“How to recover from over optimization (aka Google Penguin Update)” has been a big question for everyone who was allegedly hit by Google’s wrath on April 24, 2012 when Google released their major algorithm update in an attempt to decrease the number of spam sites flooding the search results. Unfortunately, the Penguin Update did not only affect the over-optimized spammy sites, but it also hit good sites that had relevant content that happened to be ‘SEO-rich’. SEOs have come up with a list of strategic changes that, once implemented, can help to recover from Penguin. Here are 4 white hat tips on how to restore your rankings on SERPs (search engine results pages) if you’ve been negatively affected by over optimization:
1. Avoid Using Optimized Anchor Text
One of the most prominent changes that can help to recover from Penguin is to avoid using over-optimized anchor-text (e.g. if we promote www.ford.com.au, instead of always using “car deals,” we can use various combinations of the anchor text and try to incorporate the brand name, e.g. “Ford cars”).
2. Avoid Unrelated Sitewide Backlinks
Sitewide backlinks (e.g. footer or sidebar links) that do not necessarily add value to users (e.g. your car site is getting a sitewide backlink from the blog that is about recipes) can hurt your site. Many web design companies after building a website, put a sitewide link "Web design by Company Name" in the footer of the new site. This practice may now have a negative effect as a result of the Penguin Update.
Sometimes it is difficult to determine which backlinks actually hurt your site, and oftentimes, it is impossible for webmasters to change the backlinks on third party sites. There have been talks that Google may introduce a link disavow tool to allow webmasters to distance themselves from bad neighborhoods/links. While Google has not launched this disavow links tool yet, Bing has already done it. If you have control over your spammy backlinks, you should remove them ASAP. SEOMoz has published a nice blog post covering the story of how WPMU.org has recovered from the Penguin Update primarily by removing sitewide links and optimized anchor text.
3. Clean Up On-Page Spam
Oftentimes, website owners may not realize that their sites might have been spammed and hence stand solid chances of losing rankings on Google after the Penguin Update. Here is what you‘d want to avoid:
- “Thin” content. If your content lacks substance and is meant only for ranking purposes, then change it.
- Keyword stuffing. If the same term (or keyword) appears 6 times every 100 words, is that natural, or an attempt to manipulate search engine rankings?
- Cloaking. If your users view something different than what the search engines see, it’s called cloaking, and Google has hated that for years. Don’t do it!
- Hosting paid links. If you indulge in selling links on your website, then you might be in trouble. While there’s a whole industry built around it, Google still loathes it.
4. File a Report to Google
If you think that your site was hit by the Penguin Update, and you just can’t find a justified reason why, you can always ask Google by using 2 forms below:
- The first form is for the sites that have been hit by the Penguin Update, but were not supposed to.
It says: If your site was affected by the “Penguin” webspam algorithm update on April 24th, 2012, and you don’t think it should have been affected, please give us more details below.
- The second form is for those who want to report any form of spam that Penguin should have noticed.
What do you think about the Penguin Update? Has your site been affected?
Andrew Manoue is a freelance content writer and currently works for Ford Australia: the biggest company that makes large cars in Australia. He likes to sky dive, eat at Dunkin' and play Chess with his son.