The first thing to bear in mind about the recent Penguin update is that it is recent. In other words, we do not have much data available yet, and while we do know about some of its effects, there is bound to be some amount of speculation involved when suggesting ways to ‘recover’ from the update. This, especially because the reactions to being wiped off the face of SERP has much righteous indignation in them from people who claim to have been hit in spite of always having fresh content and natural backlinks.
Controversy and bitterness apart, let’s take a look at what this update is officially all about. This one (apparently) does not consider content quality while nuking sites. In other words, according to some experts, you cannot recover from its negative impact by balancing a bad link profile with fresh and good quality content. What it does consider is bad inbound link, and as we have already stated, several webmasters have been complaining about their small business sites being hit in spite of an all natural link profile.
What are Bad Links?
Too many exact match anchor texts is bad. Why? Because it is inconceivable that every one of your several hundred (or thousand) ‘visitors’ used the very same anchor text to endorse your site – even if it is your official site description.
Forum signatures with similar anchor texts or the same raw links – this one is too obvious and was always a problem since Google decided to introduce its animal updates.
Ditto for blog comments and links or link texts
Excessive bookmarks – we are, most of us, guilty of this. Softwares and paid services for bookmarking have been around for a very long time, and we have made use of them. If you haven’t, you are among the exception.
Too many ‘do follow’ links and too less ‘no follow’ ones. Again, this has long been a problematic obsession especially with bloggers. People would go to ridiculous extents to find do follow blogs to comment on. Such link profiles are unnatural and, therefore, not Google friendly and likely to be hit by the Penguin 2.1 update particularly hard.
What is So Unique About the Penguin 2.1 Update?
If you have failed to find anything new in the previous points, you are not alone. Most or all of these were known to us. The unique aspect of the update in question is, (1) its ONLY function is to target bad links and so it is very thorough having nothing else to do and (2) Penguin 1.0 targeted only homepages, 2.0 went further to the inner pages and its offending content, and now the 2.1 update does exactly that plus, possibly, covers the deepest page levels hitherto unanalyzed by its predecessor. This does make it a threat for some sites. We reiterate, the only problem here is that sites claiming legit backlinks have been shouting themselves hoarse.
The Probable Solution
Analyzing your link profile seems to be first order of business in this case. It may not be long before we see some kind of software appearing on the scene that will remove all the links we created using other software. Until that happens, or unless you go about choosing an SEO company that will do your job for you, you have to do some manual checking and the Google Webmaster Tools is as good as any to begin your analysis with. Scrapebox will help you further (combined with a spreadsheet), but that will require a different article altogether to explain.
The bottom line is to check your link profile and find the offending link pattern. Try to look for the following while bearing in mind what we noted earlier about bad links:
Forum and Wiki spam – with exact match anchor text or repetitive raw link patterns;
Press Release links – did you no follow the links in them as per Google’s earlier guidelines?
Article Directory links – the ones that you had practically forgotten about!
(Questionable) Directory submission links – again, you may have forgotten about them;
Do you have too many links from unimportant sites and not a lot from authority sites in your niche? That’s a warning signal and now more so because it shows your link profile heavily biased towards quantity instead of quality;
And finally, God forbid – do you still have any of those link exchanges left over from your site’s younger days?
Now that you have a clear picture (more or less), go about pruning the questionable links. You can ask the concerned webmasters to remove the links, and they’ll probably understand, but don’t be surprised if no more than 5-10 percent of them bother to respond. Use the Google Disavow tool next and for domains that are particularly seedy, remove entire domains instead of particular links that you may deem irrelevant or harmful.
A word on removal here: a lot of experts advocate doing a blanket removal after deciding upon a plan of action. We suggest you stick to what seems natural. For example, if you decide upon removing all domains that do not match .com, .org, .edu or .net, it would probably seem unnatural, and 2.1 update cannot be entirely different from its mother Penguin and the creator Google. The emphasis was always on a natural pattern of endorsement in the form of link distribution.
An Alternative Approach to the Problem
Forget Google. Yes, that’s what we said/ typed/ wrote. But first, ask yourself if you think Google has been returning better search results or, shall we say, if the alleged improvement in returning results is in proportion with the hue and cry associated with its algorithmic updates. We have found mixed responses to this query, and you need to know what yours is. Then, you need to understand that there are other search engines that people still use. Bing! is a big one that Google fans often tend to ignore. Optimize for that as well as the smaller engines.
You don’t have to be indignant or dissatisfied with Google to do this. It always makes better sense to put your eggs in as many different baskets as you can. Ask the businesses that have been hit by the 2.1 update (or even previous updates) and they’ll tell you. We’re sure there will be more updates and more indignation in the future. Do yourself a favor and reach for a wider audience to begin with. Don’t ignore the advice on cleaning up your link profile: diversifying your optimization techniques in terms of number of engines does not really justify black hat link building techniques or simply having a messy link profile. Do your clean up, get your act together and move towards other pastures which may not be greener, but sure does have a lot of green left in them to prop you up in case you get knocked down by the Big G.
Jason Smith is an online manager for SeoCompaniesRanked. He likes blogging about online strategies that are related to SEO, Content, PPC & Lead generation.