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

Whitehat Blackhat

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.

Continue ReadingIt Don’t Matter if You’re Black or White

Google Penguin Update – The Story So Far

Google Penguin Update

24th April 2012 has been marked as the day SEO changed forever.

On this day, Google rolled out the initial version of its Penguin update in an attempt to rampage against so called “web spam”.

Google primarily wanted to target pages that appeared high up in their SERPs that were building excessive backlinks in an “unnatural” manner.

Obviously, Google is heavily dependent on the algorithm to do this and cannot manually review each site to see if it complies with the new set of SEO rules it set out.

Unlike the Panda update, before it which mainly targeted poor on-site content issues – the Penguin update was targeting low quality off-site backlinks and other anchor link and content “over-optimization” signals.

Essentially Google has sent out a message to the community to follow the strict guidelines while building links, or face a penalty irrespective of the quality of content a site may have.

This will undoubtedly result in a whole surge of what is called negative SEO (more on that later).

Google has laid out a new set of rules.

It seems that getting people to follow these rules is more important than the search results Google produces.

They will punish all sites who they feel are trying to game the search results via Penguin related penalties – even at the cost of sacrificing the efficiency and quality of their search engine.

The update is not 100% focused on improving the quality of search results – but is targeted primarily towards sites that have managed to game them with high levels of unnatural links.

What this means is that, if your backlink profile has more unnatural or toxic links more than a certain tolerance and threshold level – your site can get an Algorithmic Penguin Penalty or a Manual Penguin Penalty (the two are different and we will discuss this later).

Google has become ruthless now and it does not mind sacrificing the quality of its search results if it can successfully pass down its “message” as to what constitutes good and acceptable SEO.

Many search results, across niches, are showing unrelated listings on the top. As high quality content sites are being displaced and penalized for their off-page “over optimization” penalty – as a result poorer and oftentimes irrelevant sites are ranking on top. This is one of the downsides of the algorithm (the other big one is that it has destroyed innocent sites and the livelihood of people behind them).

Note: If you’re clever in your SEO you can leverage this algorithm update to do some negative SEO on brand search results that are hurting your reputation with bad reviews. This is a fantastic tactic for your online reputation management strategy.

Google’s webspam team, has no option now but to manually examine each popular niche and remove top ranking sites that are involved in webspam activity or suspicious link building methods.

Lower ranking sites have gained ranks not because they have only done safe link building activity… its because they did not engage in as much “unnatural” web spam activity as the sites above them did – which, as a result, been removed from the top spots.

Continue ReadingGoogle Penguin Update – The Story So Far

Brace Thyself! The Army of Penguins is Here

penguin seo update

Google expects us to abandon other business growth opportunities and try to spend time to figure out what needs to be fixed in our backlink profiles every time they change things around.

We’re expected to troll the forums and decipher their “changing SEO puzzle” and find out what really is happening with each update they throw at is. We need to reverse engineer our sites and rankings in an effort to get back – with no assurance that things work in our favor.

All the problems we have to deal with and face are not just limited to Penguin. Currently we have to deal with a whole bunch of new on-site and off-site variables and rules they have thrown at us – and that too these are not clear and defined. The SEO community has deciphered most of these and they are assumed to become the new set of SEO rules.

Google sets down the rules for GOOD SEO… and then they break them at will!

Even Hitler’s angry with this Penguin update…

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Continue ReadingBrace Thyself! The Army of Penguins is Here

Penguin 2.0 Update – Initial Observations and Notes

Mozcast penguin

Penguin 2.0 was released on 22nd May 2013 and affected 2.3% of English queries. Below are some initial observations and notes on Penguin 2.0 …

  • Penguin 2.0 is mostly a refinement of Penguin 1.0 – and may well have very similar criteria.
  • Sites with large fraction of thin un-trusted links were hit.
  • Several large networks that are privately and openly selling links have been hit. For example all sites selling links via Text-Link-Ads (TLA) have lost Page Rank and therefore link juice. This means that if your sites were heavily relying on TLA to rank, you will see drop in rankings.
  • Matt Cutts has said that other Private Blog Network Links are being discovered and being penalized also. It is also rumored that the highly blackhat Russian network called SAPE has been discovered – but this is only a rumor, probably said to deter people from it. SAPE is not an easy network to crack open!
  • Google may have applied a penalty on 301’ing of sites. It appears only to have been applied retrospectively, so no one can do Negative SEO by redirecting sites after Penguin 2.0 came into effect. More on this below.
  • Some sites that were trying to recover from an algorithmic penalty of penguin 1.0 are reporting a comeback!

And, as I said previously – a lot of the new mumbo jumbo does not apply to the very small micro-niches that Google’s algorithm has not (yet) targeted. Micro-niches where old school SEO are still commonplace and are in fact thriving. I am still seeing many of my clients holding ranks for these very small and obscure niches. However, do note that these niches exist in millions of variety and follow a “The Long Tail” phenomena.

The most important first step you can take if your website has been hit is to stay calm and composed. This is difficult – but a requirement if you want to recover. So, get a grip of yourself and get ready to face the challenge that lies ahead.

Continue ReadingPenguin 2.0 Update – Initial Observations and Notes