Escaping the Wrath of Google Penguin

Cara Bowles    By under Link Building.

google penguinGoogle has stepped up it's anti-spam efforts yet again, bringing the hammer down on low-authority sites with what is now called the Penguin update. The impacts have been widespread, and there is no shortage of webmasters and SEOs protesting the change. The fallout has been large enough that there's even a petition to reverse it.

The blogosphere has erupted with fears about the possibility of negative SEO, fears that were instigated in the warnings leading up to the Penguin update. Examples of the search results getting worse are everywhere, whether or not this is true on a broader scale. With more Panda updates on the way and more anti-spam efforts coming, what's an SEO to do?

What Google Says

For once, Google has been pretty straightforward about what they want from webmasters, since they claim the update was targeted specifically at outright spam. In a perfect world, the following would mean you were covered:

  • No hidden text or links
  • No cloaking or manipulative redirecting
  • No automated Google queries
  • No irrelevant keyword use
  • No duplicate content
  • No malware
  • No doorway pages or cookie-cutter websites
  • Affiliate sites must add additional value
  • Make pages for users, not search engines
  • Only do things you would do if there were no search engines
  • No link schemes

Of course, no surprise, we don't live in a perfect world. Notably, Viagra's website was hit by the Penguin update. The brand's huge profile meant that the problem was fixed quickly, but smaller businesses facing a similar problem can't rely on Google to fix the issue for them.

What Now?

If your site is pristine as Mother Teresa, you can start by filling out Google's Penguin form. Like the reconsideration request form, I wouldn't be holding my breath for results, but it's certainly worth a shot.

Bear in mind, you're up against confirmation bias once your site finally gets a manual review. They are starting with the assumption that your site is spam. You're backlink profile and site will need to be cleaner than average, to say the least.

While the form could help, it's the lowest common denominator. Google is only concerned about its user experience and if searchers can live without you, Google's not going to be in a rush to help you. What else can you do?

An Anti-Penguin Campaign

The best thing you can do in response to any penalty or algorithmic demotion is respond with an aggressive white-hat SEO campaign. Specifically, you should aim to rank well for a high traffic, low competition, non-commercial keyword.

This is the best way to tell Google that your site offers genuine value to users, that it's more than a clever way to stand between your users and your affiliates.

We've touched on the subject of link bait before, but the gist of it goes like this:

  • Create unique, entertaining content that demands to be shared.
  • Get buy-in from influencers by involving them in the process
  • Leverage your existing network to reach critical mass before your content goes live
  • Promote the link bait on all fronts, including social networks and forums with nofollow links

Few tactics pass more trust and authority than a well-executed link bait campaign. They also lead to more direct searches for your brand name and help boost other user metrics that can push your site outside of the "spam threshold."

Have you been "pecked" by Penguin? What are you doing to fix the problem? 

Useful Resources:

How Long Does SEO Take To Work?

Backlink Audit Checklist