On October 4, 2013, Google’s Matt Cutts announced that the infamous Google aquatic bird—the Penguin—will be in the limelight once again. That was the day when the Penguin 2.1 was launched. If you’re one of those who were significantly affected by Penguin 2.0 and are still reeling from that algorithm update, then you likely don’t appreciate having to deal with yet another update. Rather than throwing your arms up in frustration, though, it would be a lot more advantageous for you to learn as much as you can about Penguin 2.1 and how it can possibly affect your Search Engine Optimization efforts.
What is the Google Penguin 2.1?
The fifth Penguin-related update launched by Google, Penguin 2.1 is designed to specifically target web spam. It is expected to significantly affect no more than one percent of Google searches. You may take some consolation in the fact that this is considered a minor update as compared to Penguin 2.0. This means you probably won’t see yourself scrambling to make site adjustments the way you did when Penguin 2.0 was launched.
It’s generally too early to say for sure what the specific differences are between Penguin 2.0 and 2.1, but initial analysis by Glenn Gabe seems to suggest that the latest update targets practically the same things as the previous update. Perhaps the difference lies in the level of analysis; Penguin 2.1 is expected to have the ability to analyze web pages on a deeper level so as to identify spam activities painstakingly hidden by webmasters.
Reasons for Site Hits
Based on the analysis made by Glenn Gabe, these are the kind of spam links penalized by the Penguin 2.1 update:
• Forum Spam – This includes those comments you post in online forums that are found to have exact-match anchor text links.
• Forum Bio Spam – This refers to biographies in forums that contain – yes, you guessed it – exact-match anchor text links.
• Blogroll Spam – Some blogrolls are safe from the update, but there are those that are generally considered spam and will likely get hit. If you’re not quite sure which blogrolls are okay and which ones aren’t, you’d do well to seek help from an SEO expert.
• Blog Comment Spam – It seems that with the new update, this kind of post is being targeted, whether it’s followed or not.
• “Do Follow” Blogs – If you neglect or forget to add “nofollow” to your blog links, you’re likely to get hit. The reason for this is that Google tends to view you as making an effort to game links when you’re listed as a do-follow resource site.
• Spammy Directories – Be sure to check if you still have links to spammy directories that may have escaped the “cleaning” you did in the past. If so, have these links nofollowed, disavow them, or remove them completely.
• Classified Websites – This is a new culprit identified by the Penguin 2.1 update. Classified websites that contain unnatural links that lead to destination sites are likely to be hit.
How to Determine If You’ve Been Hit
There are generally two things you need to do first in order to determine whether you’ve been hit by Penguin 2.1 or not.
1. Check Google Webmaster Tools. If Google applied manual penalties to your site for whatever reason, then you’re bound to get notified on Webmaster Tools. If you didn’t get any notifications, then your website may be safe. If you don’t have a Webmaster Tools account just yet, be sure to set one up.
2. Check your organic traffic with Google Analytics. To be specific, you need to check your organic search traffic during the first two weeks after Penguin 2.1 was launched. Was there a significant dip in your site’s organic search traffic? If not, then you’re lucky. If traffic somehow increased during this two-week period, then you must definitely be doing something right.
Recovering from a Hit
Here are the best things you can do to recover in case you have been hit by the latest Penguin update:
1. Ditch the “link building” mindset.
Bear in mind that the Penguin updates all target unnatural links. Instead of focusing on building as many links as you can, therefore, you need to shift your focus to providing users with an unforgettable positive experience on your site. Create and promote high-quality content that you’re sure site visitors will find useful. This kind of content will want each visitor to share the experience with others, thereby giving you natural links that’s safe from any Google update.
2. Identify and remove offending links.
Check your inbound links to see if there may have been some that triggered the hit. Remove as many of these bad links as you can. If you can access the sites from where the links came, log into those sites to remove the links. Otherwise, you could contact the administrators of those sites and request for them to remove the links. If there are still bad links that remain after you make an effort to have them removed, disavow the remaining links. For links that originate from low-quality sites, be sure to disavow the entire domain.
3. File for reconsideration.
If you’ve been notified of a manual penalty, you’ll need to file a reconsideration request. In the request, be sure to describe in detail what you’ve done to correct the things Google deemed worth penalizing. Remember, though, that if the penalties you got are all algorithmic, then a reconsideration request probably won’t help you.
4. Keep monitoring your links.
Just because you’ve already cleaned up your links doesn’t mean you can rest easy and expect to be safe from Google updates forever. There’s still a chance of more bad links being added as time goes by. You could even fall prey to negative SEO. This is why it’s important for you to keep monitoring your links and cleaning up each time you notice bad links cropping up.
5. Create and execute a fresh content marketing campaign.
The key in creating a content marketing campaign that’s not likely to get hit by Google updates is not to completely abandon link-building. Rather, it is in making sure you get only top-quality, authoritative links from trusted sites. Top-quality on-site content strategy, guest blogging, and effective social media marketing should be the foundations of your campaign.
It can indeed be devastating to get hit by Google’s algorithm updates. The good news is that there are things you can do not only to recover from a hit, but more importantly, to protect your site from future updates. There’s no question that Google will continue implementing updates in their drive to remove webspam for good. What you need is to be aggressive in mapping out a long-term SEO plan that’ll be practically immune to any changes Google may introduce in the months or years to come. Increasing the quality and relevance of your website is the best way to decrease the possibility of getting penalized.