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If you were looking at your site's statistics and noticed a drop in traffic on October 4, there is a high chance that your website was affected by Google's most recent update, Penguin 5.0. This new update, also referred to as Penguin 2.1, has been publicly confirmed by Google on Twitter. According to a Tweet from Matt Cutts, head of Google's Search Quality Team, this most recent update will only affect around 1% of all search queries. Whether this figure is accurate or not, many websites seem to be affected by it, as there are numerous stories going around webmaster circles of people who've had their traffic drop right after this new Penguin update was released.

Naturally, if you believe that your site was affected, you would be quite concerned and would wonder what you can do to recover as quickly as possible. But before we can get into that, it is important to understand what this most recent update is all about. You must first remember what Penguin is all about: it's an ongoing update to Google's search algorithm that seeks to penalize sites that are viewed as low quality or “spammy,” yet still manage to get respectable rankings for their particular keywords. One of Penguin's main actions is penalizing sites that have purchased links, or otherwise used inappropriate link building strategies.

Sites that were penalized in the most recent update had a combination of these attributes:
  • Efforts to get links from discussion forums, blogs or directories which were seen as being excessively used to build links.
  • Article marketing tactics in which a large number of blog posts were used to link to the same page.
  • Adding an excessive number of links on one particular platform (such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
  • Creating numerous pages on the site whose only purpose seems to be the creation of internal links.
  • An increase of links coming from bad domains.
  • In a guest post or article, placing an excessive amount of links to the same page on your domain.
  • Excessive number of do-follow links when compared to no-follow ones. According to   Google, this could indicate link buying, as natural link building will have a higher   percentage of no-follow links.
  • Placing links and anchor text in content in a way that looks clearly “made for SEO,” as opposed to helping a human reader navigate and get more information.
  • Blog posts or articles on the site that are stuffed with an excessive amount of keywords.
  • Deliberately stuffing keywords in anchor text.

If you have reason to believe that your site has been hit by Penguin 5.0, here are a few things that you can do to speed up your recovery:

Get Rid of “Clutter” Pages on Your Site

While it hasn't been conclusively proven yet, the general belief is that Penguin is now taking a look not only at your external links, but also at internal links as well. Naturally, managing your own site's linking strategy is a lot easier than dealing with links on other sites, so we will start with that one.

Penguin seems to have hit some sites which had numerous pages with low quality content, which were then used to link to another page on the site, called the target page. This strategy has been employed by some webmasters and SEOs as it seemed to have a positive effect on the target page's rank.

However, you should know that building such a network of links on your own site isn't something that Penguin appreciates very much. This can be made worse if the pages that make up your internal link network have little useful content on them and whose sole purpose seems centered around getting the visitor to click a link that goes to the target page. Needless to say, if this is a tactic that you've employed, you will need to stop right now and remove these useless pages from your site.

Change up Your Anchor Text

One of the main reasons why sites are penalized by penguin is because of the anchor text used in links. You may have thought that using exact match keywords in your anchor text was a good tactic, but Penguin changed all that. The most recent iteration seems to affect a greater number of sites that use a lot of incoming links that contain the exact keywords that you want to rank for.

You should find out where your links are coming from and what anchor text they are using. After this is done, there are two basic options available to you. Either you get these links removed, or you edit them so that they contain a different anchor text that flows more naturally within the content. The decision on whether you remove a link or change it should be based on whether the link in question is generating direct clicks to your site. You may want to keep links that are sending you a good amount of traffic and remove the rest.

Focus on Your Link Quality and Remove the Bad Ones

Google's Penguin update penalizes bad quality links in two ways. First, it lowers the page rank of low quality websites, such as sites that have an unusually high amount of outbound links. This then leads to a domino effect, where your site drops as the quality of your incoming links has been lowered. Penguin will also penalize websites whose owners seem to make a deliberate effort to build a large amount of links by getting them from bad quality sites.

Once Google sees that your site is associated with bad neighborhoods, this could have a further effect on your other inbound links, even if they come from highly reputable sites. Having links coming from bad neighborhoods simply reduces the value that quality inbound links bring you.

Even though there is a lot of talk about anchor texts with Penguin 5.0, webmasters need to remember that in general, Penguin assesses the quality of a link not only by its anchor text, but mainly with the location where the link is coming from.

If you have links on sites that are a repository for bad quality content, websites that have little or nothing to do with your niche, sites that have an every growing number of outbound links to a variety of sites, or places which seem to have no problem linking to low quality sites themselves, then you should take action and remove them at once.

Manually reviewing all of your website's incoming links is likely to be a tedious task, as you will have to judge whether each link is one that is of bad quality or not. But there are tools which automate the process by analyzing your inbound links and determining their quality for you. This will make cleaning up bad links much faster.

Work With a Reputed SEO Agency

If you're doing your SEO by yourself, you may consider hiring a reputable SEO agency to do it for you. Keeping up-to-date with Google's never ending updates may be quite stressful for business owners, but for SEO professionals it's just part of their job. An SEO agency that has a long track record of achieving results for their clients can help you recover if you believe your site was affected by Penguin 5.0.

Marketing Ignite has experience since 1998 in the many facets of online marketing. If you're trying to improve your site's SEO, or want to explore new avenues to promote your business online, they can bring you the results you need.

Contact us today and receive a free consultation.

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  1. HeyJohah –

    Great post. Question: do you know what “excessive” means? What types of ratios are we talking here? Most people say 10-30% exact match on anchor text. It would be helpful to know some ratios or ranges so we know if we’re going overboard.

    • Hey Dan,
      There are no hard and fast rules. Many marketers like to put a certain percentage of what is too much but I strongly believe that this is a little superficial. If you have a brand new site, then getting lots of anchor text links would put that site at really high risks if you go overboard. Likewise, if you have a very strong brand name, you could get away with more. Now how much is too much? Every industry is also unique. If you run a competitive analysis of your top 10 sites in Google in your industry and see what ratio they have you will get a ball park figure of could be acceptable and round up to a industry average. Now due to the disavow tool, those links could have been disavowed but that we will never know. So I would consider this as a case by case depending on the site and also on the industry and use your gut feeling based on your experience working with the Penguins. Good luck 🙂

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