I’ve written about it a few times already and talked about it in a few dozen emails with clients, but I feel it necessary to write a post summing up what I’ve found out since the update took place a month and a half ago. Of course, this is talking about the Google Penguin Update that happened on the 24th of April 2012, and had negative ranking affects on tons of websites.
I’ve had several clients sign up with me who hired me to help return their rankings to normal. Most moved back fairly quickly, some are still moving up, but one in particular is barely moving at all. Tons of SEO’s have posted their findings, which include identifying the problem and deciding on the proper solution to remedy the situation. I’ve gone through dozens of these articles, as I want to be as well versed on the subject as possible and be able to handle any case that pops up.
I’ve found 3 Main Causes for the Google Penguin Update
1. Over-Optimization On Site – Even following best practices in SEO before the update, it became possible that your site may be punished for doing things too well. Having exact keyword matches in your title, description, content, h1-h6 tags, alt attributes, image names, and using bold/italics is no longer best practice in my opinion. Yes, to a certain extent they are important and need to be in some of the places, but I’ve de-optimized the pages of several clients and found the results to be fantastic. Worry more about context and not making sure a keyword is in each spot.
One of my favorite techniques Pre-Penguin was putting a link in the footer or the sidebar with an exact match anchor text for the main keyword on a certain page. For example, if your site was about Red Books, I would put a link in the footer going to the home page using the anchor text Red Books. This way, the link would show up on every single page of the site, and put simply; the results were amazing. However, some people overdid this and would fill the entire bottom of their site with exact match anchor texts which came off as quite spammy and didn’t help the end user in the long run. This is why Google punished sites for doing this. A recent client who’s rankings successfully returned was doing just that, and almost immediately bounced back after removing the links.
2. Over-Optimization Off Site / Unnatural Link Profiles – A link profile consists of all the links that are pointing at your website from other web properties. Google tracks millions of websites and has more than enough examples of what the natural growth and link profile of a website should look like. When I do SEO for my clients, I try my best to make that happen. I know I’ve bragged about this before, but none of my Pre-Penguin clients were affected. Here are some big examples of unnatural link profiles
- Having links from sites unrelated to your niche – If a site is linking to another site, they’re mostly likely going to be related in some way. Yes, there are exceptions to this, but in general the majority of links coming to a site should be from niche related content.
- Blogroll Links – This are links that were purchased and either show up in the sidebar or footer of a website. They used to work really well, as they use exact match anchor text and show up on every page of a website. Having a single link from a strong page on a website (or a few pages) is great, but every single page is overkill and will hurt your rankings.
- Unnatural Distribution of Exact Match Anchor Text – Google tracks what the anchor text is for the link that is going to your site. If you have 500 links coming in, and 350 say “Red Books” that is way too high of a percentage for a normal site. Most people who link to content aren’t going to be using the exact same keywords, so the variations should be significantly higher.
3. Disappearing Links – With both the Panda and Penguin Updates, sites were removed from the Google Index and many webmasters have been changing their sites around to try and improve rankings. Basically, the link from the site is no longer counted by Google or has been physically removed from the site. The value of all those links is now removed from the total value of your site, which explains the drop in rankings.
All 3 of those causes have very similar effects in the rankings, so its difficult to say what exactly is the problem at first. Research and analysis is involved to figure out which of the cause(s) (yes it could be more than one), led to your drop in rankings.
In my next post, I’ll be writing about identifying the issue and what I’ve been doing to resolve it for my clients.
Thanks. ~Ryan England – Executive SEO