penguin-update

In April 2012, Google released an update to it’s search engine algorithm code named Penguin. The purpose of the update was to decrease the search engine ranking of any website that violated Google’s Webmaster Guidelines by using black hat SEO techniques such as keyword stuffing, duplicate content creation, participating in link schemes, and other banned tricks.

As a result of that algorithm update, thousands of websites disappeared from the search engines literally overnight, and many are still fighting to find their way back in to Google’s good graces.

If you’ve known me for any length of time – you know that I’ve always said… “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”. I’ve never been a fan of “get ranked quick” schemes. Any client that’s ever asked me my opinion how to get ranked higher and faster on the search engines has all heard me say, “the only for sure way is to do it naturally”.

Luckily, the majority of our clients have not participated in any unethical link-building schemes, and most were not affected at all by the updates to the algorithm. Black hat techniques (putting into place search engine techniques that exploit loop holes in the search engine algorithm), might give you quick results in the engines, but they won’t give you longevity. Google’s no fool, and as soon as they figure out how people are abusing the system, they shut down the access, and turn around and punish those that had been participating (like dropping their site from the index completely, and/or by banning/blacklisting them from ever showing up again).

Link Building Strategies To Avoid

Building inbound links to your website still has value and importance. Part of how Google decides to rank you is dependent on in-bound links. Some suggest that the quality and quantity of your inbound links accounts for 50-80% of your overall search engine ranking. But if you follow the wrong link building advice, then your site will likely face disaster. Let’s look at a few things you should absolutely avoid.

1. Don’t build links too quickly. All sites, over time, develop in-bound links. However, many site owners believe it’s okay to try and quicken that by building lots of inbound links quickly. Natural inbound links take time, and generally most sites would see small numbers of links inbound each month. If you try and build dozens or hundreds of links in a short time frame, this will trigger Google to step in and penalize you.

2. Don’t buy links. Since the Penguin update, many link-building companies have disappeared. But there are definitely unscrupulous companies that remain, who try and convince you to purchase links from them to help build your ranking. Avoid these like the plague as buying links is almost always a big no-no in the eyes of Google. However, having said that… buying a listing in popular directories (which will give you more exposure and a link back), can still be a good strategy. Just use caution when doing this, go with only reputable directories and only where your site “fits” in. If you are in the health care business, don’t pay for a link in an automakers directory.

3. Choose your friends carefully. Google’s position on links is that they consider them a vote for your site, meaning that if a site links to you, that must mean you have good content. But the company linking to you needs to have the authority to make that claim. If your inbound links come from adult websites, foreign language sites, sites that use black hat SEO techniques, then Google will know what you’re up to and drop the hammer. Choose carefully who links to you.

4. Build deep links. By deep links, Google means links that take site traffic inside your website, bypassing your home page. Those that naturally link to your site – generally will link to our products, services, blog pages, etc — and rarely to your home page. If all your inbound links point to your home page – this will send up a flag to Google.

5. Vary your anchor text. Anchor text is the actual text on a webpage that is the link itself. For example, a link to your site might say “Buy this widget”. If every single link to your website, from every single link source said “Buy this widget”, Google will sniff that out as unnatural. Instead, try and vary that anchor text, making sure to use various key phrases for which you are hoping to rank. This isn’t always easy since the link is on someone else’s website – but you can certainly ask them to edit that text should it not be a good fit for you.

Link Cleanup

Now that you have a better understanding of what to do (and not to do) when it comes to link building, now might be the time to do a little bit of link cleanup. Whether or not you’ve been affected by Google’s Penguin update, verifying that all your inbound links are legitimate and natural will help your site improve it’s rankings.

To find out what sites link to you – visit Google’s homepage, type “link:yourdomain.com” into the search box. Do not use the quotation marks, and replace yourdomain.com with your actual domain name. This result will give you a list of many of the sites linking in to your website. Make sure these are sites that you really want linking to you – that appear natural and make sense. If they are not – make contact with the site owner and ask to be removed right away. Also – while you’re at it, check the anchor text they use to link to you, and also – see if you can deepen that link by asking them to link to an interior page if they are linking to your home page. You can also search Google for additional link checking services.

Google Disavow Link Tool Released

Once you’ve done your link cleanup – you may find there are still some links from sources that you would rather not have, but attempts at getting removed might prove impossible. Google now offers the “disavow link tool”, which will allow you to block certain incoming links (or the entire domain) from pointing to your site. You will find this in Google’s webmaster tools. Watch Google CEO Matt Cutts discuss this new tool.

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