Google’s Penguin algorithm was introduced on April 24th. Since it’s been almost a month since Penguin’s release now would be a good time to discuss its impact and some remedies. According to Google, Penguin has affected only 3.1% of sites on the web. This isn’t a big number unless you’re one of the 3 per cent. Unfortunately, many of the 3 percenters are small business owners who relied on high search results to drive their business. Recently, the Wall Street Journal quoted a 47 year old owner of a dog supply company saying that he lost over two thirds of his business in one month. He blames the loss on the 96% reduction of web traffic to his site after Penguin was released.
What did our dog shop owner do that got him penalized? Well, no one knows for sure but one thing he did was pay for “hundreds of inbound links”. So if links are a problem, what do you look for when searching for a good link?
- First, a good link is never bought. DO NOT BUY A LINK. These links have no value and no authority. This practice is deplored by Google and will be punished.
- Search for links from well known branded sites, people, and organizations.
- The links should be appropriate for the content of the page.
- The links should provide value to the reader.
- Be careful how you use anchor text. Make sure your anchor text contains your brand and URL. Using keywords to anchor a link will surely cost you in a Penguin environment.
Another thing to be aware of is something that may not be your fault. If you have a lot of unauthoritative inbound links to your site, that may also trigger a negative response from Google. The only fix I can think of is to ask the offending sites to de-link. If anyone has other ideas, please drop me a comment.
Another practice that will get a business in trouble with Google is stuffing keywords into the site. This has been a no-no for a while now. In fact, it was addressed in the Panda updates throughout 2011. Keyword stuffing is akin to spamming, and is not tolerated by Google. In the same Journal article, Matt Cutts, a Google engineer said “The Penguin algorithm update was designed to reduce Web spam”. So, what must you do to ensure your content passes the Penguin test?
- Remember, at the end of the day, humans are visiting your site. Make your site friendly to humans. This means writing text that makes sense, makes a point, and is easy and enjoyable to read.
- Be careful and sparing in your use of keywords. Use just a few keywords in your site. Make sure they are present in the meta title and description, and if possible, in your URL. Use Keyword Tool to find the best keywords to use for your product or service.
- It is OK to highlight your keyword(s) in the page headings and sub-headings. However, once you get to the text, make sure you maintain the readability factor. As I said before, stuffing the text with keywords is foolhardy and counter-productive.
One word about social marketing. It has a place in SEO. If you have customers or Fans, their willingness to click into your site shows Google that your site has authority and has interested visitors. If you have a Facebook page, treat it as an auxiliary website. Share information on it regularly, but not too often. One post a week is fine. Google appreciates the give and take that a social page encourages between businesses and fans. They reward web pages with lots of Facebook likes. Don’t be shy about asking for them. Make sure your page is a business page, not a personal page. Personal pages have ‘friends”, business pages have ‘likes”.
If you decide to hire an SEO expert, be careful. Many of them are one-trick ponies. They’ll promise to get you on the first page in a month, and then a month later you’re back on page forty. If you decide to hire one, ask them about their methodology. Make sure they are performing their craft right. Google likes fresh content, relevance, and sites that are organic. “Fix it and go” remedies no longer work in SEO. Hire a company for the long haul, someone who will work with your site monthly to get fresh content up, remove old stale copy, and stay ahead of the curve when Google unloads another update.
If you think that you may have been punished unfairly, Google has released a feedback form you can use to let them know the details of your complaint. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dEVxdmdRWFJRTjRoLWZVTHZkaTBQbkE6MQ&ndplr=1