Penguin Penalty Prevention!
By Sam Hollingsworth (AKA, Crypt Keeper)
Penguins shouldn’t be scary, regardless of what Google wants us to believe. They’re cute, lovable animals—even on Halloween. Webmasters and marketers shouldn’t scream, run and hide every time we hear about them.
But some brands do just that. Sometimes it’s understandable, depending on the spooky link-building tactics used to gain backlinks to a website, or the fact that the site has unintentionally earned backlinks that are still understood as (and probably are) spammy by Google.
Google’s Penguin Update originally launched in April 2012 aimed at penalizing sites using black hat SEO tactics to accrue backlinks to their site and manipulate the search engines. Even though Crypt Keeper is fond of dark headgear, Penguin penalties can be avoided if you follow five fairly simple, ethical guidelines:
- Do it right.
It’s vital to remember the most important aspect of linking: Don’t be shady! If it seems unethical, it probably is. Paying for links is obviously not a smart tactic to earn credible links. (Save your Bitcoins for pagan paraphernalia.) Posting thousands of comments in forums and directories won’t work either. And asking for them isn’t really an ideal approach (to an extent). Which brings me to No. 2…
- Be diverse, but within reason.
Asking a site in your niche to link to your site (i.e., you sell golf clubs and ask a local golf course) wouldn’t necessarily draw claims of being an unethical tactic, nor would this type of tactic usually warrant a Penguin penalty. Matter of fact, you may want to contact all of the local golf courses and (not ask for some links but) let those golf courses know who you are, what you offer, and how people can find your website. Definitely do NOT offer to whack their Canada Geese and gophers for free.
- Sensible anchor text is a must.
Having an abundance of exact-match links pointing to your site is sending red flags to Google and will certainly get you nabbed by Penguin. You might as well send Matt Cutts hate mail daily! Branded inbound links are natural. Think about it: how do users know what they’re getting/where they’re going when they click a link? Give users the most specific piece of information you can: a brand. Maximize your brand’s value and performance by using No. 4.
- Build your brand.
Brand signals help Google understand that you’re a real brand doing real business – or at least offering something real and useful to real people. And those people help to build that brand.
Sure, your brand should have its website, but it should also be a good website. Not something that looks like a pumpkin after the squirrels have dined on it. It should look sweet, be easy to use, and offer something unique and useful to visitors. You should also have active social media accounts and build a following on those accounts. Don’t be a ghost!
Branded searches help Google understand your brand as a respected authority. People search for brands every day, and it shows brand recognition and builds trust with people and search engines alike.
- Recognize the fact that search engines are getting smarter.
If it’s considered unethical by Google now, it’s safe to say it will likely stay that way. The search algorithm is going to continue to improve and get better at filtering out the poor-quality sites that have scammed the system for years. The real brands offering the real experience to users will always win the Web. The rest will be interred six feet under where no one can—or should—find them.
Sam Hollingsworth is an SEO Manager at Acronym with an emphasis on Content Marketing and Social Media. Originally from Upstate New York, he now resides in Manhattan and enjoys watching his New York Rangers and New York Knicks just a few of blocks away from work at the Empire State Building. You may also find Sam watching horse racing at Belmont Park or Aqueduct Racetrack throughout the year, or at Saratoga Race course near his hometown in Saratoga Springs during summer. Sam can be reached via Twitter at @SearchMasterGen