Throughout my career as an SEO professional I have gone through many ups and downs largely due to the changing behaviors of search engine algorithms. But despite stiff challenges, I had managed to rank my client websites high up on Google, the foremost search engines. This time, with the launch of Google Panda, followed by the master-stroke Google Penguin, the entire world of search engine optimization however went for a toss and as for me, it took no less than a couple of days to realize and accept the major setback that all my websites received in terms of all time row search page rankings.
Thankfully, after carrying out sedate research work and implementing the feasible solutions on my sites, I started noticing significant surge in their search rankings that otherwise went down to an all time low, just like the share market on a bad day. The positive outcomes inspired me to share the crucial parts of my thorough research work with my readers and here I am with all the tidbits regarding Google Panda and Google Penguin for you to benefit from.
Google: Your Titanic Ship
If you are desirous of popularizing your business, search engines, preferably Google play an eminent role. However, Google is no magical wand that works as per your wish; perhaps it requires you to make persistent endeavors to draw quality backlinks or ‘votes’ so as to win high search engine result pages(SERPs) rankings. In simple language, you can consider Google search engine as the Titanic ship that could help you sail across smoothly on your way towards gaining high ROI but at the same time, it would leave your business sinking in the mid if the search engine tracks the inappropriate SEO techniques you have adopted to satisfy your cause. Hence, it is good to follow the golden rule, ‘The more you use ethical white hat SEO techniques, better are your chances to win high rankings’.
The Basic Difference
Like ideal twins, both the algorithms intended to curb down the growth of fraudulent links on Google in their own respective manner. While Panda’s versions emphasized on reducing the ranks of low quality sites and bringing into limelight the websites that accompanied high quality content, Google Penguin aimed at clipping the wings of websites that go against the Google webmaster’s guidelines by adopting certain unscrupulous black hat SEO techniques.
Google Panda and Penguin
In the greed of attaining prominent rankings, webmasters or the SEO companies on their behalf, almost made it a habit to violate copyrighted material. They copied original content from other sites and blogs to their own sites. None of the online material, whether in text, image or video form was spared from use illegally. All these ways though being black hat SEO techniques helped the unscrupulous sites to gain prominent rankings whereas the original sites were made to bear heavy losses both in terms of rankings and business. Ever since 1998, Google kept on introducing varied algorithms to keep a check on all such flawed activities but they ceased to make any major difference. It was only Feb, 2011 when the search engine came down heavily over the copyright infringers with Google Panda that impacted 11.8% search queries made on Google as was mentioned in a Google’s official blog post dated Feb25, 2011, written by Amit Singhal, a Google Fellow, and Matt Cutts, the Principal Engineer. It further said,
“This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites-sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites-sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.” (1st Image).
Since then Google kept on introducing fresh Panda updates with the most talked about one being Panda 3.5 that was released on April 25th. The latest one to break the ice is Panda 3.8, announced on June25, 2012. Aside these changing Panda algorithms, Google released yet another fresh algorithm with the name of ‘Penguin’ that aimed at curbing the websites leveraging illicit SEO techniques such as cloaking, keyword stuffing, content duplicity and more, with the intention to acquire topnotch search page rankings. I would suggest you to go through these updates and manage your websites accordingly if you too wish to gain prominent Google ranking.
Targeting Spam, Not Over Optimization
One month prior to the announcement of Google Penguin in a panel discussion at SXSW named Dear Google & Bing: Help Me Rank Better!, also attended by Danny Sullivan, Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land and Duane Forrester, Bing’s Senior Product Marketing Manager, Matt Cutts talked about a search ranking penalty for “over SEO’ed” or “over-optimized” websites. He further said, “The new over optimization penalty will be introduced into the search results in the upcoming month or next few weeks. The purpose is to ‘level the playing field’. To give sites that have great content a better shot at ranking above sites that have content that is not as great but do a better job with SEO”.
However on April24th, with the launch of Penguin, Cutts clarified his statement by urging that it is indeed the same update that he talked about but does not refer to the “over-optimization statement” that intended to target SEO. Danny Sullivan writes in its article about his conversation with Matt Cutts where the Distinguished Engineer at Google Inc said, “I think ‘over-optimization’ wasn’t the best description, because it blurred the distinction between white hat SEO and webspam. This change is targeted at webspam, not SEO, and we tried to make that fact more clear in the blog post”.
Link Issues That Affected Websites after Penguin Update
I was almost torn apart with the sudden downfall of my websites’ rankings, without getting any fault of mine. The same situation caused many other SEO professionals to panic throughout the world as well. Evidently, issues with links came out to be among the major reasons behind this sudden drop as I figured out in my researches. It would be worthwhile sharing those link-based factors with you so that you may screw the things if the problems at your end are also somewhat similar.
1. Lack of quality links from relevant sites: While trying to know the exact reason behind slashed rankings of my websites, I came across various articles that indicated lack of incoming links from sites of similar niche as a prominent reason behind this flaw. Penguin values the websites that muster quality backlinks from domains belonging to the same vertical as that of yours. If you want to know about the diversity of your site’s anchor text or the updated information of your profile, then ahrefs and Open Site Explorer are two bankable tools in this regard.
2. Lagging behind in natural links: This is one of the most common problems being encountered by website owners after the inception of Google Penguin; my case was no exception either. Varied factors contributed to this dilemma such as:
- Buying text links with identical anchor text: If you are purchasing links from a website with exactly same anchor texts then beware, as this practice violates Google’s guidelines. The search engine strictly opposes the use of paid links with the sole motive to promote rankings instead of proving valuable for its visitors.
- Spamming in content: Are you using a gibberish user name that is no more than a spam for Google? Do your comment signatures consist of exact match anchor text? If for any or both of these questions you say Yes then believe me, you have a big reason to worry. Google considers these methods as the most undesirable ones as their only intention is to rank the link unnaturally for some pin-pointed keywords.
- Avoid links from forbidden sites: Care not to collect inbound links from websites that accompany continuous pop-ups, harmful malware or spams. They are indeed a big letdown for Search Page rankings. Thankfully, I always kept distance from these links and after the update, I have even become more cautious and would suggest the same for you as well.
- Guest posts: Yet again anchor text comes into play and plays the spoilsport because most of the websites that have been downgraded by Penguin had backlinks from websites that contained low-quality guest posts that had nothing to do with the intended topic.
3. Extensive Use of Money Keyword:
A money keyword is simply the one that helps you make money through high SERPs and people often go to almost any extent in using these keywords in the greed to draw exceptional benefits. After the results of Google penguin depicted a slump in the SERPs for a majority of sites, Microsite Masters conducted a survey that involved the comparison of links having “money” keywords as anchor text with those having words other than main keywords used as anchor text. The results were a bit startling, as most of the affected websites consisted of money keyword for anchor text in over 60% of inbound links which gives way to negative SEO, a strictly prohibited by Google. The moral of the story is to switch over to more meaning words for anchor text that could assure respectable search volume rather than relying heavily on money keywords. The graphical representation below specifies this fact more clearly (image credit by MicrositeMasters): (2nd Image and 3rd Image)
Link Building Tips after Panda/Recovering from Penguin
After encountering so many link issues, it is but likely that you get discouraged to the extent that you drop the idea of regaining the search page rankings. But this is exactly the point where you need to resurrect and encourage yourself to move at the topmost spot of Google SERPs. For sure, Link building is never the same post Google Penguin but you can still prove your mettle and come out victorious. Here are some influential tips that could help you in your craved endeavor:
- Try avoiding anchor links with exact match: This strategy would take you nowhere in rankings, instead could tend Google to penalize you for having multiple links with exact match anchor text. A better ploy would therefore be to focus on links with keywords emphasizing on the brand you want to promote and not on other links that contain non-branded keywords, more help on Impact of Anchor Text Diversity & Link Relevancy.
- Be inconsistent in your link building efforts: Seems awkward but this strategy is more likely to work in your favor. While you are doing link building with a definite monthly budget, it is better not to follow a definite pattern. Google is smart enough to discern the constant growth in your paid links on daily, weekly or monthly basis. Penguin update terms this way of link building as unnatural that is not at all good for your site’s health over the search engine. Hence, try to make things as inconsistent as possible.
- Buy a variety of paid links: If you are relying on paid links for your website’s promotion, be sure to have variety in your selection. I mean, it is good to have links from all sorts of websites whether small, big, with high PR or no PR at all, with nofollow links etc. Links from Twitter, Facebook are also of high significance in this regard.
- How about investing on entire site/blog: If by now you have only purchased links from websites or blogs then for a change, move a bit further and buy an entire website or blog. This particular effort would save you from getting into the black list of Google and alongside, is likely to fetch you extended benefits in comparison to the link purchase.
- Be aware of 404 reports and 302 redirects: Information about 404 reports and 302 redirects is pretty helpful in identifying your internal links, log files etc. Check if all your links are connected to the active pages without going through 302 redirects.