Google Penguin 2.0 launched on May 22nd, which affected 2.3% of English-speaking websites. The algorithm update targeted websites which were obtaining links from non-relevant, spammy websites in an effort to pass Pagerank and influence search engine rankings.
The difference between Penguin 1.0 and Penguin 2.0 is that Penguin 1.0 only affected an entire website, whereas Penguin 2.0 can actually assess an algorithm penalty to individual website pages. A common SEO technique is to build links to internal web pages in order to a) build up the website’s overall authority, and b) improve that individual page’s search engine rankings for long-tail keywords.
At this point, with it being less than a month since the update has launched, a lot of Penguin 2.0 recovery tips are opinion-based. Not many websites will completely rebound from a Penguin 1.0 or Penguin 2.0 penalty in only a few weeks, and webmasters are now at the point where we have to trust what Google and Bing tell us that we need to do to stay in the search engines’ good graces and not lose search engine rankings that we’ve worked so hard for.
Of course, all of the usual and general”write better content”, “write more interesting, relevant content”, and “content is KING!” statements are going to be made, but writing content just to write content can also negatively affect your website because, the more content that you write, the higher chances of your website including the following:
- Broken links- the more blog posts and news items that you write which link to external resources like local television, newspaper, or other types of local news sites, the higher chances of those pages eventually being taken down. This causes a broken link on your website, so be sure to check your website for broken links on a regular basis.
- Misspellings/Grammatical Errors- Also be sure to check your website for spelling and grammar errors on a regular basis, as this can also negatively affect your website.
- Duplicate Content- If you start to run out of topics, you’re more than likely going to start writing shorter content. This can cause duplicate content issues depending on what’s on your sidebars, footers, etc.
- Decreased load times- The more pages that you index on your website, the more of a burden that you put on your servers. Be sure to cache your pages and monitor website load times.
When we found out that a client’s website was hit by Penguin 2.0, we immediately did the following:
1. Ran a Majestic SEO report which identifies all inbound links that a website has.
2. Identified which pages were negatively affected by Penguin 2.0 by checking individual page stats in Google Analytics. The pages that were seeing significantly less organic search traffic as landing pages (when compared to the couple of weeks prior to May 22nd) are the pages that we assumed were hit by the Penguin 2.0 update. Interesting enough, these are the same pages that had the most inbound links from other websites pointing to them.
3. We took these pages, copied the content, created new page URL’s, and 301 redirected the old page URL’s to the new pages, operating under the assumption that 301 redirects do not transfer penalties. There were many Penguin 1.0 recovery success stories over the past few months from others who used this method, so the next step is to monitor organic search traffic and search rankings to see how everything recovers.
We’re now in the process of identifying which links were potentially harmful. We’ll identify links from web pages which:
- Aren’t indexed by Google
- Are indexed on article websites which have noting to do with the legal field (general article directories which usually include a lot of spun content, links to shady websites, etc.)
- Have a low content to outbound link ration (lower-quality directory websites, etc.)
- Were affected by malware
And we’ll then e-mail the webmasters of those websites in an effort to get those links taken down. We’ll also add them to Google’s disavow tool and we’ll continue to monitor impressions in Google Webmaster Tools, organic search traffic, and rankings.
All of that being said, this is what we identified as the best immediate solution to a problem that many do not know the definite solution to. The Penguin 2.0 penalty was also said to have an emphasis on improving user experience, so broken links, crawl errors, too many on-page links, and slow page load times are likely factors that will have more importance after May 22nd.
Google Penguin 2.0 Recovery Resources
Here are some Penguin 2.0 recovery resources that we’ve read and would like to share with our readers. If you would like to suggest another blog post or article, feel free to leave a comment but be forewarned that this website is heavily moderated, so comments that smell like “spam” will not be included.
Matt Cutts officially announces Penguin 2.0 launch– Some interesting comments and questions from concerned webmasters in the comments section of this page.
What’s the difference between Penguin and an unnatural link penalty? A great blog post by Marie Haynes which shares valuable information such as using the disavow tool versus manually requesting links to be removed, whether or not filing a reconsideration request is a good idea, etc. Again, this is all opinion-based, but this is from a trusted source.
What is Effective Search Engine Optimization According to Google?- According to this post on Google’s Webmaster Central blog last year, ““White hat” search engine optimizers often improve the usability of a site, help create great content, or make sites faster, which is good for both users and search engines.” This is a good refresher, and a good resource to look at in order to identify what Google still has been emphasizing- improving user experience.
How to Identify Unnatural Links- A good blog post touching on link trust, citation and trust flow, etc.
You’ve Ben Hit by Penguin 2.0- Take a Deep Breath- A great blog post which I wish I had seen around the time when my client was about to have a heart attack when he found out that his organic search traffic took a nose dive all of a sudden in late-May.
How to Recover from Penguin 2.0 Using Only Free Tools- An interesting post showing how it may be possible to recover from Penguin 2.0 using only free tools.
Google’s 200 Ranking Factors- Infographic– An awesome updated version of what Google looks for in a website when determining which websites will rank the highest for a particular search term. Commonly overlooked factors which this inforgraphic does a great job of identifying are domain registrant information (if you use domain privacy, Google may think that you’re hiding something, and if the domain is registered to a known spammer or to someone who owns multiple questionable domains, it can negatively affect search rankings), server location (tip- if you’re using a content delivery network such as Cloudflare, it’s possible that the IP address that the content is being delivered from is from another country, which we found out the hard way), Terms of Service and Privacy pages, and so on.
5 Tips to Improve WordPress SEO and User Experience- For all of those using WordPress, this is a good post on how to optimize your WordPress site and how to improve user experience.
Branding is a Ranking Factor Post-Penguin 2.0- A good blog post on how Penguin 2.0 affects branding, and how branding can affect your SEO efforts.
SMX Advanced 2013 Recap- A good resource which shows presentations and topics from SMX Advanced 2013 in Seattle.
What to Expect In SEO In Coming Months- Matt Cutts talks about what to expect in SEO in the near future.
Penguin 2.0 Recovery Tools
Google Webmaster Tools– If you don’t have access to your GWT, you need to do this ASAP.
Google Disavow Tool- Can’t get in contact with the webmasters of the sites which you’d like to request a link removal? Use this tool as a last resort.
Panguin– See how Google’s updates have affected your organic search traffic.
Majestic SEO– Get an in-depth look at your website’s backlink data. Also good to use for competitor data.
Open Site Explorer– A free tool which gives you limited information about your website’s inbound links.
AHREFs– Similar to MajesticSEO and OSE, this tool gives you information about your inbound links such as which pages are linking to you, anchor text being used, etc.
Fruition’s Penalty Checker– A good tool which shows the possibility of your website being affected by different Google penalties.