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How-to: Avoid A Penguin Penalty Update

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Google regularly makes changes in the way it ranks websites.

These changes affect the position of web pages on the search engine results pages.

Consequently, you need to make sure that you're updated with the changes in algorithms.

Most people are caught unaware of these changes, and they only notice something is no longer the same when they see a shift in their rankings.

In many cases, dealing with algorithm changes means merely reacting to it after it sends ripples on search results.

Google rolled out the 2012 Penguin update in April, and its purpose is to restore the integrity of search results by filtering out the bad guys using “questionable” SEO tactics or blackhat SEO.

You most definitely would be affected if your site has low quality backlinks.

Why Is Google Making These Updates?

Hundreds of thousands of website owners solely focus on creating as many links as they can to secure page one ranking in search results.

Excessive link building coupled with poor content is destructive. With so many webmasters focusing on the technical aspects of optimizing their websites, the chief function of websites, which is to impart information, has been impaired to some extent.

Here are some actions you need to take to Penguin-proof your site:

1. Stop Building or Buying Links

Unnaturally - means don’t ask for linkbacks. Don’t buy backlinks. These tactics don’t work anymore after the 2012 algorithm shift.

The risk of buying links is that you can get a lot of low quality links, since it could mean buying automated links and ending up with backlinks from spam sites.

At the same time, the links may be placed on unrelated websites.

Google is keeping its eye on websites with too many low-quality and irrelevant backlinks. Many of these sites were penalized already.

The solution? Earn them. Build backlinks naturally by filling your site with great content.

2. Remove backlinks from low-quality sites

Get rid of low-quality or spammy and artificially created backlinks pointing to your site.

Here are the type of links that can be identified as spam: paid links (follow) / optimized anchor text in articles / link exchanges / blog comments / forum profile link / forum comments or signatures / credit links or widely distributed links in the footers / web directories / bookmark sites / widgets / infographics / guest posts. (Source: SEO Book

Here’s how to remove low-quality backlinks:

  • Gather the backlinks using tools such as: Google Webmaster / SEOmoz Open Site Explorer / Ahrefs / Majestic SEO.
  • Find and investigate low quality links such as new sites with little to no traffic, sites with too much ads / excessive external links / zero page rank.
  • Contact them and request for a link removal. Explain why you want your link removed in a nice way.
  • If you didn’t hear from them, make sure to send a follow-up message.
  • What to do if people won’t remove your link? Use the Disavow Tool and select your domain.

Yes, I know how it can be a daunting task but here’s a great way to help you save time: Hire or outsource people to do it for you. Check out Odesk or Elance.com.

3. Be careful with Guest Blogging

There’s nothing really wrong with taking guest posts, but we all know how it has become risky since Penguin was born.

Here’s what the head of spam said:

  • Don’t guest blog for the sake of SEO.
  • It’s not recommended to accept a guest bloggers "unless you’re willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well."

In other words, guest post with a purpose. Don’t use guest blogging as a way to gain links.

Here’s how to guest post properly:

  • Guest post to the best blogs in your niche.
  • Make sure to use Google+ authorship.

You really need to be careful when accepting guest bloggers. You can’t just pick any random bloggers to write for your site anymore. In short, be picky. Here are some tips:

  • Make sure the posts you allow are related to your blog. For instance, if you have a blog about car insurance, stop allowing guest posts about marketing or web design.
  • Make sure to ask for “sample” posts to determine if they can produce great content. It’s better if they’ve blog elsewhere credible.
  • Don’t allow them to add random links within the content. Make sure the links added are relevant and legitimate.
  • Another one I’ve learned just recently, stop using “guest post” or “submit guest post” on your site.
  • Make sure they’re real people.

4. Vary your anchor texts

Don’t use the exact anchor text (or title) for your link too many times. Google may consider links with identical anchor texts as spam links. Use a variety of anchor text for a keyword you are optimizing your site with.

What the heck is anchor text, you ask? Anchor text is the text that you actually see in a hypertext link or clickable text.

5. Don’t spin content

Do not steal other people’s content. Do not plagiarize. Write a well-researched and unique content instead. Creating content-rich pages that will benefit your audience must be your goal. Ask this yourself: If you are an internet user, what kind of information would you like to see on a website?

6. Avoid overusing keywords

Don’t pack your content with too much and repetitive keywords or phrases. Adding keywords into every sentence is just plain annoying and it makes you look like a spammer. Make sure to incorporate them naturally.

7. Avoid hiring novice SEO companies

Be careful when hiring an SEO firm or an SEO consultant. Make sure they actually know the in and out of the process. To learn how to hire the right agency, here are some great reads for you:

8. Don’t ignore On-Page SEO

  • Meta title and Meta description: Do not stuff your meta details with keywords. Make sure to tailor each page with unique, meaningful and relevant meta tags. Insert at least 1-2 relevant keywords naturally. For example, replace “SEO | Search Engine Optimization | Get Traffic | SEO Tutorial” with “HOW-TO: Get Traffic From Search Engines Effectively”
  • Meta details duplicate words: Check the number of duplicate, missing title, long, short and non-informative meta tags using Google webmaster tool. Check under “HTML” improvement. Make sure to update your site with fresh and high-quality content regularly. About 1-2 times a week is great.
  • Site speed: Yes, it is required to have a fast website. Make sure it loads less than 3 seconds. Learn here to make your website fast.
  • Spam comments: Check out your comments and make sure to delete those spam ones. Enable comment moderation to prevent comments from appearing to your site automatically without your approval.

9. Install social sharing icons

Get social. Make it easy for people to spread your content on social media with sharing buttons. Not only will this help your increase your social traffic (and be less reliant on search traffic), it’s also a great way to gain back links from the people in your niche.

10. Build high-quality content

You've heard me say this a gazillion of times. But I still need to say this, the best way to generate backlinks in natural and ethical way is by creating content that your users will love. So make sure that your website is filled with great content and not just poorly-written articles. The better the quality of your content, the more likely it will be indexed by the mighty search engine.

References + Resources

pauline c
By Pauline Cabrera

A twenty-something savvy web designer / social media manager / SEO strategist based in Toronto, Ontario. Passionate about web design, HTML/CSS, beautifying things and internet marketing. Follow me on social media and say hello! Follow me on Facebook Follow me on Instagram Follow me on Pinterest Follow me on Twitter

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