Penguin Strikes Again

July 12, 2013 | Google Analytics Internet Marketing Link Building Search Engine Optimization SEO

Blog Post By Longevity Graphics

On May 22nd, 2013, Google rolled out the Penguin 2.0 update to their search engine algorithm. Like Penguin 1.0, the update focuses on penalizing unnatural linking strategies. One difference with Penguin 2.0, however, is that it analyzes the backlinks of the internal pages as well as the home page, whereas Penguin 1.0 only analyzed the backlinks to the home page. This detail was only recently revealed by Matt Cutts when he spoke about the update on his blog. It is, effectively, a more in-depth version of Penguin 1.0, and it can cause the same problems for sites that have had black-hat or grey-hat link-building done in the past.

Penguin 2.0 basically looks for unnatural links from low-quality sites and devalues your site based on what it determines to be a black-hat link profile. It makes the assumption that you or someone working on your behalf participated in unnatural link-building strategies, such as paying for links or ‘advertorials’ (paid editorials that link back to your site). Maybe you didn’t do this unnatural link-building yourself, but a competitor has built poor-quality links to your site with the intention of getting your site penalized. This is negative SEO, and it has the same repercussions.

For more information about the Penguin 2.0 updates, check out this link.

Identifying it

So how do you know if this update has affected your website? Check your analytics data (from Google Analytics or any similar service that tracks your traffic) and look for a drop in your site traffic in late May. If you see a sudden and dramatic drop in traffic that can’t be explained by a usual seasonal trend or other logical coincidence, you’ve probably been hit by Penguin 2.0.

It’s also a good idea to examine the backlinks of your site using a site exploring tool such as those offered by SEO Moz or Majestic SEO. Using these tools, you can view the domains that link to your site, the page rank and domain rank of those domains, and the anchor text used in the links. With this information you can figure out if your link profile has the signs of an unnatural, spammy link-building strategy – backlinks from paid directories, links with exact match anchor text (keyword stuffed anchors), and high link accrual velocity (gaining backlinks in large chunks very quickly).

This can be a tedious and time-consuming process, especially for those unfamiliar with SEO and the tools that are used to analyze websites. If you don’t have the time or you find it too confusing, Longevity Graphics can help you figure out if your site has been hit by Penguin 2.0.

What to do

If it’s clear that you have a large amount of crummy backlinks, how do you proceed? The solution is straight-forward, but not necessarily easy or quick. Working from the list of your backlinks, you will need to identify the links that are hurting your rankings and deal with each accordingly. In cases where you have control over the link, like on a directory that provided you with a login to update your business profile, you should be able to delete the link altogether or alter the anchor text if that is the issue. When you do not have direct control over the link, you will have to reach out to the webmaster of the site on which your link appears and request to have your link removed.

There are sites and tools available to help you with categorizing and sorting through your backlinks. Some will even have template letters to help you with sending out link removal requests.

Not all webmasters will be cooperative and some will even try to exploit you by asking you to pay them to remove your link. In these cases, you can consider using Google’s link disavow tool as a last resort. The tool allows you to suggest that certain links not be counted toward your site’s ranking. Matt Cutts has warned that the Disavow Tool should not be used by most sites and should only be used to clean up a “small fraction” of links after you have made multiple link removal requests on your own. He seems to be suggesting that abusing the tool could result in an additional penalty of some kind to your site.

Hopefully you will have been successful in removing the offending backlinks from your link profile. Either way, you should move forward by focusing on creating new links that follow Google’s quality guidelines and avoid unnatural link-building practices. See here for a useful link explaining what one should not do when doing link-building. Google recommends that you seek out natural links by providing useful content such as infographics or guest posts on relevant, high-quality sites.

If your livelihood has been threatened because this recent update has diminished your site’s traffic, we can help you get back on track. Recovery from Penguin 2.0 is a big job, but we are professional SEOs with a variety of experience that can help to boost your site’s rankings and recover from penalties.