How to Get Ahead of the Next Penguin Update

In April 2012, Google changed the SEO game forever by introducing the Penguin update, an algorithmic change that attacked perceived low quality links and the websites they pointed to.

This caused many websites to drop for rankings that they had previously owned and caused catastrophic traffic losses for websites, crippling businesses in the process.

And the bad news for website owners and SEO professionals is that there is more still to come, with Google’s head of search spam Matt Cutts announcing that a new, large scale Penguin update is set to be launched in 2013.

For anybody that witnessed the fallout from the last Penguin update, there should be a healthy trepidation at the prospect of this latest round. But rather than go into hiding and fear opening Analytics every morning, there are steps that SEOs can take to mitigate the risk of Penguin 2.0 hitting their site.

Here are a few things you should be looking for that might cause you problems when Penguin next strikes.

Diversify your Anchor Text

One of the biggest problems that Penguin uncovered was an over reliance on keyword rich anchor text in links. Previous SEO wisdom dictated that keywords had to be placed in anchor text, but this led to many websites having backlink profiles that were almost entirely made up with keyword rich links, something that looks entirely unnatural to Google.

When building links, ensure that they include more natural looking anchor text. Think about what people linking to your website might use, and be sure to include plain URL links, your company name and generic words that you would expect websites to use when linking naturally.

Spread your Links Around

When your actions are dictated by link building for rankings, the temptation is to just build links to your target landing pages. This, however, gives out unnatural signals.

Make sure you are building good content that naturally attracts links, helping to build an authoritative domain that will help your target landing pages rank.

Where you do have control of the link, ensure that you are spreading links around your website. Nothing looks more unnatural than all of your links pointing to the same few money pages.

Get Rid of Poor Links

We’ve all been there and if you’ve never taken a short cut when link building and gone for something that was of dubious quality then you’ve probably not been in the game for very long. But these links now have the ability to cause more harm than good.

Use Open Site Explorer or Majestic SEO to analyse your backlink profile, paying particular attention to those from dubious directories, spun articles or paid links. It might be time to request removal of these before Google count them against you. Site-wide links are also causing people problems, even when placed there legitimately, so look at removing these where you have them in favour of one link from a single authoritative page.

Build New Links

Google are also in the process of downgrading pages and links to websites that it says are breaking their rules. Even if you have built links in good faith, they may be in danger of losing their power if they are on a website that is deemed to have strayed from the rule book.

In the run-up to the next Penguin update, make sure that your efforts are behind building high quality links and look at changing the way you are undertaking this process to protect you from any future algorithm updates.

Build your brand into an authority in your niche and create content and resources that will appeal to your users. If your links are natural, you will be spending less time coming up with ways to make them look natural.

Even if you weren’t affected by the last Penguin update, it doesn’t mean that you will be immune the next time around.

Look at the links you have built in the past and consider whether your current methods are sustainable in the long term. Now is the time to invest in a more natural way of marketing your business online and while there is no indication of the severity of the next Penguin update, it is surely time to stop chasing the algorithm and build a strong, sustainable online business.

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