10 Yetis Guest Blog Spot - Google Penguin Explained - Mike Overthrow
Andy in the hot seat today for this very special SEO-tastic blog post. I am delighted to announce that one of the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) folk that I really look up to, Mike Overthrow, agreed to write a guest blog post for us on The Five Practical Steps to Make Your Website Penguin Proof.
The Five Practical Steps to Make Your Website Penguin Proof
As an in-houser I often see first-hand people's nervousness over what they see as the dark art of SEO.
We're lucky to have a great team who have seen the positive impacts SEO can have but there's still a strong and slightly unfragrant whiff of mystery around some of the finer details.
This isn't helped by the many 'get ranked quick' scheme spammy emails and calls which bombard in-house marketing teams. Offering everything from 5,000 links for £200 to "Rank 5th in Google in 14 days" promises (a genuine email subject line!).
The black hats (boo!) aren't doing us any favours. In some quarters, it seems, SEO could definitely benefit from a rebrand. Personally, I'm hoping Google's Penguin update could be the thing which helps trigger it.
What the hell's the Penguin update, Batman?
(N.B- You'll be pleased to know there are no more penguin related puns in this post. I tried a few but none of them flew.)
On April 24th Google launched a new update called the Penguin Update. It aims to punish people who spam search results (i.e. use dodgy tactics to point links from hundreds - often thousands - of other sites to theirs in order to improve search result page rankings).
In their Inside Search blog Google stated around 3% of search queries would be impacted by the change which effectively decreases rankings for sites which aren't playing by Google's rules
The update is completely separate to the Google Panda updates which are more focused on penalising poor quality content. Penguin is all about penalising spammy looking back link profiles.
What's being penalised?
If you have loads of irrelevant links from poor quality sites pointing at your site then you may well have been hit by Penguin in some way. If, however, you'd be happy to show your mum every website which links to you, you probably weren't.
And yes, like Panda, Penguin will be making regular re-appearances. So just because you haven't been hit doesn't mean you won't be in the future.
Anecdotally though, it seems it's not just black hat, obviously spammy tactics, which are being hit. Some of the greyer '"yeah, we'll get away with that, surely?" stuff is being hit too.
So, how do you make your website more penguin proof? Here's my 5 step plan:
Step 1: Check your analytics
First things first, was your site actually hit by Penguin? Or was it Panda?
Just to confuse things, Google helpfully released Panda 3.5 on 19th April and then Penguin on 24th.
So, check in Google Analytics (other, worse analytics tools are available) to see if you experienced a noticeable drop in traffic following each of these dates.
If, however, you're creating great content regularly and don't have a del-boy like back link profile you probably had a good week.
Step 2: Audit your back link profile
You'll know what link building tactics you've been using better than anyone but it's still worth using a tool like SEOMOz's Open Site Explorer to get a reality check.
Have a look at the Linking Domains tab. Happy with everything on there? Would they all pass the proud mum test?
Step 3: Stop anchor text stuffing!
It's almost become the norm to try and get the anchor text link (the text which links to your site from another) to be a search phrase you're trying to rank better for.
For example, the words "Online PR agency" might be linked rather than 10 Yetis.
Penguin means you might want to rethink this. In short, if the bulk of the anchor text of links to your site aren't brand terms you may be penalised.
So, if you ask companies you sponsor or partner with to add an anchor text link to their footer (so the link appears on every page of their site) I'd stop. Instead I'd go after one natural, brand related link from the highest page rank page on their site.
Oh, and if you're a web designer or similar, those 'powered by...' or 'website design by...' links you add to all of your website footers - same goes for them!
Step 4: Check for over-optimisation
Although Penguin was primarily focused on penalising spammy links it's still worth having a quick check of your key pages to make sure they aren't over optimised.
I'd still definitely make sure you've got your primary target search term at the start of your page title, H1 tag and alt image descriptions but don't stuff the phrase in the body copy a dozen times!
Try and put the 'natural' back in search! Write for the reader, not Google - and even then check your enthusiasm for your subject matter hasn't led you to include more than four uses of that target phrase on the page!
If you're new(ish) to SEO I recommend reading this great guide.
Step 5: Your new link building strategy - be useful, be interesting, create awesome
I once heard SEO described as the best online strategy game there is. Like all the best games though, there's always someone out to find the shortcuts.
Most of the tactics targeted by Penguin would be the gaming equivalent of a Sensible Soccer cheat shortcut. But where's the satisfaction in bypassing every round to get straight to the final and play a weakened Barcelona with comedy mullet haircuts?!
Sure, some black hat techniques will continue to work or evolve post Penguin but do you really want to risk it?
No. Now, is the perfect time to start link building more naturally. Good link building is really just good marketing. If you create quality, useful and interesting stuff regularly; be great at what you do and genuinely help people out - you'll get decent inbound links.
Think regular blog posts, articles, infographics, competitions, awards, how to's, surveys etc. Think about the stuff which you read, link to and share. Create more of it!
If you're managing in-house there are loads of useful resources out there to get you started. These two are a great starting point:
Distilled's mammoth guide to becoming a linkbait hero
iAcquire's NOOB guide to link building
But if you're looking for agency support you might want to think beyond the usual suspects. Andy tells me PRs are quite good at all this stuff too. And as he supplies free donuts I'm tempted to believe him.
Summary - be like Joe!
In summary put the natural back in your search engine marketing (although SEO has a higher UK search volume :-))
Watch the first 90 seconds of this video and try and behave like Joe!
If the ref says you've stepped out of bounds, review Google's rules, play fair, be a good sport, use your awesome skills and your back link profile will p-p-pick up after the Penguin. Sorry, I lied about the Penguin puns.
|Andy posted on 15/05/2012. Follow Andy on Google+.|