Now that some time has passed since April 24th, the roll out date of the Newest Google Penguin Update, it’s a lot easier to see patterns forming for the sites that were impacted by the changes. Again, my clients were lucky enough to dodge this bullet, as once again I’m seeing tons of other SEO’s complaining about how their clients’ rankings took a plunge. It just shows how valuable putting in the extra time and effort with pure White Hat methods pays off in the long run.
I do however have several sites that I run tests on, as some of the techniques I use are personal theories that I need to prove, before using them on my clients. Only one of my sites was affected, which is good because it provided me the opportunity to bring it “back from the grave.” I’ve made the changes I’ll be suggesting in this post, and have already started to see some improvements. I don’t expect a full recovery until closer to the end of the month.
Figuring Out The Problem And Collecting Information:
Step 1: Identify The Keywords (Search Terms) And Pages That Were Affected
Pages that are ranking for multiple keywords may only be affected for certain ones. Create a list of all the pages and all the keywords that dropped, and add in how much they dropped by for extra information. A spreadsheet is great for this.
Step 2: Analyze The On Page SEO Factors
Look at how many times those keywords show up in the Title Tag, Meta Description, H1-H6 tags, and within the content. I usually don’t recommend checking Keyword Densities, but in this case it may help more easily identify the cause of the issue.
Step 3: Identify Both Internal And External Anchor Text Of Links To Those Pages
I use https://ahrefs.com/ to check the number of links to a page and the anchor text used. Anchor Text is a clickable link, that often uses a keyword. For example, when you see a link that says “Click Here,” and is blue; that “Click Here” is the anchor text used. Take note of the top 10 anchor texts that you used for each page, along with the number of links using that anchor text, and the total number of links coming in.
How To Fix It
What I’ve been finding is that people have over-optimized certain pages on their sites for specific keywords that is not looking natural. This is another reason Google Penguin was called the “Over Optimization Penalty.”
Step 1: Slightly De-Optimize Your Pages
The best practice for SEO was fill out the Title Tags, Meta Description, H1-H6 tags, content, bold/italics, alt attributes, and internal linking structure. Maximizing the potential of these, without keyword stuffing was completely White Hat; but a lot of sites we’re still affected. What you’re doing is lightening up the SEO. Have your main keyword once in the title and once in the description. For Heading Tags, use more words than the exact keyword. For example if your keywords was “baseball bats,” change the Heading to “How to find the right baseball bat,” or whatever the content is related to. Also be sure to use words you’d expect to find in an article. Sticking with the Baseball example, you should expect to find players, gloves, teams, diamonds, etc; in the text of the page. Make sure the content is great and readable.
Step 2: Lighten Up The Exact Match Internal Linking
A common practice for SEO’s (again completely White Hat) was to interlink articles. Let’s say my article was about Baseball Teams, and I mentioned the word Baseball Bat. It was normal practice to link that text to a page about Baseball Bats. While useful in some regards, this was way OVERDONE by a lot of SEO’s, so I would suggest removing a decent chunk of these. Having some internal linking is good for both structure and users, but be careful not to spam it.
Step 3: Dilute Your Incoming Anchor Text From External Sites
If a keyword was affected, and it’s in your top 10 anchor texts for incoming links; you need to dilute that number. We want SEO to look as natural as possible, and when half of your links are using an exact match keyword; it raises some flags at Google. When building links, take each keyword and figure out a dozen variations of it. Back to my “baseball bat” example, you would want to use anchor texts like “metal baseball bats, wooden baseball bats, metal bats, wooden bats, -BrandName- bats, how to choose a baseball bat, baseball bat online, and so on.” You also want to make sure you sometimes use the direct link (http://YourSite.com/Article-Title) to the page as anchor text. And of course, one of my favorite techniques includes using the anchor texts “visit our site, click here, check out our website now, website, and all the other generic terms.”
If you’re serious about getting your rankings back, as I’m sure all of you are; take the steps above and keep the White Hat SEO pressure on. Keep the link velocity and link acceleration going, and the link variation high. Track your improvements and continue to tweak as you see things move. Be sure to send me a message if you have any questions.
Thanks. ~Ryan England – Executive SEO