Update 18/10/2014: The Google Penguin update is here.
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For those who don’t know what the Penguin algorithm is, it’s basically something that Google implemented back in 2012 which aims to detect unnatural backlinks to a site. Penguin is probably one of the most feared algorithm updates by SEO’ers because the damage can be very long lasting. Unlike other alogrithms such as Panda which frequently refreshes, Penguin doesn’t – in fact it’s been almost a year since we’ve seen any updates to the Penguin algorithm. If you’re unlucky enough to be hit by a Penguin update you’ll have to wait until the next update rolls out for any changes you’ve made to take effect, during this time your just going to pretty much have to admit defeat and ride it out.
However Google’s own Gary Illyes spoke out the other week and said that the new Penguin update will be a “delight” to webmasters. I don’t think Penguin will ever be a delight to webmasters, but English isn’t his first language so that may not have been exactly how he’d hoped that sentence to come across. What I think he instead meant by it is that the damage caused by Penguin won’t be as long lasting as it has been previously – at least I hope that’s the case anyway.
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In his speech he also mentioned that Google we’re planning on releasing a refresh of their Penguin update next week. This was 2 weeks ago, so if what he said was true then that would have been last week, but we’ve seen nothing as of yet. As opposed to a small refresh this is intended to be a major rewrite of the algorithm and that’s why it’s took so long to be released. He did mention though that if any issues arise within the testing phase then the algorithm may not be launched and instead once again postponed. I have been noticing some crazy SERP changes lately but it’s hard to tell whether or not that’s the aftermath of the recent Panda update or potentially a trial of Penguin.
On one of my sites the SERPs have been pretty steady for a while but throughout last week a lot of them dropped quite substantially. The majority of them have now gone back up to where they were previously (thank god), but still a few remain lower than they were prevously. I’m thinking that this could have potentially been a run of the Penguin algorithm but I can’t be certain and haven’t found any other reports elsewhere so it could just be pure coincidence.
As anyone working in SEO would be I’m quite nervous about the new Penguin rollout but at the same time I’m not really fretting about it because it seems to be too late to make any changes to protect your sites. This also comes from Gary Illyes as he said that any links that are disavowed as of about 2 weeks ago will be too late and will have already been factored into the algorithm. Obviously the key to protecting your site through a Penguin update is to make sure your backlink profile is as diverse as it could be, and this can be done by both removing links but also by building links.
Disavowing links is a lazy effort and one that’s never too favorably looked upon by Google. Disavowing your links should be kept as an absolute last resort and you should do everything in your power to have the links taken down from the web. Whilst Gary said that it’s probably too late for any changes to make an impact, if you are worried & would still like to try and do something, here’s what I’d suggest:
Use this anchor text over optimisation tool to check the diversity of your backlinks. Don’t worry about over optimisation of your brand name, you’ll get away with that one but take note of any other heavily optimized keywords. Do your best to try and remove them at the source to bring the percentage down to even things out a bit, obviously removing the most spammy ones as opposed to links coming from pages with a bit more authority. I wouldn’t worry about disavowing any of these.
Go into your Webmaster Tools account & take a look through your backlink profile. Create a text file of any spammy links to your site & once again try and remove them, failing that add them to your disavow file.
Lastly if you’re still struggling with your backlink profile you could always take a different approach. Removing links is one approach but building links is also an approach that should not be forgotten. You can use linkbuilding to dilute your previously over optimised keywords by using LSI keywords.
Good luck, and I hope Penguin goes easy on you or if anything gives you a SERP rise – that’d be nice!
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