Mention the words “Penguin” or “Panda” to any webmaster, and you’ll probably see him cringe. Once simply cute animals to visit at the zoo, Penguin and Panda are now the names associated with Google’s infamous algorithm updates.
With another update rolling out, the internet marketing world is once again on high alert. Penguin 3.0 is in the process of sweeping through Google’s search engine on its mission to seek and destroy websites it deems to be unworthy.
What is Penguin?
Google became a leading search engine back in 1996. Up until then, other search engines just looked at content. But Google started using links as a core metric. This provided the opportunity to manipulate search engine results by creating large numbers of low quality links. In other words, it was possible to achieve high rankings in the search engines by using aggressive, or black hat techniques.
To crack down on the misuse of the system, Google started using complex algorithms, the first of which were called Panda updates. In the past couple of years the updates have continued as Penguins. Penguin’s mission is to eliminate sites using black hat techniques such as paid links, keyword stuffing, invisible text, or any other violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
How Penguins performed in the past?
Penguin 1.0 was released in April 2012, and had quite an impact. 3.1% of all search engine queries were affected, which is a huge number when you consider the number of queries Google receives on a single day.
The following year, in May 2013, Penguin 2.0 was released. This newer model was designed to seek out black hat activity that hadn’t been addressed by Penguin 1.0. It affected 2.3% of all enquiries. The last update came in October 2013, with Penguin 2.1, and it affected roughly 1% of all queries.
All of this translates to millions of pages being removed from search rankings, potentially crushing the businesses behind them. The Google Penguin updates result in punishment that is both severe and fast.
The new Penguin: what to expect
Penguin 3.0, released on October 17th, 2014, does not appear to have added any new signals to the algorithm, and is being described as a simple data refresh. It is supposed to roll out slowly over the course of a few weeks, and will purportedly affect 1% of all English queries.
As the roll-out proceeds, there will be fluctuations in the rankings, causing trepidation among webmasters. But the true impact of this latest Penguin won’t be seen until it has completely finished its tour of duty and the dust has settled.
Link Building Post-Penguin
Penguin 3.0 is on the prowl, and webmasters are panicking as they try to protect their sites from this predatory beast. But the worst mistake you could make is to panic, especially if you survived Penguins 1 and 2. Penguin 3.0 doesn’t contain any new signals, so unless you’ve acquired some spammy links in the past year, you should be in the clear. But it’s still worth knowing what to look out for to stay on top of the game.
Link building: what to avoid?
Penguin has changed the way we approach link building. Google will penalize you for the following tactics:
paying for links
submitting your site to automated web directories
emailing other webmasters to request link exchanges
excessive use of article marketing or press releases with keyword-rich anchor text
use of link pyramids or wheels
low quality backlinks from spammy websites
How to remove bad links?
Find out which backlinks may be detrimental to your site by using a tool such as Majestic SEO, Moz or Ahrefs. Once you have a list, you need to contact the website owners to get them removed. Needless to say, this is easier said than done. But there is a way around sites that don’t respond to your request for removal – you can use the Google Disavow Tool .
But take heed, this tool is only to be used as a last resort. Matt Cutts says in a video that you are expected to contact webmasters “multiple times” before resorting to Google Disavow.
One excellent method for gathering good links is to syndicate your content. This involves getting your content published on other sites, as long as you are credited as the original author. Syndication gives you an opportunity to acquire a new audience and get genuine traffic back to your own site.
Just be sure to choose well-established, popular sites, and use the rel=canonical tag on your syndicated article, to help Google recognize which is the original.
Social media can help
As you post good readable content onto your site, make sure that you promote it through your social media accounts. This will increase your visibility, and your readers may link to your content from their own publications. Which means that you’ll receive new organic links to your site.
Ensure your readers can easily share your content by installing the appropriate social share buttons on to your site.
The bottom line is this: if you put your audience first you’ll have nothing to fear from Google. All that’s required is for you to provide quality, interesting and relevant content for your readers.
If you have any tips on how to acquire Penguin-friendly quality links, feel free to add your comment below.