Google’s Penguin algorithm’s is designed to demote pages that violate Google “Webmaster Guidelines” and use paid link schemes to artificially increase the ranking of a website.
Before 2012 it used to be possible to rank a website by creating links using anchor text that was an exact match for a money keyword. If you had a competitive term, you could simply build multiple links using the same anchor text.
Whilst this worked for a number of years, it creates an un-natural backlink footprint and made it easy for Google to identify websites that had exploited the mechanism to gain an advantage within the search index. Penguin works simply by applying a penalty (slap) to any site with a backlink profile that falls into this category.
Penguin is manually applied when Google deems fit. Refreshes are supposed to be every 3-6 months. In the last instance there was no Penguin re-fresh for 12 month.
If a website falls foul of Penguin, the site is penalised and will lose at best -50 positions for an over-optimised keyword. At worst the site will not rank at all for a given keyword at all.
Getting Out of a Penguin Penalty: Getting out of a penguin penalty is simple. Whilst Penguin is the most feared update, people tend to give Google too much credit. A the end of the day, Google is still just a black box. If you understand how it works, you can create the conditions to break a website out of a penalty by feeding the search engine variables that will give the impression of a natural back link profile.
- Penguin penalties are algorithmic. Unlike a manual penalty, you cannot appeal to Google to release a site from a Penguin penalty. You need to wait for a Penguin refresh.
- Penalties are applied for over-optimised backlink profiles. Breaking out of a penalty requires patience (see point 1) and a hard work to naturalise the anchor text ratio for the affected website.
Naturalising the Backlink Profile of a Site:
What the components of a natural backlink profile?
- Benign anchor text e.g. click here, check out this website, view more.
- Branded links…e.g. the name of your website or a naked URL.
- Infrequently duplicated long tail, LSI conversational anchor text.
- Links directed to deep pages (not just the root page).
- Links from a diverse range of class B +C IP addresses.
What does a natural backlink profile look like?
- Almost all links directed at the site are branded links 70%+
- 10% of the link profile is usually benign anchors.
- The remaining 20% are usually conversational anchor, 5% directed at the home page and 15% directed at deep pages.
Penguin friendly anchor text ratios are hotly contested amongst SEO’s. I am personally risk adverse and never use exact match anchor text within a client’s backlink profile.
How to break out of a penguin penalty?
- Link building. I prime a website with an enterprise Knowem campaign, high quality business directories, analytics profiles and a high end syndicated press release. I complete each profile 100% using images and hand spun text also interlinking each profile where possible to encourage Google to index them. This has the added benefit of creating a branded link graph, brand signals and builds trust. The entire process will create 1000+ branded links
- Make sure the site has a branded Google plus page and load an entry on freebase.
- I also suggest bringing the main social profiles only e.g. Twitter, Google Plus and as many others as logistically possible.
- Whilst doing this I also catalogue existing links and reach out to the owners of sites already linking to an affected website, asking them to change the anchor text. Some webmasters will ask for a fee to do this.
- This process will push the backlink profile to a natural ratio of branded links vs contextual anchors so long as you didn’t do too much damage in the first place.
- If I am not successful with my outreach attempt, I collate any remaining undesirable links and submit them to Google’s disavow tool (Google will not count these links towards a sites ranking score if disavowed ).
- Wait for the next Penguin refresh, though I have seen sites released once the anchor text ratio returns to an acceptable level.