Google Penguin & Avoiding Link Penalties

Penguin Article

Penguin has made lots of people very angry over the last few years. And no, I am not talking about the Batman Villain. I am talking about Google’s algorithm update a few years ago called ‘Penguin’

I personally know of several businesses that lost their million-dollar online enterprises literally overnight. (Well, in 6 months, but you get the idea)

How did this cripple their business I hear you ask? Simple. The website in question (which sold pet-related products FYI) was ranking strongly for several dozen keywords in the US. These rankings brought in tens of thousands of ‘shoppers’ each month. That correlated to millions in revenue each year.

When Penguin was rolled out, this business’ website simply dropped off the SERPs and those tens of thousands of monthly visitors dwindled to less than fifty.

Less people. Less sales. Less profits.

Yet most people do not even know what Penguin is, and how to avoid it.

Google has waged war on Internet marketers since people realized they could make money online by manipulating the SERPs and ranking a website, and, along with Panda (which I covered last week) Penguin is a formidable weapon in Google’s arsenal targeting this sort of thing.

So, what is it?

Penguin targets your anchor text. The hyperlinks that drive visitation to your website from other sites. These hyperlinks act like ‘cyber thumbs up’ to Google’s bots as they crawl the web and it takes into consideration these links when determining whether or not to rank you.

From Google’s point of view, the problems with this part of their algorithm were easily exploited since people cottoned-on to the fact that if you simply built these links yourself, Google would see them and eventually rank you.

Here’s an example. You’re a florist, and you want to rank for the term ‘florist in Melbourne.’ Makes sense right? You want to be found by people searching for a florist in Melbourne. Easy done. In the ‘ol’ days of internet marketing’ you could go and literally build thousands of links using software with the words ‘florist in melbourne’ linking back to your website from other sites and presto – 3 months later you’re ranking for that term.

What Penguin does is identify over-optimisations of those specific keywords that you want to rank for, and discounts them if the percentage of keyword-driven anchor text vastly outweighs other, natural anchor text like ‘click here’, or ‘read more’

The bottom line is you need to diversify your anchor text for it to look natural to Google. Use your URL, business name, brand name, keywords and generic terms to link back to your site.

A few keyword-rich links on highly relevant, authority websites can be all that is required to rank a website, for specific keywords, these days.

It is quality over quantity.

That it is easier said than done because it can be very time consuming to cultivate these sorts of links on esoteric websites that are managed by humans.

If you are doing your own link building, I encourage you to consider these points and use these anchor text ratios.

  • 20-30% of your links should be your brand / url
  • 20-30% of your links should be phrase match terms – or terms that could be synonymous with your primary keyword
  • 20-30% of your links should be related terms, or a broader expansion on those primary keywords
  • 10% of your links should be generic anchor text, like ‘click here’
  • 10% of your links should be your primary keywords

Remember, it is still possible to rank in 2015, but it is not something that can be done overnight and with software or a half-assed approach.

If you’re doing that AND getting results, you’re living on borrowed time because the next update to either of these algorithms might be the one that causes you to vanish from the SERPs.

Oh, and as a final note, all of this is utterly meaningless if your website is under a Panda penalty. Before you do anything to correct your offsite footprint, fix your onsite issues first.

Often, removing a Panda penalty from a website can lead to an increase in rankings anyway, without any link building!