What Does Google’s Penguin Algorithm Mean for Your SEO Strategies?
July 6, 2012 - Posted by Amanda Norris
Since the official release of Google’s newest algorithm, Penguin, back in April, sites across the web have seen their rankings take a hit as Google’s latest algorithm cracks down on sites that aren’t playing by Google’s rules. Furthering their quest to give users content that is not only relevant but also valuable and authentic, Penguin is Google’s latest attempt at cutting out sites that abuse and manipulate SEO tactics – such as content spinning and keyword stuffing – to try to eliminate web spam from earning high search rankings.
Let’s start by taking a minute to discuss what Penguin is – and what it isn’t. First, Penguin is an algorithm change, not a manual penalty. This means that any ranking drops or gains from Penguin are due to automated changes in the way Google weighs and penalizes different features, not a manual penalty against your site.
There is also somewhat of a misconception regarding what Penguin’s targets and main goals are. While it does take steps towards penalizing over-optimization, the main focus of Penguin is penalizing web spam.
In short, the purpose of Penguin is to help Google achieve their goal of punishing sites that use black-hat SEO to try to game the system with web spam, while rewarding sites that provide natural, authentic content. Unfortunately, while the algorithm was designed to heavily penalize sites that use black-hat SEO tactics, even some white-hat sites were subject to collateral damage if Google’s algorithm determined that they weren’t “natural” enough.
What can you do to make sure your SEO meets Google’s standards, or help your site recover if it took a hit from Penguin? Here are some areas you should look into improving if you want to stay in Google’s good graces.
Low Quality Links
It appears that now, when it comes to links, the importance of quality rather than quantity has increased. As always, Google is emphasizing the importance of natural and authentic third-party links. Sites that have depended on a large number of their links coming from low-quality domains or content have been reporting a significant drop in ranking since Penguin’s release, since this practice is widely considered web spam.
It’s also important to maintain a higher standard of quality with internal links, as well. Penguin’s changes show that Google is paying more attention to a site’s anchor text, among other things. Having identical keywords in your content that all link back to the same page is no longer going to be effective. Instead, Google wants to see your anchor text be as natural as the rest of your keywords. To keep Google happy, sites need to have some diversity in their anchor text, varying the words and phrases so that they’re more in line with the different ways people will search for your content. It’s also important to give priority to linking from brand names and related phrases (such as product names) instead of generic keywords.
With Penguin, it’s more important than ever to strike just the right balance with your keywords: too few, and search engines won’t be able to find you. Too many, and your site is at risk for being flagged as over-optimized. Not only will filling your content to the brim with keywords make it seem unnatural to readers, but to Google as well. Keywords need to be incorporated into your content naturally, not plugged in after the copy is written. Remember: it’s better to have keywords in mind and then write for the reader than to write solely to boost SEO.
One of the best ways websites can appeal to Google has always been to keep providing fresh, recent and relevant content. Penguin is reinforcing this by cracking down on sites that rely on content spinning and duplicate content as opposed to posting original content. Producing new content in the form of blogs, news updates or press releases on your website is well worth the time and effort – especially if it’s valuable content that will not only appease Google, but also attract readers and traffic to your site.