On April 24th, 2012 Google released an algorithm update known as Penguin that devalued links that were used to manipulate Google’s ranking algorithm. Penguin made low-quality links from comment posting, forums, directories, and spam sites have a negative impact on your rankings in Google SERPs.
Websites with unnatural link profiles and over-optimized anchor text were targeted. Sites with these unnatural link profiles either moved down on the SERPs or were manually removed from the Google index. This was doomsday for many businesses that had done these types of link building techniques – with no quick solutions to recover rankings.
In almost four years, Google has released only five Penguin algorithm updates which allowed affected websites to recover their rankings if they had cleaned up their link profile and/or disavowed any black hat links. The algorithm refresh updates were more frequent at first, but the timeframe between Penguin 2.1 (released October 4th, 2013) to the most recent refresh was just over a year, on October 17, 2014. That is one full year before any ranking recovery was possible.
Google has recently announced that the next Penguin refresh will be happening soon (if not already by the time this is published) and will be a real-time algorithm. This means that as Google discovers a link is removed or disavowed, a website will be able to see a penguin recovery quickly.
Gone are the days (hopefully) that you will need to wait over a year to see your traffic and rankings increase to where they had been before being penalized.
So, what can you do to prepare for the upcoming algorithm update?
Audit Your Backlink Profile
You first want to see if you have any links that would be negatively impacting your site. You can use a variety of SEO tools and link explorers to help you with this. It is best to export your back link profile from a variety of tools and consolidate them to ensure you have a complete list of links to your site. A few tools that I would recommend are:
- Majestic SEO Site Explorer
- Open Site Explorer from Moz
- “Links to Your Site” section on your Google Webmaster Tools Search Console
Consider Adjusting Anchor Text on External Links
Part of the Penguin algorithm is lowering website rankings for sites that have over-optimized exact-match keyword anchor text links. For example, your site may have been ranking for “Houston plumbing service” at one point but if a majority of your links pointing to your site have that as the anchor text you could be negatively affected. The rule of thumb would be to have a 7:3 ratio of branded/non-targeted:targeted anchor text. This offers a more natural profile as most organic link placements are branded or not keywords that you choose.
If you feel you are being penalized from over-optimized anchor text, then gather a list of links with the exact-match keyword anchor text. Then, reach out to the webmasters of the site to notify them of your concern and request the anchor text to be updated. Keep in mind that you do not need to update all of them – just what satisfies the ratio. Preferably update the anchor text on less authoritative sites.
Also, remember this pertains to external links, not internal, as stated by Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team.
Remove or Disavow Any Low Quality Links
Once you have compiled a list of backlinks to your site, review them to identify links from low quality or deindexed sites. Link Detox from Link Research Tools offers a solid tool to help with the evaluation of your back link profile.
The tool will classify the risk level of your links to help you determine which links should be removed or disavowed.
Once you have determined which links are negatively affecting your site, you will need to reach out to the site owners or webmasters and request your link be removed. Here is an article to help you craft your link removal outreach message. Follow up with the webmaster a few times before disavowing.
You should then create your disavow text file with your bad links and submit to Google & Bing Disavow Tool.
Submit URLs to Google
Links that you do successfully remove should be submitted to Google so that they can be notified to re-crawl the page. With the latest Penguin algorithm update, the impact (if any) should take effect soon after the page is crawled.
Continually Audit Your Backlink Profile
It is best practice to keep an eye on your backlink profile. Continually monitor your site’s links because although you may not be building links on low quality sites, there are competitors or spammers that may do so to harm your website with Negative SEO tactics. Therefore, you should continue to do an audit of your links.
With the upcoming Google Penguin algorithm update and following these helpful tips you should only see a positive impact on the SERPs in the upcoming weeks.
Get in touch with RelationEdge Digital Agency today to see how we can help you.