google-penguin-sheriffDid your website get hurt by Google’s Penguin 2.0 update? Are you afraid your organic traffic has been sliced into a fraction of what it once was?

Fear not (for now) – This post will give you some insight and ideas to prevent and remediate the dreaded “Google slap”.

What is this Penguin thing, anyway?

Penguin 2.0 is an algorithmic update that was release & went live on May 22, 2013.  Penguin 2.0 targets websites that are deemed to be “spammy” in Google’s eyes.

What does “spammy” mean exactly?

Spammy websites are those that employ tactics that are NOT helpful to users.

This is a very important distinction in Google’s eyes.  Their entire philosophy revolves around helping your users (also referred to as visitors or readers).

In light of the Penguin 2.0 update, your #1 mission is to make sure your website is in line with the Google Webmaster Guidelines.

Specific “spammy” tactics that were targeted in this algorithm update are as follows:

BAD SEO tactics found in the crosshairs of Penguin 2.0

Whether you have a company working on your SEO or someone handling it in house, make sure they are aware of the update & ask them what they’re doing about it.

If you’re satisfied with their answer, continue to dig deeper to learn if the following tactics were ever used in attempts of getting higher search engine rankings.

blog-network-linksMicro-sites or blog network links

This refers to setting up blogs or micro-sites whose primary purpose is to link to your main business website.

These sites have no value to a user as their content is usually thin, boring, poorly writing, or straight up copied.

Remember, sites with no value to readers will pass no value through their links to your main website, and can even HURT your rankings!

Anchor text consistency

Anchor text refers to the words that can be clicked to visit a different web page.

SEO’s thought: “More links with our keyword as the anchor text = better ranking for that keyword”

For example, if my website sells red tennis shoes, the idea would be to gain links with the anchor text “red tennis shoes”.

Well, Google knows that’s probably not natural.  Think about it, when someone sends you a link, they say: “Hey, want some red tennis shoes? Go here.” – Where the “Go here” Is the part that’s linked, NOT “red tennis shoes.”

If most of the links that point to your website contain an exact match of the keyword you want to rank for, you might find your rankings going the opposite direction after the Penguin 2.0 update.

Let’s give the GOOD SEO tactics some love

For some contrast & to solidify the understanding, here are some examples of good SEO tactics that actually help your users (& search engines too):

  • Performing keyword & market research to understand how users search for your product or service.
  • Adding descriptive title tags, meta descriptions, & alt attributes to your web pages & images, respectively.
  • Blogging about topics relevant to your business industry.
  • Gaining links from partners, vendors, clients, friends, and even non-affiliated websites which tell users
  • Redirecting broken pages to their most relevant working page.

SEO analogy: How to view “Search Engine Optimization”

popular high school chicksThis analogy might help you understand how Google views and ranks websites.

Remember the endless popularity battle that was high school?  Google plays the popularity game as well.

For any given keyword, Google will do a ranking of the GOOD websites that know about that topic.

Remember: GOOD websites.  You might be the most popular BAD kid in town, the bully of the bullies if you will, but Google won’t give you any love.

If you have a zillion low-quality or completely worthless links, that’s like having a zillion friends who are up to no good.  Whereas, you might have 10 friends who look to you as the expert of “video editing” – and so, Google will see that and rank you prominently for the keyword “video editing”.

It’s not about QUANTITY, rather much more about QUALITY.

Further readings for Penguin 2.0

For some more technical details on the known effects and some speculation on this algorithm update, visit this post.

Click here for a fun yet somewhat technical read by Search Engine Journal.

Find all the Google algorithms here.

Videos from Matt Cutts, head of the Anti Web Spam team @ Google.

Posted a week before this update: What should we expect in the next few months in terms of SEO for Google?
Matt basically previews everything stated above.

Posted 2 weeks after this update: What are some misconceptions in the SEO industry?
Mr. Cutts beats up on “link building” and reminds us to make high-quality websites.  He even suggests using design, something WoodStreet does extremely well, as a way to differentiate your website from others.

Arsham Mirshah is a co-founder of WebMechanix, an Inbound Performance Marketing agency known for delivering “Snowballing ROI” through SEO, Paid Media Management, & Conversion Maximization Science. Arsham holds a degree in Bioinformatics & Computational Biology with a minor in Computer Science… but none of that matters when he’s on the tennis court or ski slope. Find Arsham on Google+ and Twitter