Surviving Penguin and Panda Attacks: SEO Basics

Attack-penguins-of-madagascar

Those sneaky penguins! On Friday, October 17, Google released its third Penguin update to it’s search algorithm chock full of new penalties and created some additional rules of thumb for creating content on the web that you want to rank well within Google’s search results with a few SEO basics.

While Google’s updates strive to better clean up the web of content using sneaky tactics (think Wikihow), it’s hard to understand how the new algorithm might affect your properties. Here are a few ways we’d suggest checking up on your site to determine how we’ll you’re doing with all these changes.

First things first, check in with the right tools.If you don’t have Google Webmaster Tools set up, now is the time. If you do, this is a good use for it! We would recommend checking up on your site at least weekly to determine how each change impacts keywords, impressions and clicks for those keywords. To do this, navigate to the Search Traffic and then Search Queries page using the sidebar menu. Check on the number of impressions vs. the number of clicks. If you suddenly see a downward spike, after an algorithm update, it’s time to pinpoint your content issues and get to cleaning while creating new content that helps users find what they’re looking for and answers the questions they may be asking.

Google Webmaster Tools search

Over the next few weeks it will be especially important to work this check-up into search queries into your workflow. One other place we would recommend checking is ahrefs.com. By looking at the number of links and if they’ve increased or decreased, you can access if other sites have been impacted by Penguin and if you’ve lost poor quality links as a result, as seen below.

ahrefs in action

Creating better content

We’ve talked a lot here about creating better content and why it’s so important to your customers, readers, and ranking. With this update, Google continues to signify that it’s important to them and to their users that the content found when searching successfully answers the question the user may be asking with the query they use. So don’t focus on creating lots of content stuffed with keywords, focus on answering the question with your blog post, infographic, contributed content, or guest post.

Disavow harmful links

If you have a link from a website that is low quality and you don’t want it to affect your site, and you lack control over the links, disavow the links. This will tell Google you’re aware that the quality of those links may not be useful, that you don’t want to be associated with them, and that you don’t want them to count against you. This gives you a useful tool if someone’s tactics outside of your control are having an effect on your rank.

Harmful practices

We’ve covered these before and there haven’t been significant changes to these rules and how they work, but to refresh your memory. This list is a good rulebook to go by while planning your content and link building strategies:

  • Avoid link schemes that are bound to get you in trouble – if it seems scammy, it probably is!
  • Buying or selling links without noting them as ads – selling and inserting text links into your post makes Google cranky
  • Exchanging links with others to gain rank – if you want to link to a friend, talk about their post, their points, etc., but avoid asking for a link exchange.
  • Large-scale article marketing or guest posts are quickly becoming losing tactics for linkbuilding. Keep these practices to a minimum and when you DO write for someone else, make sure the post highly relevant to their audiences. This is key.
  • Advertorials – I get buying press. It’s an easy button. But there are better ways. This isn’t one of them, so stop it.
  • Widgets that distribute links – all those spiffy widgets that link back to someone else’s blog or article or event, they’re frowned upon.
  • Forum comments with optimized links – don’t use forums or comments on blog as a place to drop your optimized URL. It’s spammy and Google will hate you for it.

Perform an SEO audit

Finally, of all the things that you can do that will help your search performance, perform an SEO audit (ignore all the popups from the author of this site and focus on the offering on the page). This is just one example of many audit templates that you can use. Take the time toward the end of the year to assess how your site rank, organic search, paid search, keywords, and more are doing so you know what changes to make in 2015.

Amp up your earned media efforts

Earned media from credible publications, with links, is the best, most reliable, most future-proof way to build links that stand the test of time and Google’s algorithms.

Need help? Have questions? Comments? Thoughts? I’d love to help, just comment below or shoot us an email.

Chel Wolverton
Account Manager, Marketing Technology

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Posted on October 31, 2014 in SEO

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About the Author

Chel works in the Integrated Services as a specialist who uses her knowledge of marketing technology, analytics, and their strategies to strengthen the agency. She spends her free time rucking, writing and/or gaming, creating art via canvas or photography and listening to JT and/or Black Lab. You're probably overly familiar with her love of Sherlock (BBC).
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