It Don’t Matter if You’re Black or White

The Penguin 1 and 2 updates have hit sites that have used black hat or white hat tactics.

Many quality sites that have been playing it safe and by the Google rules have been caught in the crossfire.

Some people say that all link building is essentially blackhat – because you are directly or indirectly building the links!

Unless you are indulging in true “link earnings” tactics, such as – link baits, community outreach, sponsorships, real guest post blogging, infographics etc. – everything else, by definition, can be considered as building artificial and unnatural links!

You can stay clear of a penalty if you just build your links in a specific manner.

Here’s a few things you absolutely need to do to stay clear of the Penguin spam filters.

  • build links mostly on high quality, relevant sites in your niche
  • build links with a steady link velocity
  • stay clear of using automated tools like GSA for Tier 1 links
  • make sure you have with tons of anchor link variety that looks natural. NO money keyword stuffing or repetitive use of money anchors.

Of course, it is also absolutely important that you study the top 10 competitors in your niche and see their “level” of link building activity and ensure that you do not do anything that is excessively different.

You become suspect of unnatural link building, if you do otherwise.

Specifically if you or your contracted SEO company goes crazy and builds a large number of low quality links that are built very fast using  automated software bots.

However, the ugly truth is that Penguin did hit many sites that indulged in 100% pure WhiteHat activity! This update is full of controversies. By doing as other top ranking sites are doing you are only reducing your chances of being hit.

In the Penguin update – even people who played it 100% safe have been hit. We are seeing countless comments and feedback on forums and blogs of sites that were hit by the Penguin update even though they never used any Black Hat methods …and in fact built only quality links very slowly using white hat means.

So, there is understandably a lot of resentment and confusion going on in the industry currently.


Who Has Been Hit?

With the Panda Update, Google was targeting more on-page SEO and on site content. With Penguin Google is targeting more off-page SEO…specifically – the quality and natural profile of your backlink portfolio.

The Penguin 1.0 update came into effect on 24th April 2012, and Penguin 2.0 was around a year later on 22nd May 2013 . You need to look at your search-related traffic from Google around these dates (although this is not a 100% assurance). You can see and track a list of all major Google Updates here.

Do you see a substantial drop in traffic compared with a day or two before?

If so, you were most probably hit by the Penguin update. If you see a rise in traffic… then you probably benefited from the Penguin update. If you don’t see no change… then it really had no impact on you.

We are seeing sites all across the board with variety of backlink building methods getting penalized… and many sites that should not be on the top of the rankings are spared or have just gotten a large boost in their rankings.

This update is about Google passing down a message to sites who it considers were trying to “game” its SERPs. If a site is suspected to be in violation (even though it may not actually be in violation) – then it is hit and pushed down the ranks. Whether it gets replaced by a better search result or not – is not of concern to Google (which is somewhat alarming as they don’t seem to consider quality of their search engine to be of paramount importance currently).

Obviously, something more serious has happened and Google may have sensed that its algorithm and engine has been “broken” or “reverse engineered” easily by some experts in the industry.

Google was desperate to roll out a severe update in an effort to save their top ranking results.

They have also clearly introduced a large element of “randomness” and “guess work” amongst people who do SEO – with the aim of throwing them into a sea confusion. And, it has worked to some extent.

With the Penguin update Google is trying to replace or devalue simple “anchor text” use with “niche content relevancy of linking sites” as the primary quality signal for passing down link juice for better rankings.

This effectively means that Google is proposing that off-page anchor text link is losing its value and the off-page content relevancy of where you place your links has gained a lot of importance.

Over 700,000 websites have been issued a notice and we feel easily over 3 million sites have been affected drastically with the Penguin 1 update and similar figures have been seen across the Penguin 2 update.

The Penguin update is one of the most dreadful updates Google has made till date. They have wiped out both big and small businesses that depended on their top rankings in the natural and organic search results pages of Google.

The update has hurt companies of all sizes that rely largely on organic search traffic from Google. A severe penalty for their site has resulted in people closing down companies, losing their jobs and a sudden stop to their cash flow.

Many feel this could all have been avoided and Google could have achieved and executed in a better manner. Many of you who got hit hard by Penguin will notice that the rankings are now dominated by competitors who have poor quality content and just a few backlinks.

Surely, there has got to be some logical explanation to this?

As I said before – this update will sacrifice Search Quality in an effort to push down sites that they consider to be gaming their algorithm.

So, when your site got penalized along with other competitors who were also at the top, the sites lower down the SERPs simply got bumped up and got to the top positions even though they hardly had any quality content or many backlinks. It just seems like Penguin “over-rode” Panda.

Did your site get hit even though you used 100% White Hat methods?

There are many people on the forums who are claiming that their sites got hit even though they have never done any sort of black hat or webspam activity. If this is you, then one of these probably applies to you –

(a)   You don’t get quite what “What Hat” is

(b)   You’re getting punished for once considered safe activity that has now become Black Hat after the Penguin update

(c)    The natural links that people were sending you, somehow got constituted as spam links and hence caught you in the filter

I will get to all the SEO “white hat factors” that Penguin 1 and 2 updates want to see in your backlink profile in order to rank you on top – in another post.