Penguin Update 2016: A brief background for the uninitiated – Penguin is an algorithm update from Google that started back in April 2012 to punish sites that were manipulating search results with spammy links and dodgy inorganic links. So far so good, and when the second and third Penguin updates came out we all knew what to expect and how to act accordingly.
What makes Penguin the most fearful animal in SEO is that it can heavily impact on honest marketing efforts. Backlinks are an important part of SEO – they’re signals that people trust your site and what you have to say/sell/show. But even the most innocent of backlinks can sometimes be mistaken for black hat SEO.
OK, so what do Penguin updates look for?
- Link from poor quality sites
- Links that don’t relate to what they’re pointing to
- Overly optimised text (exact-match anchor text)
- Keyword stuffing
Right, when’s this Penguin Update happening then?
Last year Gary Illyes hinted that we’d get a Penguin update imminently:
— Gary Illyes (@methode) October 28, 2015
But no update happened.
SEOs have had to live in fear for a little longer… The last Penguin update was back in December 2014. SEOs worldwide had almost started to like the fluffy Antarctic residents again. They watched Happy Feet for the first time without weeping recently…
Twitter has been abuzz with rumours that Penguin 4.0 is about to be rolled out. Clues include the ‘fact’ that Google Search Console has been frozen for almost a week – a hint that something has changed in The Matrix.
How To Prepare for Penguin 4.0
Auditing your link profile should be on your to-do list. You’re not going to get away with saying, “Spam? What spam? How did that get there?“. Penalties will still come your way. So do a good old-fashioned Spring clean. Whilst the new update should be a real-time version, you will still be impacted immediately. Hopefully if you remove those links you will see a swift recovery, but why risk it?
Exact-Match Anchor Text
Another good tip for preparing for Penguin 4.0 is to make doubly sure that your link don’t include exact-match anchor text. Yes, we all know it’s best practice, but so often these slip the net. Variety is the spice of life and SEO – get a good mix of URL, long tail keywords, non-descriptive keywords and brand.
Seek Out The Weirdness…
While you’re doing your Spring clean, take a look at any anomalies – any spikes or unusual amounts of referring pages. If you can see it, you can be sure Google will too. If it makes you uneasy, get something done about it. When it comes to disavowing links, you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. Of course you want to tell Google that any spammy links were nothing to do with you, but manually getting links removed by contacting the site owner and asking them to remove the link is, of course, better. It takes time and patience and doesn’t always work. But it’s worth it when it does.
Internal Links Count Too
Putting the all-important external links to one side for a moment, don’t forget what you’re telling Google with your internal linking either. These are really quick fixes that you can get done today. Again, make sure your anchor text is varied, think about user experience – “Where is the next natural thing a visitor would want to look at?”. Keep your hierarchy clean and intact.
When you’re auditing your links look out for any that might need updating. And look for opportunities on other sites that are broken and could link to your site instead.
What If Penguins Bite?
Even with the best will in the world, we can’t be on top of all things at all times. We’re not given that much to go on whenever Google updates one of its infuriatingly cutely named algorithms. We can only try and be the best at what we do and not take shortcuts. Failing that, if this penguin happens to bite your site, go to the top of the tips above and carry them all out again. The way to avoid getting bitten is the same as recovering from it in this case.
Ultimately, these updates are sent to test us, but to also improve user-experience, to level the playing field, to stamp out people who aren’t adhering to best practices… We believe the Penguin Update 2016 will bring about a new era. SEO blogger, NikSto asked 77 SEO Experts what they believed will change:
Top SEO ranking factors in 2016 (as voted by 77 SEO experts)
- Overall improvement of link quality
- Quality of content
- Real time features
- Technical aspects, architecture and design
- User experience