4 Quick Steps to Beat Google Penguin

After Google Penguin was rolled out in April, many website owners, SEOs and bloggers were struggling to understand what to do in order to avoid being penalized and/or to recover from a possible penalty.

As I said in the previous post, it’s not immediate and straightforward to understand from which Google algorithm update you may have been caught (Panda or Penguin) and you should look very carefully at your web analytics to understand when you were hit. (Check out the comments in the post I mentioned before to find out how)

How to Beat Google Penguin

how to beat google penguinThis sounds like a karate or kung-fu intro and it might seem a difficult task for many, but I guarantee that it’s much easier to get out of a Google Penguin penalty rather than a Panda update as you can read from the SEOmoz Blog post of “How recovered from the Penguin Update“.

So here is a list of 4 ways to beat Google Penguin:

1) Create High Quality Content

You should always create great, unique content that you’re proud of and that can really make a difference between you and your competitors. Something that takes you to a higher spot and that will with no chance be considered the most authoritative resource on that topic.

It doesn’t have to be professionally written by a PhD or by Dante Alighieri, but it must be cool, shiny and awesome.
Your readers must stop and say “Wow! I wanna share that! How could I miss following him/her!?!”

How? Well, there are plenty of ways to stand-out and here are some of my favorite:

  • using amazing pictures (check this enlightening post on how to optimize pictures for SEO by Neil Patel on Quicksprout)
  • recording exciting and inspirational videos (I’ve seen this awesome video on Pat Flynn’s SPI blog)
  • giving advices, helping others and creating useful how-to lists

2) Natural Link Building

This is a more technical aspect and, since Google, is looking forward to help “normal users” and not SEO experts stand out, it is a high priority task to stop focusing on creating artificial links.

If you write something truly amazing, it will get attention, it will receive links, it will get noticed without having to grab thousands of nonsense links from low quality sources. Even just a few links, naturally inserted can have a great impact on your rankings. So stop loosing your time in poor link building techniques which can get you seriously hurt with the new Google Penguin update.

Also in this case I suggest you to take a look on how recovered from the penalty by removing thousands of low quality links placed in the footer of WordPress Themes.

3) Engage in Social Media

This should be obvious, with Social Media rising day by day, you must truly use this channel. From Facebook to Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and going to the latest Pinterest, social media has an amazing engagement rate among users, it helps building trust and brand awareness.

Right now, Blog World Expo 2012 is live in NYC and here are some stats that have been highlighted during the first day by Tom Webster –

  • 41% of Twitter users use it nearly every day
  • 10% of Americans use Twitter
  • Approx. 58 millions of Americans are checking Social Media profiles multiple times per day
  • On average Americans check Facebook 4 times a day and 8% check it more than 11 times a day
  • 76% of Twitter users are actively engaged/posting

4) Avoid cloaking and sneaky tactics

As this neat article from SEJ states pretty clear, the time’s over for all the sneaky tricks, the cloaking of text/links and the excessive exact match anchor text usage. If you don’t want to be the target for the next Penguin 1.2, 1.3, etc updates you should avoid these at all costs. Better to miss some spots in the top rankings rather than disappearing from the index! 😉

I see this Google Penguin update not so bad as a lot of people have described it, it’s a step forward in the right direction where spammers and heavy link building get penalized in a way that we’ve never seen before and that helps good content and good writers stand out and reach the light that they deserve.


Google Penguin Update, The New Panda

I think that April has become with no doubt the number one month for Google updates. In the future I’m sure that everyone that works in the Internet marketing field will look after what is going to happen during the 4th month of the year.

Google Panda Update

Yeah, after the 2011 April update named Google Panda, which has insanely changed the future of the Internet, this last month April 2012 has seen some of the most incredible variations inside Google SERPs (aka Search Engine Results Page) like the new Google Penguin update.

Let’s face it, with the Panda algorithm update Google has started (well…has already been following this trend for a long time) telling people to create great, unique and compelling content. Content for which you would love to be associated, non spammy, in-depth, rich of features, media and much more.

But that wasn’t enough. Actually it was only the beginning: Panda has struck back again and again with minor and major updates (at the moment we’re at Panda 3.6).

Personally I haven’t experienced any casualties until a so called minor-update around the 13th of October (Google Panda October Update), which by many people is actually considered a rather major one. And the site that was hit didn’t have any bad backlink profile, was full of good content (yes), unique content (yes), rich/long content (yes&no)…and it got hit badly.
The verdict: Panda has hit this website due to a decent amount of thin content, original, but anyway thin.
The problem: all the scrapers rised well above the website right on the first page of Google.

Ok, now, that clearly states a big issue. It’s rather obvious that if a website (scraper, feed aggregator, etc) ranks above the original source the algorithm isn’t working well.

Anyway, time passed by, some actions have been taken and that website has seen a slow rise in the SERPs.

Google April 2012 Updates

google penguin

Getting back to the latest April 2012 updates of which Google released a rather detailed overview, we can see that the following big actions have been taken (I’ve added a brief explanation and some considerations next to each):

  • Fix of results with (too) many category pages
  • Fix to some domain related queries
  • Country identification for webpages – now, this one is interesting since it should identify a language and a location also for a singular web page and not only at a domain, subdomain or directory level (very important update for multilingual websites)
  • More domain diversity – not sure about how this is implemented, since I still see some queries dominated with 7 results from one domain
  • Improvements to local navigational searches – signs of Google Local getting more important as days pass by
  • Improvements to how search terms are scored in ranking – another interesting change since Google gives big importance to keyword positions (such as keyword proximity)
  • Smoother ranking changes for fresh results – new, fresh content should rank better than older one
    • No freshness boost for low-quality content – a sort of penalty in case your content is detected as low quality, it will not rank well even if it’s fresh and new (watch out in case you’re on Google News!)
  • Better query interpretation – this improvement once more enhances the fact that Google looks carefully at user behavior and how/what a user searches for better understanding his query (example: if a user has been searching for “doors”, “wooden doors”, “large doors” and after he starts searching for “windows” probably that user is looking for real windows and not for the famous Microsoft operating system).
  • More concise and/or informative titles – Google has been replacing titles for awhile and with this fix they should show a shorter, more relevant title in search results, so if you want to show you’re own title I suggest you to follow this strategy too.
  • Fewer auto-complete predictions – in order to avoid possible low-quality results they have reduced the number of times auto-complete is enabled. So watch out if an auto-complete doesn’t appear it doesn’t mean people don’t search for it!
  • Sub-sitelinks in expanded sitelinks – this is a new entry. Sitelinks are those links that sometimes appear on search results pages where under a certain result there are some links which point to areas of that website. Well, now Google has introduced also sub-sitelinks where they show deeper sections of websites.
  • Sitelinks data refresh – sitelinks are now updated more frequently (on the order of weeks)
  • Keyword stuffing detection improved – I still see some results that fall in the keyword stuffing area and that are ranking pretty well
  • More authoritative results – this is the last one but probably should be the first one in matter of importance since it goes back to where I was talking about the low level of some results (i.e. scrapers ranking above the original source).

Google Penguin Update

Nobody knows exactly which of these are the factors that relate to the Penguin update but I agree with Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Journal where he states that these could be in the list:

  • Anchor text bug fix
  • Keyword stuffing classifier improvement
  • More authoritative results
  • Improvement in a freshness signal
  • No freshness boost for low-quality content
  • Improvements to how search terms are scored in ranking

I must say that I’ve seen the no freshness boost for low-quality content already in action during the months of February and March, but for the rest they’re part of the Google Penguin update for sure.