Penguin strikes again

Well, it’s that time again when webmasters are furiously scurrying around checking their websites and rankings to see if they have been impacted by the latest Google update, Penguin 2.1. Yup, the search giants recently released an updated version of their ever-popular (ahem) algorithmic change which focuses on targeting sites which use manipulative, spammy tactics in order to gain positive ground within the SERP’s meaning more traffic go to their sites.

Well, it’s that time again when webmasters are furiously scurrying around checking their websites and rankings to see if they have been impacted by the latest Google update, Penguin 2.1. Yup, the search giants recently released an updated version of their ever-popular (ahem) algorithmic change which focuses on targeting sites which use manipulative, spammy tactics in order to gain positive ground within the SERP’s meaning more traffic go to their sites.

Looking around SEO community boards and comments via other posts regarding the update, it seems like many webmasters have been affected in large numbers across a varied spectrum of niches since its release date.

So, Why Were Sites Hit by Penguin 2.1?

It would appear, and not surprisingly, that this latest update has focussed on newer link spam – links which have been created beyond the previous Penguin 2.0 update and those it will have missed. This action clearly reinforcing Google’s position they simply won’t accept sites trying to rank for swathes of exact match anchor terms across the search engine’s top pages. In addition to this, other practices which were being targeted include:

  • Blog comments spam – Even if these links aren’t followed, Google appears to be seeking these out
  • Blogroll spam - lists of blogs on your site which have no relevancy could be targeted – if you have doubts – don’t add it
  • Forum bio spam – Biographies of forum users containing exact match anchor texts
  • Forum spam – Exact match anchor texts within forum posts and comments
  • Spammy Directories – These are absolutely a no-no in the modern SEO game – if your site hasn’t been affected, it is highly likely that it will – arrange for the links to be disavowed or no-followed to protect your site

How Can I Tell if I Was Hit?

Quite simply really, have a look at your Analytics for your site and if you have seen a significant drop in traffic post-October 4th then your site has likely been hit by this update. Additionally, check your site’s keyword rankings – these are one of the earliest indicators your site has been affected by Penguin 2.1.

Recovery and Recommendations

If your site has been affected (or even if it hasn’t) it is a good idea to evaluate the links that are pointing to your site and identify where they are coming from. Where necessary, plan which ones need to be removed or disavowed and in extreme circumstances remove pages (if they are unimportant).

Understanding why your site has been hit is also important so here are some simple recommendations if you have been:

  • Comprehend that Google is targeting unnatural links – producing new content and increasing social presence won’t see a recovery
  • Analyse your site’s back link profile – identify exact match and rich anchor text – it’s Penguin’s bread and butter Remove these links if you can and disavow the remainder – this will help your site improve as you build and attract natural links to your site
  • Act swiftly – this goes without saying the quicker your site recovers the quicker you can get back to doing what your site does best

It’s clear that that Google intends to continually update its algorithm to clean up what it feels is manipulative practices in order to game the search engine and its hard party line won’t go unpunished if webmasters don’t learn to adapt and change to the way Google wishes to play the game. My personal standpoint is whilst rankings are important it also worth producing content which warrants them. To me it is far more interesting to produce worthwhile, shareable content compared to churning out heartless articles over and over again in order to stuff anchor phrases within them – I hope others feel the same.