Regular SMEs who only recently dipped their toe into the forever thrashing waters of SEO have good reason to feel exasperated. It seems every few weeks there is yet another “Google algorithm update” which threatens to sink their tiny ship.
But as long as you’re steering a clear course there is nothing to worry about (and let’s drop the anchor on the nautical metaphors right there!). Abide by the rules and all will be well. But what are the rules? And how do you know if you’ve broken them?
The rules are changing all the time. That’s why your website’s SEO needs constant and close attention. One minute you might not be doing anything wrong, the next you may be facing penalisation. Here’s why:
Google Penguin 4.0 Update
Google’s most recent algorithm update, ‘Penguin 4.0’, has shaken things up in the world of search. Like the original version, it tracks and penalises websites that violate Google’s quality guidelines, i.e. sites that publish spammy links that do not benefit the user, but is more efficient and more advanced. Specifically, Penguin 4.0:
- affects all countries and languages (no-one is safe!)
- is part of the core Google algorithm (previously Penguin was more like a separate filter)
- runs real-time (therefore changes will happen almost immediately after a site has been crawled or re-crawled)
- works at a ‘granular‘ level (targets pages not whole sites, therefore recuperation following a penalty is easier than before)
Ultimately, Penguin 4.0 is designed to help make the web a better and more helpful place for the user. That is Google’s philosophy. However, spammers are persistent and forever finding new ways to manipulate Google search rankings. These are often achieved through black hat techniques that NO self respecting website should use. This is why algorithm updates will continue to be implemented until spam is as difficult to find as its edible namesake.
Is your website at risk after the Google Penguin 4.0 Update?
Generally speaking, this latest Penguin update is quite harmless. However, innocent websites can sometimes befall penalties because they unknowingly link to sites deemed spammy or malicious by Google. However, in the main, the new algorithm will punish the spammy sites more aggressively, not your website. To ensure this doesn’t happen, you need a knowledgable, attentive webmaster keeping close watch of your website’s health. This is one of many services we offer here at VKN Digital. In the meantime, you can take these 3 simple steps to maximise your chances of staying spam-free:
1. Cut down on ‘aggressive anchor text’
Anchor text is text that links to another website, like this: Here is a great guide to the different types of anchor text. Anchor text can be:
- exact (the text used is the exact keyword the linked url wants to rank for)
- partial (the text contains the keyword the linked url wants to rank for, like in my example)
- branded (the text used is the name of the brand the url links to)
- naked (how the url appears in a browser)
- generic (e.g. ‘click here’) or
- LSI (the text used is a synonym or closely related term of the keyword the url wants to rank for).
Aggressive anchor text is when there is too many exact examples. Any more than 20% exact anchor text matches across your site and it may start to look suspicious.
2. Favour quality over quantity
You may have heard that you need to fill your content with outbound links to authoritative sites within your niche to stand a chance of ranking for a topic. But you should great take care when doing this. While link-rich content is important for determining rank-ability, the quality of those links must be high. They must offer the user more value. If the quality of the content you link to is poor, you risk being hit by Penguin.
Quality links come from real websites which generate organic traffic and rank for their main keywords. The easiest way to check if a website is genuine is to check the comments section. Is there engagement? Is there anybody home? Mind you, that’s not always a totally accurate indicator. So, ask yourself these questions.
3. Keep track of your Backlink Profile
Google Penguin 4.0 works on a ‘granular’ level which is preferable in the event of penalisation (your whole site won’t be affected) but also means we have to be much more vigilant regarding existing content. In other words, you’ll literally have to track every page to check backlinks and on-page SEO if you really want to ensure pages you’re currently linking to are 100% spam free.
However, this may work to your advantage since your competitors may not be as conscientious as you.
Remember: if your site is hit by Penguin, you can retrieve your rankings quickly once the source of spam is removed, as Penguin runs in real time.
Suggested Further reading;
- Google Algorithm Change History (moz.com)
- Google Penguin 4.0: What does it mean for SEO practitioners? (searchenginewatch.com)
- 4 Google Best SEO practices to Help get Your Small Business Noticed (pcmag.com)
If you’d rather have an SEO expert audit or ‘Penguin proof’ your website for you, VKN Digital would be happy to help. Just send us an email via our contact page! 🙂