At the end of last week, Google’s head of webspam, Matt Cutts, fairly quietly (when compared to the last update) announced through his Twitter profile that they had just refreshed the Penguin algorithm (making this Penguin 2.1) and that it would impact less than 1% of search queries. Of course this may seem an insignificant number of affected queries to many, however if your website saw a drop in positions this weekend, there’s a very good chance that this news is a massive deal to you! With this in mind, we’ve teamed up with Glenn from Speedy SEO in Essex to take a look at what Penguin 2.1 is for those who have been living under a rock for the last few years, take a look at what causes a site to be negatively effected by the Penguin algorithm and, in brief, what can be done to recover those lost positions.
Running a search for your main keyword to find that it’s dropped from say position 1 to even position 5 or 6 is a big deal and this in itself is the reason why webmasters and SEOs need to be so careful when building up a link profile to ensure that it is not seen the wrong way by the Penguin algorithm. For those of you who aren’t familiar with what the Penguin algorithm is; in short, it’s Googles attempt at algorithmically filtering webspam from their search engine results, specifically in the form of ‘penalising’ sites who use link spam techniques to obtain top ranking positions in the first instance. We say penalise in that form because technically, Penguin it’s a penalty but an algorithmic ranking adjustment. In essence, if your site is hit by Penguin, the benefit from spammy links is removed from your site and positions will drop. Either way, however, for SEO’s, webmasters and business owners alike, Penguin is bad news and can mean an almost instantaneous drop in traffic if a site is hit at an algorithm refresh.
If you’ve been building links which either don’t look natural (for example, the most common causes of Penguin hits are a widespread use of exact match anchor text in links pointing to a site) or are coming from questionable sources (often sites devalued or deindexed completely by Google). In essence, if a link which points to your site isn’t real or has obviously been placed in an attempt to manipulate search engine ranking positions, you run the risk of being hit by Penguin updates and could well have seen your positions and subsequent traffic drop at the end of last week.
Of course, if you’ve been hit be Penguin 2.1 last week, you’re no doubt in a state of panic, trying to get your traffic levels back as quickly as possible, as well as any lost positions, however the best thing to do is to take a step back and spend time analysing your websites link profile. You need to ensure you use a range of tools such as Google Webmaster Tools, Open Site Explorer and Majestic SEO to get a full link profile and spend time analysing it and looking specifically at trends and spikes. Is there a large spike of links pointing to your site which use exact match anchor text across your main keyword? If so, these could be the problem! Similarly, do all links point to your homepage and none to internal pages? Again, this looks unnatural and could be the issue! There is literally tens of different reasons why a link profile could look unnatural but at this stage, you simply need to work hard to turn this around and yes, unfortunately that does mean removing what you can and disavowing the rest, whilst spending time building a natural link profile around the bad!