that many “made for guest posts” sites exist, just as many “made for paid blog links” sites exist, and these artificially built up networks don’t have any future or value in Google – especially if they talk furniture in one post, loans, dating and gambling in the next ones. Interesting aspect for those is that of course with Authorship-ID launched by Google they will be even more capable to weed out the crappy ones.
Inner-Pages vs Homepage – One of the things Penguin 2.0 purportedly targeted was inner pages (compared to the original Penguin update that focused more on homepages alone). My guess is your inner pages for whatever reason did not pass the quality guidelines Penguin 2.0 was looking for and rankings dropped accordingly.
Links win, always have, always will – Think a few hundred quality rather than tens of thousands of rubbish links.
If you think that “playing by Google’s rules” will protect you then you will come seriously unstuck – I’m not saying don’t follow ‘whitehat’ philosophy – that’s your business choice and prerogative… But expecting them to leave you alone because of that could drop you in the slop! All Keywords that had links built with Keyword in the anchor text took a dive – some big and some not so much. Sites that went up – branded keyword anchor text.
I think cheap private blog network is the main culprit. My first analysis shows that many thin sites, sites with thin links and especially un-trusted links face the problem. In addition, some small business sites were hit because they haven’t taken SEO serious enough.
Link Networks – It’s very tempting to buy into a link network, or to create your own network of niche sites. Many people do it by buying expired domains, or by finding established networks and joining. This may work for a time, but eventually some of these ratios will be triggered, and the network will be found. Once you catch the tail of a network, exposing the rest is fairly easy.
Google recently took manual action on several thousand link sellers. These sites likely received a manual penalty for linking out in unnatural ways.
Network builders try hard, but there are always footprints left to find, and with the sophistication of Google’s algorithms, you better believe the network will be identified and penalized.
Don’t Buy Links! Buying links worked for years, but Google knows this is a weakness in their algorithm. By using Penguin with a combination of manual reviews, they are now able to penalize sites that are buying links. You may buy links and get away with it for a time, but eventually it’s possible that your link buying may trigger a penalty, causing your site to tank in the rankings.
Money Keyword Links – Keep an eye on the numbers and percentage of TOTAL Money Keywords in your anchor profile. It’s not enough to just watch your anchor density—you also have to watch the percentage of money terms in your anchor text. Study other competitors that have healthy, natural link profiles and emulate them. Or, better yet, follow their same tactics to acquire natural links with natural anchor text.
The problem with any grey hat stuff in general is… You are walking uphill towards a cliff and you never know which step is one step too much. Especially if the cliff itself moves backwards
Losers: Penguin 2.0
Penguin 2.0 Losers: Porn Sites, Game Sites, & Big Brands Like Dish.com & The Salvation Army.
The column on the far right shows how much “SEO Visibility” each website has lost — at least for the keywords that SearchMetrics tracks. This doesn’t necessarily mean that these websites are all seeing dramatic traffic losses, because they might still have high visibility for keywords that aren’t being tracked. That said, in the couple years that we’ve been reporting on the Penguin and Panda updates, lists from SearchMetrics and a couple other SEO software companies have generally been considered mostly accurate.
In his blog post, SearchMetrics founder Marcus Tober says the impact from this latest Penguin update is smaller than he expected…
“It’s not the update I was expecting. I thought that this Google Penguin update would have had a bigger impact similar to Panda 1. But that didn’t happen. My first analysis shows that many thin sites, sites with thin links and especially untrusted links face the problem. In addition, some small business sites were hit because they haven’t taken SEO serious enough.”
More Comments from around the Web…
Loser: low-quality, spammy content – It appears that this update has mostly targeted lower-quality content deep in the SERP, making room for higher-quality content to enter into the top 100.
Winner: higher-quality content and big brands – Even though average rankings have fallen for brand-name sites, this is only a side effect of pulling more keywords into the top 100. Overall, their search visibility has increased.
Winner: Google – With the growth of blended universal results and other knowledge graph results, Google’s own products have claimed yet more real estate in the SERP.
Sitewide Links – Not all sitewide links hurt you, they are a normal way of the web if you imagine blogroll links. However the combination of sitewide links and a low quality linking domain is a bad one when it comes to SEO.
A Random Comment – I’ve always struggled with anchor text as a signal, it just isn’t natural at all for a site to have lots of commercial anchor text in their link profile, yet Google value it so highly. Anyway… this is one of the easiest ways Google can deem your website to be over-optimised. As with the previous point on sitewide links, I’d advise a bit of caution because having commercial anchor text isn’t neccessarily a bad thing. But having way too much of it or having it coming from lots of low quality websites is.
How Google Finds Affiliate Sites vs Original?
I’ll just paste example from the pdf shared above. To help determine if a page is a thin affiliate, you can do the following:
Look for original content on the page. The quality of an affiliate page or site depends on how much added value, usefulness, or original /additional information is available on the page that is not easily available elsewhere on the web. If the page has the same “cookie-cutter” text or functionality found on dozens or hundreds of other sites, it is more likely to be spam.
Look at the domain registrants. If clicking a button takes you to another page, check to see “whois” the registrant (or owner) of the two domains. If the registrant is the same, the page is typically not a thin affiliate. Please follow the instructions for checking “whois”
Recognizing True Merchants – Features that will help you determine if a website is a true merchant include:
BlackHat a long term strategy?
One of the reasons why so many sites have gone belly-up is because they depended upon black-hat strategies. Black-hat strategies sometimes work, but they only work for a short time. In time, the algorithm catches up, and the site goes kaput. Your site first has to be recrawled and reindexed before it will regain rankings. This process could take several months.
The Biggest Secret of Penguin 2.0 (for Blackhatters only)
Try to spin as much as possible and keep it readable! Of course duplicate content is not everything. While creating your links you should watch for anchor diversity – so don’t just spam 2 words like ‘payday loans’ everywhere, do not get too many sitewide links [so skip footers, blogrolls etc] and try to get links on sites close to your niche. By try… I mean try. If you see opportunity to get PR6 links from any site – even in .cc domain – go and get it. Even if its about pianists in Korea. Trust Rank matters the most. Please don’t make only dofollow links, google DOES go through Nofollow and if your site has too many dofollows compared to nofollow – it doesnt look good or natural.
Rule 1: Do Not Take Out Natural Sites or Their Link Value
This right here is Googles biggest nuisance. How can you tell a good natural site vs. a link farm? They have to literally create a algorithm for this.
This is essentially why Google has SUCH a hard time with blog networks. If done right, there is nothing that separates them from natural sites.
So until Google does a manual review, this form of linking is pretty much unstoppable especially when it comes to private networks. If Google went out there and nailed every site with PR that linked to a few different sites they would essentially destroy its entire ranking infrastructure.
This is why they INSTEAD go after huge blog advertised networks. Think about it, what is a better way to use their time.
Of course (a)
Like with its filters, Google has to operate in “machete surgery” and take out problems in large generalized chunks.
Private networks have WAY too much in common with natural sites to be safely targeted in mass by Google. Because of that, their next biggest solution is knocking out the big networks.
Solution To Using This To Your Advantage: Use only private non advertised networks or your own. End of story. Even if Google finds a way to target these, people will just make them look more natural.
Some people have said that – facebook fan pages are ranking after penguin2.0 and even that slideshare is hot as never before!
I get a lot of inventory from TLA so that might be one of the networks that Google is targeting. TLA does have a small number of sites with “contextual” non-blogroll links. It’s more of a “citation” box for a page, and I’ve purchased links there with great success for a while. Some of these even got hit though. It’s a better bang-for-the buck than blogrolls any day and I will still purchase these without flinching. It looks totally real, and is fairly RCS. I have a site that is using heavy text link ads links that seems to have gone like 200+ places down or something for some major keywords. Still getting long tail traffic though.
This is a great post on how to do Negative SEO the right way 0 in case you ever need to do this “ethically” to push out a site that is leaving bad comments about your site (specifically for Online Reputation Management – ORM).
Please do not use this technique to do bad things, you will gain a lot of negative Karma if you do. Here’s how its done…
Data from the Disavow Tool
A question we can all ask ourselves is that is Penguin 2 acting on the data of the disavow submissions? Since Google opened up the Disavow Tool almost 6 months ago, they could be now factoring this manually submitted data into their dataset.
Recovery On The Date of the Penguin 2.0 Update?
We have seen many sites that made an effort to recover from a penalty since Penguin 1.0 was released – suddenly gain traction and recover wholly or partially right when Penguin 2.0 was released.
Penguin 2.0 is hitting out on sites with heavy Directory Links
One of my sites got hit, it’s been up since 1998. Always been on the first page sometimes top or bottom of the page over the years. Over the past 10 years I acquired quite a bit of directory links and other type links but I never paid for them. Last week my homepage is now somewhere in 10+ pages back in the listings. So I went back and looked at all my links and I found out I have tons of back links from directories with the same key phrase around 200 domains. They are all old links. So it loos like 2.0 went after all these old links and instead of just ignoring them or devaluing them they penalized me for them in 2.0.
How do I know this, my other site has a similar link profile but does not have many directory links if any? And it improved in the rankings? So logically if I remove all of the directory links I should recover as most of my inner pages are OK. There is no other reason I could find for the penalty.
The best directories use little text to describe a business they have listed. Spread across thousands of pages, this is pretty thin and would flop the relevancy test as the link to text ratio is very high. I only know of a handful of directories that have editors who actually write and do it well. This is where I advise clients to spend their money and not with the supposed best directories. Directories with more thorough descriptions and less duplicate content appear to still carry some weight with Google and are less likely to trip any filter in the future. The only problem is that these types of directories are few and far between.
When I think about this from these directory owners standpoint I find it interesting. Google is in effect destroying these small directories. That has to viewed as infringement on business. What if the cell phones companies said hey you have to get rid of your A T & T land line or you pay a higher price. Very similar situation. Google is saying website owner get rid of the link to that directory or you wont rank as high with us. There may come a day when website owners will organize together and build stand alone Google specific websites and then within minutes the website owners could just remove the sites at will and cripple Google results. All the results would just be Amazon, Ebay, spam and dead links.
Affiliate Links Becoming Toxic
If you have an Affiliate Program in place and you believe a lot of backlinks coming in are from people abusing your program then you need to fix things so the negative juice does not flow down to your sites pages. The best way to do this is to setup a subdomain on your main site like affiliate.sitename.com and then 301 redirect (after dropping a cookie into the browser) all the affiliate links of the type sitename.com/affid?=xyz to affiliate.sitename.com/page1.affid?=xyz and simulataneously disallow google from going any further via a robots.txt file and you can create a visible link (nofollow for Google) for surfers to jump back to your main domain site.
Tuning up Your Website
Improving on-site factors like bounce rate, time spent on site, better site design, site content, adding Trust Seals, aiming for better on-page conversions etc. all also all proven methods to increase the chances of Google revoking the penalty on your site.