Abridged with the author’s permission from the Vertical Measures blog.
If you noticed a significant drop in your website traffic on or after April 24, your site could be a victim of Google’s Penguin update. Some websites totally disappeared from the rankings while others suffered significant rankings and traffic drops.
The Penguin Update
The Penguin update looks at unnatural links pointing to a site. These links fall into a number of categories detailed below.
- Site-Wide Links. If you paid for links on blog rolls and in sidebars, they are affecting your current rankings. These links fall outside the Google terms of service (TOS). Chances are, they are exact match for your money terms and a preponderance of exact match anchor text link could also be a cause of your rankings drop.
- Low Quality Sites. Links from low quality sites pointing to you will affect your rankings. The good news is most of those sites are gone now. The problem you may be currently having with your rankings is that the link juice that was passing to your site is now gone.
- Guest Posts on Questionable Sites. Some sites have been affected from writing guest blog posts for anchor text rather than for valuable content.
- Article Marketing. Again, using thin content stuffed with links around exact match anchor text is another common problem.
- Links From Sites with Malware. You could have issues if your site has links pointing to it from sites that contain malware, pop-up, or other spammy issues.
Your Plan of Attack
- Check Analytics
Look at your website analytics. If you see significant drops in traffic on April 24, you know you’ve been affected.
You can use tools like SEMRush to give you an indication of the severity of the rankings drops. SEMRush will give you a current ranking number along with a previous ranking. If you’ve only dropped a position or two, it won’t take much to get your site back on track. If you’ve dropped 100+ positions, it’s going to be a tough road back.
- Webmaster Tools
Also check to see if you have any messages in your Webmaster tools. You may have received a dreaded email from Google.
In the past, webmasters of sites Google thought were spam were told to file a reconsideration request. However, with the Penguin update, Google has specifically said that a reconsideration request won’t help. They recover naturally, once you clean up the spammy links.
- Backlink Portfolio
Take a look at your backlink portfolio. A backlink audit digs into the details about sites that are pointing to you. This is a very good place to find actionable information. In particular, look for an over-repetition of key phrases in anchor text. Penguin will penalize you for this. One way to combat the effect is to diversify the anchor text pointing to your site. Use variations of your money phrases and consider a keyword sandwich—putting bumper words before and after your keyword phrase.
- On-Site Issues. This would be a good time to clean up any on site issues you have. For example:
- Clean up spammy link grids and overuse of keyword phrases on your site. Make sure you aren’t overusing head terms as anchor text links on your site.
- Fix duplicate title tags.
- Fix duplicate alt tags on photos. Take the time to create a definitive alt tag for each photo.
- Thicken your content. If you have thin content on your pages with overused head terms, then add good quality content and diversify the keywords on those pages. You want to have “authority”-quality content on your site. If you overuse keywords on a page, Google looks at this as keyword stuffing.
- Get rid of duplicate content. Take the time to make each page unique.
This is a lot of work and many webmasters won’t be up for it. But if you take the time and clean up your backlink portfolio and fix your on-site factors, you will definitely improve your rankings and position your site for future growth.