The Aftermath of Google Penguin: Steps You Can Take If You’ve Been Affected
Anyone who knows Google will know that since 24th April 2012, the word Penguin has taken on a whole new meaning from the waddling arctic animals. Like its predecessor Panda, Google’s latest algorithm change, Penguin set about to promote ‘high quality sites’ and clamp down on ‘web spam’. The gist of the update was in Google’s own words to ‘reward the good guys’ whose sites are designed to provide users’ with great content and fulfilling information.
SEO through keyword content plays a vital role to the optimisation and monetisation of many sites and blogs. However as the importance of search rapidly grows, certain webmasters have tried to incorporate algorithm ‘shortcuts’ such as keyword stuffing and link schemes in order to promote their sites’ prominence in searches. This is known as over-optimisation.
The result of the Penguin update was that over-optimised sites in violation of Google’s quality guidelines found themselves penalised by decreased rankings. Google explained this as their way of ensuring that users are directed to sites which will best fulfill their needs with the most relevant information.
How do I know if my site’s been Penguined?
The most obvious way of deciphering whether your website has been affected by Google Penguin is checking to see if your traffic dropped suddenly after 24th April. Using analytics to check traffic levels on certain keywords could help to make specific issues clearer.
You may have already been contacted by Google regarding ‘spammy’ pages. Your Google Webmaster account may provide you with outlined violations which have been disallowed. This can offer a useful starting point when making your changes.
It could also be useful to run a few searches on popular key terms which you know are good traffic drivers to your site. This could help you to get an initial feel for the impact.
Checking the ranking of brand terms could help you to assess if you have been affected. For example, if rankings for certain terms have dropped, this could help to highlight areas which may require further examination.
It is also possible to set email alerts through analytics which notify you when your traffic falls below specified levels for certain keywords which can help to advocate effective SEO monitoring.
So what can I do if I’ve been hit by Penguin?
Unfortunately, there is no one quick and simple method of recovering your website from the effects of Penguin. However there are number of steps that you can take to attempt to hoist yourself up back the ranking ladder.
Firstly, you should ensure that you fully understand the impact of your penalisation as knowing where and how hard you have been hit will help you to make necessary adaptations in order to safeguard yourself from future effects.
If you believe that your website has been misjudged and is not in breach of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines then you could complete Google’s Reconsideration Request form listed on their Webmaster Forum. You should provide as much information as possible including relevant examples of how you feel you have been wrongly affected and an explanation of what your site is trying to provide users with.
Treat your website as if it is a person. This may sound stupid however Google likes good, meaningful content written to provide users with the good, meaningful information that they require when they search. Thin content filled with over densified keywords will be seen as ‘web spam’ and is likely to knock you down in the rankings so you may want to ask yourself if it is really worth it. Try thinking of your website from the user experience and engagement point of view rather than just a ‘rankings tool’.
This will help you to start cleaning up your site. Once you have identified the issues, you can start ridding yourself of the poor-quality backlinks which have contributed to the damage. You may wish to focus on improving your organic visibility rather than relying heavily on outsourced strategies.
Improve the quality of your content and avoid thin content on your pages. Ensure that keywords are not ‘floating’ but relevant and well-explained. When creating and improving your content, put yourself in the shoes of the user and think ‘what would information would I want directed at me from my search?’ – this will help you to make your content relevant to the user. Google’s own advice urges webmasters to avoid ‘web spam tactics’ and provide users with ‘high quality content’ therefore following their procedures could help you to boost your website’s profile the right away.
On a final note, try to see Google Penguin not as devastation to your website but as warning to help you improve your site to the best of its ability. Although the update has had a knock-on effect for a number of webmasters, Google have implemented the update in order to ensure users get the best from their search engine and you should use it in order to ensure that your visitors get the best from your website.
This post was written by John Hughes who is the resident blogger at www.