Google Turning Up the Heat Even More with Penguin 2.1

Penguin 2.1 update
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[pullquote align=”left”]Its been a couple of weeks now since Google released the Penguin 2.1 update. [/pullquote]

Although Google has claimed that only 1% of search results have been effected, it looks like a ton of people have been burnt yet again.

After reading up a few related blog posts and forums where real people have shared real data, here’s the kind of links Google has now started targeting with Penguin 2.1

Forum Spam – If you’ve been posting comments on forum with money keyword anchor links back to your site, then you could be under the scanner. Google is targeting all sites that are doing this. Its clearly a signal of trying to game the algorithm.

Forum Profile (Bio) Spam – Google is targeting sites that have been leaving keyword anchor links, with or without contextual content within their user profile areas in forums. Again, this is done with clear intent to manipulate the SERPs.

Do Follow Blogs – Finding blogs that allow you to insert DoFollow anchor links was once upon a time a holy grail for SEO. With Penguin 2.1 it can hurt you. If you’ve insert your money keywords within contextual posts on Blogs – you could be susceptible to a penalty.

Blog Comment Signature – Google is now aggressively going after blog comments with anchor keywords used in the signature. This includes both DoFollow and NoFollow links.

Blog Roll Spam – Although this IS safe to do if the blog has a lot of trust and is in the same niche, you need to be very careful with these kind of links, specially sitewide links that abuse this method. Stop doing Blogrolls unless the sites are 100% safe and related. Avoid money anchors, and use brand links and raw domain links or URLs.

Spammy Directories – Directories were targeted in the previous roll outs. Google has turned up the dial on them with this update. So, if you have any Directory listings – its best you get them removed or disavowed.

Classified Ads Spam – Google is going after links on low quality “classified ad” sites. This is easily used to game the algorithm and so the crack down was obvious sooner or later.

Note that the initial roll outs of Penguin only targeted the homepage of websites, but with these subsequent updates the algorithm is targeting all inner pages.

Tips for Recovery

Clean! Clean! Clean! Scrub! Scrub! Scrub! Disavow! Disavow! Disavow!

Continue ReadingGoogle Turning Up the Heat Even More with Penguin 2.1

Google Takes Aim At Press Releases

Press Release SEO
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Google has now updated its Link Schemes documents in the guidelines saying that it now considers optimized links inside content distributed across other sites as in Articles or Press Releases to be unnatural.

This line from the Google Webmaster Guidelines, specifies the point…

Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites.

John Mueller, a Google’s lead Webmaster Trends Analyst has said in the video below that Google will now consider Press Releases with money keyword anchor links that are DoFollow – as unnatural links.

Continue ReadingGoogle Takes Aim At Press Releases

Guest Blogging – Now Being Targeted

Guest Posts
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It appears that as of August 2013, Google is now going to target websites that are indulging in mass guest posts – IF the posts and/or the sites being posted to are of low quality and are not adding much value to readers.

There is now clear evidence that Google wants you to NoFollow your links in the content you post on other sites as Guests Posts.

Worth noting is the fact the new guidelines explicitly warn against large scale guest posting campaigns, paid advertisements, press releases and articles with optimized anchor text.

They have even updated their link schemes section inside Google Webmaster Guidelines. The guidelines now say that Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links may negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results!

The bottom line: guest blogging done on a large scale may trigger a manual review, especially if the quality of the blog is in question. It now appears that guest blogging falls under the definition of unnatural linking – and, if you fail to nofollow the links, you may leave yourself open to manual penalties.

That said – Guest Posts can still give you a lot of juice, but you need to do it right and stay clear of the low quality signals that Google considers as webspam, and could thus trigger a manual review of your posts and backlink profile.

Continue ReadingGuest Blogging – Now Being Targeted

Low Quality Toxic Links that could Trigger an “Unnatural Links” Penalty

Google Slap
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In this post I am going to define what Google sees as low quality links that are “toxic”… and how, if they are detected, in “excessive amounts” in your backlink profile – they can result in getting you the famous “unnatural links” penalty or warning in your Webmaster Tools area, such as the one shown in the image below.

If you want to avoid the penalty, then it is absolutely important that you stop directly link to your main site or its inner pages with excessive amounts of low quality links and reduce the use of “money keywords” in your anchor link profile.

You should also make sure that your off-site backlinks have proper anchor text optimization done and the ratios of keyword anchors that you use are natural looking.

“Low quality toxic links” and “money keywords in the link anchors” are bad IF done excessively.

Unfortunately, this thresh-hold is very low but varies from niche to niche and is based on the competitiveness of a particular niche.

Unnatural-Links-Warning-11

While it was possible to jump into any niche and just purchase a blast of 20,000 forum profile links for $20 and see some good SERP movements – those days are long gone and this is not possible anymore. In fact, it will definitely hurt you more. So, beware of buying low-quality bulk links.

While you may be able to get away with a few (fraction) of low quality and toxic links, as compared to your overall high quality backlink profile – you need to be very very careful.

A single sitewide link from a poor site (low PR) having 10,000 pages – can ruin the party for you.

So, before you go hire someone on fiverr to kick-off your link building efforts with 5000 cheap forum profile links – you need to stop and read this.

By indulging in this kind of link building activity you could be causing irreversible damage to your sites rankings.

While it is entirely true and observed that you can have a certain percentage of low quality links in your overall backlink profile – you need to watch these levels very closely.

Google has turned up the dial on this one and is throwing out a lot more manual and algorithmic penalties for sites with lower thresholds of low quality and toxic backlinks in their overall link profile.

Doing stuff like this, will sooner or later trip the algorithm and these links will start to pass down negative link juice to your main pages. So, do not indulge in these kind of links for your main domains. (you may get away with this by creating a Tiered structure – but that is a topic for another discussion).

Continue ReadingLow Quality Toxic Links that could Trigger an “Unnatural Links” Penalty

Google Penalty Evaluation & Recovery Plan – Case Study #1

Penguin Penalty
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This case study does not describe how to figure out which specific Algorithm Update and Penalty the site being analyzed has been hit by.

I will cover that topic in detail in a later post where I will show you exactly how to use Google Analytics and freely available data to determine which penalty your site has been affected by. I will also discuss the a clever tool that is available in the market to do this for you.

This is a simple case study that will evaluate an inner page of a site that was hit by the Penguin 2.0 update for just a couple of keywords – based on what was observed inside organic search data in Google Analytics.

We will prepare and outline the evaluation and proposed recovery plan below. In this case it is fairly simple and straight forward (we will get into more complex case studies in the near future).

I will document the actual implementation of the recovery plan as we proceed with this project in the coming weeks. This will give us further insight into what is working and if our analysis below is accurate.

Situation Overview

  • The Client has indicated that domain sitename.com (actual URL hidden for privacy reasons) has received a negative ranking factor for keyword “ipad repair” associated with the url http://www.sitename.com/moneykeyword.html
  • Since this penalty is not sitewide and probably targeted at this specific keyword-url pair, the recovery process will be non-complicated.
  • Since the other pages in the SERPs are sticking to where they are and only one internal page has been effected, this is an algorithmic penalty and not a manual penalty that has been applied site wide.
  • The exact date of the penalty is un-known as of now, but can be determined via Google Analytics data for this keyword. We also need to examine and determine if any other URLs and/or Keywords were also hit. This data can be analyzed via Analytics access.
  • Once we get access to Analytics we will share the exact keyword and organic search engine traffic charts that will confirm that the site was hit by the Penguin 2.0 update. I will post this in the coming weeks as I get this data.

Continue ReadingGoogle Penalty Evaluation & Recovery Plan – Case Study #1

Anchor Link Ratios Revisited

SEO funny
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I regularly get new clients who come to me with slapped sites and are totally panicking because they don’t know what went wrong.

Many of these clients worked with bad SEO companies low quality link builders who have not bothered to keep up to date with the Penguin updates and what Google wants to see more of moving forward.

While I am not a big fan of Google, and we do not yet know their real intentions for coming up with all these updates – we do need to see what it wants or the sites you are doing SEO for will drop out of the ranks very quickly.

Tip: Make sure to read my Anchor Text Optimization guide that shows you how the SEO pros optimize their backlinks and anchor ratios from their link building activity.

One of the key criteria that started to be discussed in the forums is the over use of the primary and secondary keywords (the money keywords) for which people wanted to rank. According to Google, they believe sites with over-optimized anchor link profile will be penalized for unnatural link signals.

So, for example, if you are selling blue shoes – and if you use the keywords “buy blue shoes”, “cheap blue shoes”, “best blue shoes” … which are your money keywords… say 70% of the time in your link building – then this is a red flag and Google will penalize your site. Google believes now (after 15 years) that this is an unnatural way to build links and if this pattern occurs in someones link profile – then their profile is being artificially built for SEO and the links have not been “earned” naturally by real third party people creating the page for you.

While this does make a lot of sense, it has its drawbacks which we can discuss later. For now, its important to understand that Google wants to see a natural pattern in your anchor link ratio – even if you create this natural pattern artificially and do it yourself, rather than wait for other people to create links to your site – which can take for eternity.

OK, so what exactly does Google consider natural anchor link profile?

Continue ReadingAnchor Link Ratios Revisited

First Things First – Fix Your Anchor Links, Baby

Anchor Links - How to Remove Bad backlinks
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If you suspect your site got hit by the Penguin update that just rolled out, the first thing you need to do is STOP WHINING because it won’t help you.

Stopped?

OK 🙂

Now calm down, take a deep breath and examine your “anchor link” over-optimization (Penguin is mostly about the anchor links pointing back to your site).

This is largely responsible for majority of penalties, in addition to the penalty for low quality links… that is backlinks on pages that have thin content, low trust, low page rank, located on de-indexed sites, on poor sites etc. – and I will make a separate post explaining that later.

What happened with the Anchor text penalty – is that Google does not want you to “game” them so easily by using your main “money keywords” (primary and secondary keywords you want to rank for) in the backlinks.

They figured that people gaming the rankings and doing SEO have simply left a “pattern” of unnatural anchor links in their backlink profile – that is easily detectible because it contains mostly money keywords as the anchors and not keywords that look natural… natural being the “anchor link pattern” and ratio that the other majority sites have.

Google figured that people forcefully doing SEO would repetitively stuff and use money keywords in their anchor links – in their race to rank on top. And, this is unnatural.

This is ironical because…

The original Google algorithm and patent defined how it ranked pages in the first place… using keywords in anchor text links, as a measure to pass link juice down to pages and rank pages for specific keywords, and devise the PageRank factor for each page.

Now, fixing your anchor links profile is going to take a little more than simply changing a few of your anchor link this time.

You’re going to want to make it look as natural as possible to the search engines.

This means building a lot of links that have LSI keywords (please see note at end if you don’t know what LSI keywords are), generic keywords, raw URL links, general niche links, brand links, full sentence links, randomly looking anchors as well as image links.

For example: if you have used your main keyword as the anchor text link in over 50% of your backlinks, chances that your site got hit are very high.

Google is giving sites a negative penalty for doing this, rather than devaluing the links. This is definitely the most dreadful thing they have done. As a negative penalty is harder to recover from – and requires you to fix things and then file a Disavow Tool and a reconsideration request for your site recovery – which probably may not happen (as per survey done only 10% of sites that are hit have been able to recover). We will discuss how to do all the formalities of recovery in another document in this report as it requires detailed and careful handling and understanding.

So here is the new “rule” of ratio distribution for you to follow while you are building your anchor links.

Continue ReadingFirst Things First – Fix Your Anchor Links, Baby

SEO in A New World Ruled by Penguins and Pandas

Penguin and Panda Update
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Today, I’m going to discuss various factors that you need to look at to ensure that you comply with the past, present and future Google Algorithm Updates – that seem to be getting rolled out with higher frequency.

Understanding what Google wants currently will ensure that your site remains protected from the current updates and algorithm requirements.

If your site has been already hit, by following the directions below you will stand a better chance to recover your site.

So, before you do a Disavow Tool submission or file a Reconsideration Request – please make sure that your house is in order by adhering to the items I discuss below.

The action steps below do not come with a 100% guarantee that your site will gain back it rankings or that it will not be hit in the future.

These steps will only better your chances of regaining ranks or being more safe in the future.

They are a result of hours of my reading and digesting online forums, blog posts and comments.

Do note that, 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.

Now, let’s get started…

Continue ReadingSEO in A New World Ruled by Penguins and Pandas

Negative SEO – A Myth or Reality?

Negative SEO
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Before the Penguin update Google would handle links it considered to be webspam to pass down zero link juice value to the pages they linked to.

This meant, you could go about in building a large amount of low quality links to your page for under $10 – with absolutely no risk. If it worked great! If not – then what the heck it was only 10 bucks. It was a no-risk game – and your site could NOT every get penalized for having a large threshold of low quality and unnatural links.

Link builders on forums were openly saying that…

“Google cannot penalize your site for building low quality links – because if they did, then your competitors would spend a few dollars in building low quality links to your site – and get it penalized as a result! Google knows this and therefore will never allow this to happen as it could wreak havoc!”

And, this was so very true!…But NOT so anymore!

Back before the update – you only stood to either gain some good link juice from the your backlinks, or get zero link juice at all from them. You could never get “negative” link juice from a link or a set of links.

Your link building efforts, however blackhat or unnatural – could never hurt your website.

Either, it would work positively or it would just be neutral and have no effect at all.

Well, guess what…

In the Penguin Update one of the major things Google has introduced is the exact opposite.

Continue ReadingNegative SEO – A Myth or Reality?

Has The Penguin Gone Crazy?

Google Penguin
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Penguin 1.0 goes crazy leaving SEO forums in chaos.

If you visited online marketing forums, right after Penguin 1.0 was released – you would have seen several threads that went into pages and pages of innocent people who got slapped by the crazy Penguin.

You will see that the Penguin has hit countless of innocent people and destroyed livelihoods of many small businesses and individuals.

The truth is that the current Penguin update is currently broken and defective across several search keywords.

Google has essentially not focused on the “user experience” and the quality of its search results.

It looks like they just went after blackhatter SEOs and use its might to send signals across to the SEO community.

The proof is in the pudding.

Here’s a snapshot of search results for the keyword “viagra”.

mattcuttts-seo

 

You can see a university website ranking at #6

🙂

The algorithm update smells of shareholder pockets.

This update has been a cleverly calculated move by Google to fulfill the desires of shareholders. Immediately after penguin 1.0 came out – Google’s Adwords revenues went up by 50%. That’s steep jump almost overnight. As people got knocked out of the organic search results – they had no other option in trying to stay in business – but to switch over to the paid advertising model that fuels 90% of Google’s revenue and is its sole supporter for its very existence.

Take away Adwords from the equation and Google will be destroyed. Even though its not any more a “search company” – having moved into countless other areas… the revenue earned from Adwords is what fuels and drives it. Without it, Google, Larry, Sergei and their Gang – won’t be worth anything.

Continue ReadingHas The Penguin Gone Crazy?

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

Whitehat Blackhat
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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
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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
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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…

[video_page_section type=”youtube” position=”default” color=”#2c3e50″ btn=”light” heading=”Hitler Reacts to The Penguin Invasion (NSFW)” subheading=”” cta=”” video_width=”640″ hide_related=”false” hide_logo=”false” hide_controls=”false” hide_title=”false” hide_fullscreen=”false”]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0St9B1kmJ2g[/video_page_section]

Continue ReadingBrace Thyself! The Army of Penguins is Here

Penguin 2.0 Update – Initial Observations and Notes

Mozcast penguin
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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