How to Survive the Google Penguin Update
It’s no secret that Google has, in recent years, stepped up its war against spammy, over-optimised websites. Panda and the Google Penguin update have squarely taken aim at site owners who use keyword stuffing, paid links, and any number of black hat and questionable techniques to gain an edge over the competition.
The overall aim, of course, is to prevent webmasters from gaming the system and achieving high rankings for poor content. While the changes have done a lot to remove poor quality content from the search results, the updates have also caught and penalised thousands of innocent webmasters who were just trying to make an honest living.
It’s frustrating to find your pride and joy penalised by Google, and webmaster forums have been bursting since the Google Penguin update broke on the scene with site owners bemoaning their bad luck and wondering why their Google traffic has suddenly dried up.
Fortunately, the answers are there for all to see. While Google is tight-lipped about the specifics (for fear that dishonest webmasters will find new ways to beat the system), there are a few general rules that webmasters should live by to ensure they don’t draw the attention of the Google Gods in the future. Here is a short guide to help you beat the Google Penguin Update.
Avoid Keyword Stuffing
If there’s one thing that will instantly mark a site as spammy, it’s keyword stuffing. We know that Google has been penalising sites with over-optimised text for years now, but in recent updates they’ve become even more sensitive about the issue.
To avoid a penalty, you need to rein in the temptation to use your target keywords in every second sentence. It just doesn’t look natural to include a keyword in every heading and every paragraph. That’s not how people really write, and as Google becomes more intelligent it’s going to become better and better at identifying unnatural text.
So, from here on in you should always make sure to use several variants of your primary keyword. It’s the only way to future-proof your site against upcoming Google updates.
Create a Great User Experience
The Google Penguin update has proven once again that Google is trying to promote sites that provide an awesome user experience, and it’s certain that future updates will give weight to sites that attract a lot of positive social signals. Facebook likes, Google Plus clicks, and tweets all tell Google that you’ve created a site that people are talking about, and these social signals will count for more as time goes on.
Of course, attracting social signals isn’t an easy thing. The only way to do it is to create something that people want to share, and that means providing valuable information on a high quality, user friendly site. It can be a challenge, but the effort will be more than worth it when you find your site showered with Google love.
Off-Page SEO Can Kill
Back in the good old days it was easy to rank content. Reaching the top of Google was simply a matter of creating as many off-site links as possible, and if you had more than your competitors you’d hit the top spot.
Today the question is much more complex according to the email warnings sent out to thousands of webmasters before the Google Penguin update. It’s clear that Google is taking a close look at unnatural link profiles. For instance, if your site receives links from comment spam, profile links, or visible blog networks you’ll probably be hit with some sort of penalty.
The only way to avoid this penalty is to make sure that your link profile looks as natural as possible. What does “natural” look like? Well, there’s no way of knowing, but you can guess that adding 1,000 comment links over the weekend or buying Facebook likes on Fiverr will raise a red flag.
So What Can I Do Today?
If you want to get a good idea of the kind of sites Google is looking to promote after the Google Penguin update you should just look at the search results right now. Pick a random keyword, look at the sites that top the results, and try to work out why they’re there. Do the sites provide an excellent user experience? Do they have a great, natural link profile? Do they use their keywords sensibly and naturally?