Posted by robkerry
SEOmoz and I don't always see eye to eye on industry issues, but I still have a lot of respect for the company. In fact SEOmoz is still the website that I send people to, when they want to learn about SEO or get into our industry. Rand kindly invited me to the SEOmoz office when I was in Seattle this week, for a chat and the opportunity to present a Whiteboard Friday.
This week's Whiteboard Friday covers the recent Penguin Update, including what to do and what not to do. I certainly wouldn't say that it's a comprehensive guide, but it does discuss the issues and causes that I have witnessed. Fortunately Ayima's campaigns have been unaffected (other than increases) by the update, but we do monitor our client's competitors and their agencies to a very granular level using in-house technology. Off-Page SEO has been changing dramatically for a while now, and it's important that agencies and in-house teams don't get left behind. Always ask questions and never just assume that Google whacked you by mistake, even if you are "White Hat".
Hello, and welcome to another Whiteboard Friday. My name is Rob Kerry. I'm co-founder of an SEO agency called Ayima. Today we're going to be talking about the Penguin Update. There's been a lot of talk in a lot of communities out there, a lot of SEO communities, about the Penguin Update. A lot of false information being chucked around out there as well. Hopefully, this video clears up quite a few things.
The first issue is that a lot of people still use the term white hat, grey hat, black hat. Now, this terminology was taken from the hacking world and adopted for SEO reasons. It's actually in Google's best interest for us to use this terminology because it makes SEO sound like a risky, dangerous, almost illegal thing to be doing. Whereas if you actually use the hacking terminology and adapt it to SEO, the only thing that is black hat SEO is hacking someone's website and embedding links into there for SEO reasons. Everything else is basically white hat, because you're either getting permission from another webmaster to have a link on their site, or you're making adaptations to your own website, all of which would be classed as white hat.
Rather than looking at whether you use a white hat SEO provider or a black hat SEO provider, actually have a look to see what techniques are being used. Even if you're not buying links, you can still get affected by the Penguin Update. This isn't an update about whether you are buying links or not buying links. This an update about how you're trying to manipulate Google.
If your white hat SEO provider is currently just putting links into your site for commercial terms or even only putting 50% of the links in using commercial terms, let's say we're trying to rank for the term "penguin," if half your links or more are saying penguin in them, then you're going to get tripped up in this kind of filter because you're seen as manipulating Google, even if those links were acquired through directories or through asking for links or through viral campaigns.
So, rather than looking at that, we need to look at the footprints that are going into your site. Quite a good case study for that is we have a client who works with a lot of seasonal campaigns. We were about to run one at the beginning of this year for an event, which they sell products for. A competitor SEO agency in the UK works with one of their big competitors, one of the big competitors of our client. We were basically monitoring to see what that other SEO agency was doing. Three months before the seasonal campaign needed to launch, they started building links into their client's website using the commercial anchor text, so people putting links in saying penguin, penguin, penguin, going into those client pages. Whereas, we went with a different tactic.
We actually changed the way that we do SEO in terms of off-page SEO about a year ago, predicting that this kind of update would get rolled out. With our clients now, as long as the on-page is optimized properly and there are a few links going in using commercial terms, then we basically just build up the authority and the trust of our client website.
It sounds like kind of a lame idea, and it goes against traditional ideas of SEO, but it does actually work ever since this update rolled out. So, whilst we were starting to go up and up and up in the rankings, eventually hitting number one place for the biggest term for this seasonal campaign, we noticed our competitor going down and down and down.
There are even complaining on Twitter that Google might be broken, there's an algorithm issue, just because they didn't understand why putting loads of anchor text with commercial terms going into the client's site wasn't working. It's basically because Google has been working towards this kind of thing for quite a long time.
So, have a look at your anchor text ratios. Go to Open Site Explorer, type in your website, click on the anchor text link, and that will order it by, I think, group linking domains. You can actually see what links are most used on each URL of your website. If your commercial terms are quite near the top, let's say in the top 10, then you need to really work at getting better links going into your site and maybe even taking down some of the links, which are overly optimized. This is basically their step towards an over-optimization penalty.
There's another thing, which is content providers, who as soon as the Penguin Update rolled out, we got a barrage of emails from all of these people saying, "We can fix Penguin by building lots and lots of more pages of content for your site." These would actually negatively affect you, because one of the things that Penguin's trying to do is further penalize the production of crap content.
Rather than paying thousands and thousands a month to have 200-words news articles put onto your website, get rid of those if they're not actually bringing any traffic in. Look at actually creating a good quality resource of information on your website to become the authority in your industry. A few pages of great content is a lot better than just hammering Google with loads of news articles.
The big thing is there's no quick fix. If you get an email from a company saying that, "We can fix all your Penguin issues," it's likely not to be the case, especially if it's like a $35 fix. You just basically need to build a better campaign for your website. Look at taking down content which might not be unique or useful information. Get rid of some of that from your website if it's not driving any traffic directly to it.
Also, look at just making your website look as natural as possible. Build authority into the pages that you want to rank, but don't start over- optimizing on the anchor text. If you start doing that, not only will it fix Penguin issues, but it will also help you to rise up in the rankings. Thank you very much, and that's about it.
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