Penguin has become Google’s most notorious update. Small business owners that rely on their web presence fear Penguin more than just about any annual or semi-annual event, and rightfully so. What makes Google’s Penguin so devastating and scary for small business owners?
When you are hit by Penguin, you need to take immediate action. You need to request removal of any links that do not meet Google’s guidelines and disavow any domains that are unresponsive to your requests. Disavowing links is a way of telling Google to ignore them and not give them any positive or negative attention. Popular theory is that they are treated the same way as nofollow links. However, even if you do everything perfectly, you will need to wait for the next roll-out of Penguin to “release” you from your prison. While you are affected by this algorithm, it will be very hard for your domain to achieve great rankings (though it is possible to see progress) and many domains see a 30-80% drop in their organic search traffic overnight. The last gap between Penguin updates was nearly 13 months.
Pandas, Penguins, What’s the Difference?
Panda (Google’s content quality and user engagement analysis algorithm) is scary in its own way, but if you are hit by Panda the solution is pretty simple. Clean up your content, take action to improve user engagement metrics, and when the algorithm hits your site next (usually monthly) you will often see a quick rebound. Penguin is a little more complicated. Your Penguin penalty being lifted doesn’t mean your traffic will suddenly rebound. All that authority you have removed and disavowed doesn’t return to you, as those links you had previously are now rendered worthless. Many law firms and small businesses are stumped when their traffic doesn’t come back. While you are disavowing and removing bad links, you need to go out and seek new good link opportunities to compensate for all the authority you lost when Google penalized the low-quality links.
In short, with Panda you can clean up the mess and see a quick rebound. With Penguin you have to clean up the mess and then rebuild your authority, sometimes from the ground up.
How do I know which links are good and which ones are bad?
I follow a pretty simple philosophy. If a link meets any of the below criteria, it should be analyzed closely by a professional to determine if it needs to be removed/disavowed.
- Free directories
- Paid links (more specifically those that are not relevant to your niche or have no other criteria outside of payment)
- Links utilizing direct anchor text such as “New York Personal Injury Lawyer”
- Links that provide no additional value to the user
- Blog comments that lack the nofollow attribute
- Sitewide links (not all are bad, but all should be looked at)
I cannot stress strongly enough do not try to do this on your own. Google warns within their own disavow tool to make sure that you are very familiar with the process and what you are doing before attempting to disavow any links.
How can I prevent a Penguin hit?
Preventing a Penguin hit is pretty easy if you follow some simple steps:
- Don’t hire a cheap SEO company. Like any other industry, you usually get what you pay for. Our attorney clients are always telling us how dangerous it is to hire a cheap attorney. Hiring a cheap SEO company is even more dangerous.
- Don’t try to build links on your own. Always consult a professional before signing up for any new service. Not only could that service be a waste of time and money, but it could be detrimental to your website’s health.
- Avoid setting up multiple domains with the same brand and purpose. It’s ok to have an off-site blog. It’s ok to have a specific site that you use for paid advertising. But if you have a network of sites that are all linked together, Google could (right or wrong) consider you a Private Blog Network (or PBN).
- Don’t guest blog for SEO. Guest blogging is great. It builds your reputation, expands your network, gives you more credibility and gives you exposure. But be careful where you are guest blogging and when you do, avoid adding any links that don’t provide value to the user. In some cases, it’s ok to add a link. In most cases, you should add the nofollow attribute to that link to be safe.
- Don’t spam press release links. Press releases are good for exposure and branding, but they should no longer be used for SEO. Make sure all press release links have the nofollow attribute.
- If you are building a link for the sake of rankings and nothing else, stop.
If you have questions, give us a call
If you are unsure if you are at risk, give us a call. We are happy to help you determine if you are at risk and get you the assistance you need.