Compiling all the suggestions presented by experts in last few days, Barry Schwartz wrote some of his tips for recovery for the recent Penguin Update by Google. This blog post an elaboration of the tips he place of his blog.
The Penguin Penalty Update was made to attack bad sites and level the gaming field for web spams. This is not actually another version of Panda Update. Because Panda is not actually a spam filter, it is rather a priority inbox 🙂 i.e. Panda was introduced to like better contents, not hate bad contents.
Image Courtesy: Dave Naylor
Let me start by describing some of the tips by Barry.
De-Optimize the Web Site
Just put only 8 (max 10) keywords in Meta Tags. Google has mentioned several times that they don’t use Meta Keywords for ranking. But, after the Penguine update, they are saying that they are now using it to hunt you down. So, it is about time you stopped stuffing your keyword meta tags with keywords.
I usually tell people to optimize site for only one keyword. And use multiple deeper pages for longer tail keywords or keyword variations. But, it is ok to optimize a page for 3 keywords. I know, I said 5 keywords few years back. But, things are getting pretty competitive, now-a-days.
I know many people that are still obsessed with keyword density. If you still are, then you are still in old school. Reanalyze your keyword density and try to reduce the keyword density of any page, if it is more than 5%. But, 2012 is the year of thick contents. i.e. quality 500+ words articles perform better than others. So, you can guess that even 5% would be more. Usually try to keep the keyword mentions right, i.e. not more than 5 times in the page. Do not manually or automatically count the keyword density percentage.
Try avoiding keyword stuffing in Page Titles. It is actually useless. Doing such things are also over optimization. Page Title is the major place to put your important keywords. But, the keywords that are available at the end, have no power. The influence is algorithmically discarded, but since Google is punishing you to have keyword stuffing in meta data, it can also be true for keyword stuffing in page titles as well.
Another place for keyword stuffing are the URLs. For Search Engine Friendly (SEF) URLs, make sure they are also not stuffed with keywords. So, de-optimizing your site is more about re-optimizing your site so that keyword stuffing is taken down to a tolerable and natural level.
According to the article by Google on the Penguin Update, there are really some hints about what you should do for de-optimizing your site. Other than Keyword Stuffing, Google also mentions other aspects that they are also looking into:
Outgoing links are completely unrelated
This means that you should be careful in what anchor text you use and which site you link to. I don’t think that the anchor text is much of a problem, but try to link to relevant site from your article. Even LSI keywords are also relevant. Try to link to the sites that talk about relevant stiffs.
Page text has been “spun” beyond recognition
I searched for the keyword “spin”, “spinning”, and “spun”. Looks like Google Inside Search Blog has mentioned the overly popular term Content Spinning for the first time. Though some are based on guesstimation, but see this old video from SENuke to understand the level of intelligence that Google uses for identifying near duplicate and spun contents.
Increase Quality Links to Pages
I get many questions from people asking me what is quality links. Well, this should not be answered from the perspective of an SEO professional, rather from the perspective of Google. A Quality Link is voluntary in nature and is provided naturally (or organically) to your site from relevant pages. A Quality Link is always a free and enthusiastic link and not influenced by money or any other benefit.
If you have been doing link building from high PR but irrelevant pages just to increase the Page Rank, then you might be a Prime Prey for Penguin Penalty. It is pretty easy to suggest you to remove the bad quality links, but I know how hard it is. If you have already purchased links, try to find highly relevant pages on their site and try to get links from those relevant pages. If you are out of luck in finding relevant links, then propose them to create some relevant pages and have them linked from their high PR pages and get a level deep link, but from highly relevant one.
In future, make quality contents, so that they are either newsworthy or share-worthy. Actually social media marketing plays a great role in having your contents found now-a-days. And getting mentions is secondary. e.g. I found Barry’s article in Facebook and now giving link love to his blog with very relevant page title. I am not boasting, but this is indeed a quality link to Barry’s article.
You can also try to use link baiting technique on related topics to your business. e.g. if you sell Diamond Rings, you can start celebrity gossips around Diamond Rings. Or talk about most controversial story in your industry. Another good way to get quality links is by providing a news faster than CNN, BBC, Reuters. The first provider of a breaking news always gets link love.
Make Sure Link Anchor Text is More Natural
Anchor text has been the driving force in passing relevance to a site. But, in recent years, exact match keywords in Anchor Text is thought to be manipulative. If you evaluate the anchor texts of voluntary links, then you might find that most of them are not using exact match keywords. So, it is high time to alternate your anchor texts from backlinks.
Those who were complaining about Penguin Penalty, most of them were complaining that the sites that were targeting less than 5 keywords were affected in some way. But, those who targeted more than 10 keywords, were in sound health. This is also an indication that anchor text alteration is crucial now.
It is ok to have exact match keywords in anchor text. But, try not to make it wide spread. It looks very much manipulative in the eye of Google. Always try to get links from relevant pages and don’t care about what your anchor texts says. Google also recently announced that they have turned off some classifier for anchor texts. Not sure which particular classifier they were talking about. But, you can help yourself in making the anchor texts look pretty natural.
Actually, Google Webmaster Tool does has this insight here (change yoursite.com with your site). If your anchor texts are natural, you should see varied keywords and many anchor texts listed in Google Webmaster. So, if you see limited number of anchor texts, then you have something to worry about.
Remove Links from Blogrolls
Actually the suggestion should be: Avoid Sitewide Links. Site-wide links does pass some page rank but in most cases, it may also link to you from irrelevant pages, which does not help you in ranking. In recent Penguin Penalty, sites having sidewide links have been affected. Sitewide links are actually indicative of link purchase.
Try to avoid getting sitewide links from other sites, unless the site has all article or contents related to the keywords you are targeting. However, for natural looking linking, always try to get links to deeper pages, instead of the homepage. If you are using topical satellite blog or topical spokes in link wheel, try to link to deeper pages as much as possible. By topical, I mean having separate blogs in specific topic, not diverse topics and building it as micro-authority in a relevant niche.
If you are selling links from Blogrolls, then Google also tells you to use rel Nofollow tags on links. It is also a good idea to nofollow link to your homepage from spokes as well. But, favor only the deeper links.
Scale Back the Internal Link Anchor Text
Not sure what exactly Barry wanted to mean by this. But, in most cases, keywords in anchor text plays a great role in passing relevance to deeper pages. That’s why for sites in flash, footer links with relevant anchor texts plays a great role in making Google find the most relevant page for your keyword. However, there are people that over do it and try to get as many links possible without considering Content Siloing. Content Siloing through anchor texts in now more effective than just random internal links.
Exact Match Domains Hurt
In Penguin Penalty, many exact match domains have seen less traffic. Exact match domains have been a part of the manipulation process. But, I personally don’t think that Google would be hurting your site if you have built a good brand and authority around your keyword. If you don’t have a good brand or authority, then there is reason to make Google believe that you are manipulating Google. So, to get out of the penalty, you should build a good brand as well as authority around your site.
After the Penguin Update, I really don’t think, exact match domain are NO (totally zero value). There is still some value in it. It is just that, sites that does not have much authority, should not get the Google love for having exact match keyword name of the domain.
Practice Negative SEO
Recently, Google has sent mails to many webmasters through Google Webmaster that they have suspicious backlinks for their sites. This has led to the idea that you can make a site look suspicious in the eye of Google. May not be a good one, but this is also another idea to make your way to the top by hurting other competitors.
But, personally I think you would be wasting your time. Because, Google has been working with Google Bowling for long time. Google Bowling is the term where Google discards any back link influence, i.e. they become nofollow even if they are dofollow. Moreover, Bruce Clay in SEO FB Group suggested a nice option in Google Webmaster:
I am hopeful that there will be a WMT disavow option soon so that recipients can essentially “nofollow” a link from the receiving end.
And with the Penguin Update and the negative SEO fear, I also think Google should be serious about Google Bowling and you might see similar feature in Google Webmaster soon. So, all the time you spend on negative SEO will be waste of time.
Move Content to a New Domain
Well, I don’t think you need to do that. Actually, sub-domains are also ok for doing this. Google treat each subdomains as separate sites. And that’s how you see WordPress and Blogspot blogs multiple times in SERPs. But, this might also deprive you from age scores. I’d suggest you to build your site as authority. If you are determined, then fight it, not quite it.
Build a Smaller Site with Very Few Pages
Not a good one and I really don’t support it as an option. Sites with fewer pages rose in rankings as other heavily optimized sites’ ranking dropped. But, sites with good authority still are standing strong. Having fewer pages does not help you grow authority. Moreover, it is like doing nothing for your site. Serious businesses prefer having more and more contents. That is how they reign by becoming authority in their industry.
Write Better Content
This is perhaps the most important piece of suggestion for both Panda and Penguin update. The better the content you have, the more the probability that others in the same industry will prefer you above your competitors. That will also help you build natural links.
Add More Social Elements, i.e. Google+ Sharing
Social SEO is real guys. You can not deny it. Many webmasters are running after only dofollow links. But, Social SEO made nofollow links worthwhile. And having only dofollow links also looks suspicious. But, to make proper balance of both nofollow and dofollow links, enabling social sharing is a good way.
Search Plus Your World was not only meant to make searches more meaning, but also to convert Google from a search engine to recomendation engine. If you asked someone, what is better than a search engine, then the obvious answer would be a freind or trusted person who knows about the keyword I am searching for. And Google always wanted to be that recommendation engine. And Google+ was not just meant for a social media, it has much wider purpose.
Social Signals from Facebook and Twitter is also important. Banded3 did a nice research and found that twitter mentions has great influence in rankings. If you are looking into the marketing in future, you should also invest much time in Social Media Marketing.
Site Audit to Determine Problem Areas
Whenever a new algorithm update happens, this is the first thing you should do. In perspective of the Penguin Update, the audits you should do are:
- Various diagnostic reports in Google Webmaster Tools
- Traffic analysis in your major web analytics app (Google Analytics)
- Keyword ranking analysis for your important keywords
- Competitor ranking and search engine performance analysis
- Backlink popularity and quality analysis
Think More Long Term, Stop Taking Shortcuts
This has always been the last suggestion for every algorithm update. And Shortcuts were never an option in White Hat SEO. Every shortcuts are actually manipulating Google and Matt Cutts is also simultaneously taking actions against such short cuts.
Long term thinking also helps you to reduce the loss of effort you spent on your site. Moreover, the effort you put into the site steadily becomes an asset. Otherwise, the spammy links you made through money and effort are now a disposable expenses.
If I talk something about the future of SEO, then my opinion is that: SEO can not be done by agencies anymore in future. Though, it is still possible through agencies. But, people will need to build inhouse SEO team that understand the business well. SEO Agencies in recent times, need to have training centers or resources to train companies to market themselves. Or they can build specialization in specific areas. I already see this happening, because you can find Real Estate SEOs, Celebrity SEOs, Mortgage SEOs, etc. and in future you might see more product or service SEO specialization.
Moreover, Google is steadily transferring the power of SEO to individual level. I predicted this shift long ago in May of 2008 on my blog 13 Prophecies of Internet Marketing on Marketing Pilgrim (Prophecy #10: Personal Power to Influence Purchase will Increase). Some of the indications are shifting power of influence from forum to blogs, search plus your world, social signals, etc. Moreover, I strongly support AJ Kohn that Google will bring AuthorRank soon, which will revolutionize SEO to the next level and SEO will be more person oriented than website oriented.
So, it is not sites that can make another site rank well in future, it’ll be individuals or group of relevant individuals that can help a site or business rank well in search engines. So, SEOs in future will be great marketers like Oprah who’s endorsement is worth millions of dollars.
Additional Penguin Recovery Tips
Penguin has hit sites that were doing much spamming and building low quality links. While Panda hit mainly onpage factors, Penguin has targeted offpage factors. Many people already have mentioned some nice tips to recover from it. Some are:
The term Link Pruning was initially invented by Bruce Clay, which is really the opposite of link building. It is the process to keep quality backlinks and delete the bad ones. The best tool that can give the the insight for quality links is Majestic SEO’s ACRank (replace yoursite.com with your site). See the video below to understand more about Link Pruning and also read the blog on Stone Temple.
Create Microsites or Micro-Authorities
In a recent post in Microsite Masters, they have suggested using Microsites. Initially this has been a greyhat technique. But, personally I think that it can be a good option to Silo Contents from external sites.
I think microsite does not need to be outside your domain. it can be in subdomain. Specially after panda, subdomains have been good way to Silo Contents. If you target and promote keywords and services like: Web Design, Graphic Design, Web Development, etc. then you can use External Authority Content Siloing for each keyword. External Authority Content Siloing from authority sites will help you to become bigger authority. But, for that you need to create separate authorities.
For commercial sites, there is really not much engagement. Rather, you can start the engagements on external educational and news sites or subdomain. I really don’t support having 20-50 blog for Graphic Design only. Just create one blog which you create as an authority (which is not really that easy). And another blog for Web Development and try promoting deeper pages of the bigger authority site instead of homepage.
Affiliate Marketers actually do that for you and it is already happening. Large companies are already doing it. But, their microsites are really not that micro. The philosophy here would be External Authority Content Siloing and I think since Microsite has less reputation, “External Authority Content Siloing” would be the best word that I am trying to support.
Again, if I support that future of SEO will be more people oriented than website oriented, then if you can create a strong supporter for your domain from external domains, you can stay at top in future as well. So, try not to create crappy microsites, just create a strong supporter for you.
Guest Blogging is actually not a new concept. It has been around for long time, as Ann Smarty has been supporting it for long time. And when I am speaking about AuthorRank, guest blogging will be more prominent in future. Since you really can increase your AuthorRank even by blogging on other sites.
It’s pretty hard to get quality links. Again it is also hard for people to get quality contents for their blogs. This is the phenomenon where synergies can happen. While other blogs are looking for quality contents, you can jump in to provide that, even by buying quality articles. That’s why in recent future, I think the SEO industry will be seeking for quality contents than backlinks.
Update: In recent discussion between Matt Cutts and Danny Sullivan at SMX Seattle, Matt Cutts revealed that Google is coming up with new feature in Google Webmaster that will help Webmasters to disavow some bad links, which will eventually turn a dofollow link into nofollow. This mean that the suggestion for such feature by Bruce Clay in SEOFB Group is finally seeing life. And this will help webmasters to fight negative SEO better and also make link pruning more effective and easy. Here is the exact word for the news:
He also mentioned — and this will be good news to many search marketers — that Google is considering offering a tool that allows web masters to disavow certain links, but that may be months away if it happens.
Google Penguin update is relatively new. The update went live at April 24, 2012 and this article was written a week later. So, most of the suggestions based on best guess and some of the strategies have not yet been tested.