Earlier this month we looked at the basics of what exactly Google algorithm updates encompass. Understanding what occurred in previous updates, gives us more clarity when seeking to comprehend what factors are at work in the newest of the Google algorithm updates: Penguin.
Google Algorithm Updates: Penguin
Google estimates that the Penguin update has affected just over 3% of search queries in the English language. Its main goal has been rectify the way Google scores backlinks. Google uses backlinks as one aspect of its voting system, generating details on what websites the rest of the internet deems important. If a site receives more quality backlinks then its competitor, it is seen as a better resource for more valuable content. Backlinks have become a major target of spammers as an easy way to quickly increase ranking. Also known as the ‘webspam algorithm update’, Penguin seems to target websites with 3 types of spammy backlinks:
- Sites where the majority of backlinks come from low quality pages, including link directories, link exchange pages, sponsored links or footer links
- When the majority of a websites backlinks are from an unrelated niche or webpage
- When the anchor text backlinks pointed to the site all have the same keyword anchor text
Penguin has not affected websites that contain a good mixture of natural quality and low-quality backlinks. The general consensus is that creating balance in backlinks is the key. This can only be accomplished through a wide and varied backlinking strategy.
To remain unaffected by Google algorithm updates, backlinks should appear natural by coming from a variety of locations. Many sites seek to increase their Google ranking by building their backlinks from single methods like blogs or article directories. Backlinks from a single type of site are a giant red-flag for Google. Webmasters should always seek to create broad diversity in their backlinks. The more backlinks are extended across many sites, like directories, wikis, press releases, forums and social media, the more natural they will appear to Google.
The next aspect to this idea is diversity in the page location where the backlink is found. Generally speaking, links found in on-page clusters can suggest paid placement, which is heavily discouraged by Google. This commonly occurs when links are added to blog rolls, short text blurbs and forum threads. Penguin seems to be successful at punishing sites with too many of these link clusters. Once again, maintaining variety in backlinks creates a much more natural picture, and will prevent loss of ranking due to future Google algorithm updates.
Backlink Authority and Relevance
The more authority a page has that is linking back, the higher the quality of link. This is no surprise as page ranking factors have been at the heart of Google’s link algorithm for a long time. But, the Penguin update has changed the algorithm to ensure those high PR sites are within the same niche or category. Backlinks should also be naturally spread across all page ranks. When they all occur in a specific page rank zone, it acts as an alert for Google that spamming practices are at work.
Google algorithm updates have been targeting aggressive building of anchor links since before Penguin. Examination of websites that were affected by Penguin reveals many participated in over optimization of anchor text links. The websites that experienced a loss in ranking due to Penguin had their ‘target’ keyword appear in at least 60% of their anchor text links. This percentage is way too high to be viewed as natural. Many times when a natural anchor link occurs, it is in the form of ‘click here’, ‘site name’ or simply the website’s address. This high percentage of keyword focused anchor text links is highly improbable and an easy sign for Google that spamming practices are at work.
What Penguin Means Moving Forward
The bottom line is that Google has been very clear with its guidelines about what practices are acceptable. Penguin did not enact any revolutionary change, it just evolved the algorithm to be more adapt at catching those sites breaking the rules. The update simply discounted the weight which it gives to linking patterns it believes to indicate spam tactics. What we know going forward is simple: practice sound linking techniques that emphasize diversity and link relevance. While no site will ever be completely protected against Google’s algorithm updates, by following guidelines and avoiding spamming activities, you can guard against penalties and de-indexing.