5 Ways to Get Penalised By Penguin

On April 24th 2012 Google rolled out its latest algorithmic update. Penguin as it is so affectionately known has hardly been as cute and fluffy as its feathered namesake. In fact, Google’s Penguin is pretty vicious.
Webmasters all over the world saw their rankings slashed overnight, and their pages disappear from the SERPs. Some small companies were affected that badly they were forced to close. Since then, SEOs and website owners have been fighting a seemingly losing battle with Google. Every time we think we’re back on track, the next wave strikes and Penguin wipes you out once more.

Google Penguin the Website Killer

How to Get Penalised By Penguin

The Internet is littered with articles about how to recover from Penguin. Which is fine, if you know what it is you’ve been doing wrong in the first place. But if you don’t know how to get penalised by the algorithm in the first place, how can you fight back?

Google has said that this update is targeting web-spam. But web-spam is an umbrella term for so much. Here we look at five of the main mistakes you’re making that are causing you to feel the wrath of Penguin, and how to recover:

1. Exact Match Keywords

The easiest way to see your rankings slashed is to focus solely on exact match keywords. This means on your site, in your other SEO efforts, everywhere. Google has decided to clamp down on what it views as unnatural back link profiles. If you’ve stuck to the same one for a long time, it is definitely time to diversify.

A healthy inbound link profile needs to be diverse. Instead of focusing on a few variations of your keywords, you need to include more natural anchor text links. This includes naked URLs, brand anchors, and universal anchors such as ‘click here’. Keeping your links as ‘samey’ as possible is the quickest way to see your website downgraded.

2. Duplicate Content

Filling your website with duplicate content is another sure fire way to get in trouble with the search engines. Posting the same article on multiple blogs, article marketing sites, and directories is bad news. If you’re guilty of duplicating – or even spinning – your content, now is the time to stop.

Google is moving towards rewarding sites with quality content. In depth, well researched posts that offer something insightful to the reader are the future of SEO. Having a solid content marketing plan is key in a post-Penguin world. You need to start thinking less about the search engines, and more about your readers.

3. Unnatural Linking

The aim of SEO is to get tonnes of inbound links from as many sites as possible, right? That’s why so many people participate in reciprocal linking, paying for links, article spinning, and posting on irrelevant sites. If this sounds like your marketing strategy, you’re practically welcoming Penguin with open arms.

If you’ve been hit by the latest algorithm update, it’s time to take a look at where your links are coming from. If you have any from questionable sources, irrelevant sites, and any paid links make sure to remove them. Move forward by only linking on relevant sites, in a natural way. Quality is now so much more important than quantity.

4. Webpage Cloaking

Web cloaking is the practice of creating on page for humans, and one for the search engine spiders. And why not? Everyone gets what they were looking for when they visit your site, and you get a webpage that ranks well. Today, it’s a one way ticket to page 100.

The only real solution to this problem is simple: don’t do it. If you’ve been cloaking your pages, remove them and focus on generating organic traffic. Each page on your site should be unique, and well written. Avoid being too heavy with your money keywords, and keep your meta tags clear of spam.

5. Comment Spam

A few years ago, SEOs would set up automatic commenting software with the view to creating as many links as possible. Today, that practice is hated by blog owner who have to wade through the spam to find their genuine comments. It is hated even more by the search engines, which is why this kind of behaviour will get you a hefty Penguin penalty.

The simple solution for this is to leave genuine comments that relate to blog posts. Spending all day commenting on posts will have the same effect, but leaving meaningful comments is a great way to build your influence. The link back to your site should just be seen as a useful by-product.

Where Does That Leave Me?

The important thing to remember is that Penguin is not a Google penalty; it’s an algorithm update. This means it is constantly being rolled out again and again, always affecting different pages in different ways. Making the relevant changes to your website may not propel you back to where you once were; but it’s a start.

And Penguin isn’t all bad news either. As well as ridding the Internet of spam (one web page at a time), it has had a positive impact for some. A number of webmasters will have actually benefited from the algorithm. As those around them fell due to their backhanded past, those who have slogged away and played by the rules have been rewarded with an increase in rankings.

Whichever camp you fall in to, it’s important to remember the SEO game is changing. And to stay ahead of the changes, we need to play by Google’s rules.

11 Comments on “5 Ways to Get Penalised By Penguin”

    1. Directory submissions for a long time have been in a nose dive in terms of rank passing. Often they are over subscribed and off little use to users or search engines, so on all accounts they are being muted in search it would appear. I would say just like article pumping, stop messing with directories.

  1. its a joke. I run a very small business and i have seen a drop in traffic. I looked like i wont be able to sustain my business in a few months. i will probably go under. Its crippled me

    1. Damian, from the list above can you see where you went wrong? Have you tried to remove any offending pages, content or external articles? if so, it could be a time of waiting to pick up again.

  2. Hi AndyUnfortunately i left the SEO to a guy who did my site so i dont know. Im assuming he has used something that google doesn’t like. What would you suggest? Is there something i can advise him to do? Some of his other clients have had the same issue as he uses the same platform for ll of them which i believe he built himself

    1. a platform he built himself? what was he doing for you exactly?
      it sounds like he was going out and building bad links for you, the easiest way to get around it is to change your url, may take a while to pick up but it will. alternatively ask him to go back and remove any bad links he has built using articles or forums.

      1. I’m not entirely sure but it worked well. The platform was built in .NET I believe ..although don’t quote me. Are you serious about changing my URL? I guess that would take a lot of the issues away but I’m still faced with time issues right? He is a mate of mine and all work done have been as and when and I imagine using some seo trickery.. Obviously not to googles liking .. I have completely disappeared from main search and google places.. I’m pretty fuxxxx now as most of my business over the last 18 months has come from it.

        1. I am serious, for some its the only way around problems they’ve had with an old domain. I’d guess platform was just a reporting platform with manual work behind it, if it was an automated platform we’ve probably found one fault … google doesnt like any automated SEO generally.
          Time is the big issue everyone faces, right now without knowing the full extent of your problem I would say go down that route but everything is a risky move at this stage and nothing can be gaurenteed

  3. Andy, thanks for your article. I have seen many similar posts, but do not know how to determine if I have bad backlinks. I am somewhat SEO saavy and familiar with seomoz and screaming frog, for example, but not sure if there is an easy way to determine which backlinks are “bad”? Any tips? Thanks!

    1. Hi Neil, Tips for finding bad links are hard to come by, mainly as it is far to subjective for most machines to always give a “good” set of results. By this i mean that bad links are vastly different from site to site, for example if you run a website selling “adult gifts” then it is not beyond the realms of reasoning you may have a link validly from another adult website – which in many cases would be seen as a bad link. Ok, thats a bit extreme, but take SEOAndy – if I get a link from almost anywhere it could be relevant, even from a black hat seo website – which again for many would be a bad link. Or another example for SEOAndy is that each article targets a slightly different audience, so lets say a post targets photographers but it gets a link from an arts and craft website, for many that would be a bad link, but not for SEOAndy. You see it’s all subjective. A website focused on a single piece of hardware getting a link from an adult website maybe a bad link but if you were to have a single page targeting that market it wouldn’t be – and it’s hard for a machine to trawl through all your site and see semantically your meaning and targeting. And so the conclusion, well you are stuck manually looking for links and as you find them attempt to remove them if they really are that bad – but as @MattCutts has said “use disavow with caution”.

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