Google has updated its ranking algorithm again. This time around, they are focusing most heavily on penalizing sites that use “over-optimization” and sneaky web spam tactics to generate links. The official name is “the Penguin Update.” Coming on the heels of the latest “Panda Update,” Penguin is a more fine-tuned version that is targeting those that are violating Google’s quality guidelines.
Those of us who don’t rely on outdated, spammy tactics don’t have much to worry about. The update is mainly affecting websites that have little to no quality content, and are abusing inbound linking strategies in order to game the system and get undeserved traffic.
Glenn Gabe at G-Squared Interactive has been researching those websites that have been hardest hit over the past week, and has come up with some thoughtful observations regarding the specific issues that webmasters should concern themselves with. If any of these SEO strategies apply to your site, you might want to address them sooner than later.
This involves companies that want to rank well for a certain set of keywords, and buying domain names with these words in the title. Having a keyword-rich url is a good tactic for showing up high in the search engines. If it makes sense to do so, it is probably fine, and you won’t see any penalties. But some companies do abuse this, by buying up numerous urls in order to dominate a given market, and this crosses a line. At this point, it is unclear if the Google Penguin update is actually going after this, but experts do believe that even if they aren’t targeting exact-match domain abuse now, future updates will.
Paid text links with exact anchor text
Google makes it very clear that they don’t condone paying for links. When a site has an unnatural number of inbound links with anchor text that is just “too perfect,” it raises a red flag. When a site gets a natural link to it, usually the anchor text is varied, since (in theory,) different people are adding the links. In most cases, these types of links are paid, and Google is well aware.
I run a blog on my website, and the amount of comment spam I get is insane. It is usually auto-generated and stuffed with keywords and links, and nothing to say. It is easy for Google to see this, and penalize sites that use such tactics to generate backlinks.
Guest Posts on Questionable Sites
Guest posting has always been a great way to build quality backlinks. In most cases, guest authors are actually contributing to the online community, and that is exactly what Google wants to see. Where people can get in trouble, however, is by adding posts to websites that are set up purely to make money on the guest posts, based on the links they would generate. Not all blogs are created equal, and guest authors should focus on writing for quality sites.
Article marketing often involves webmasters writing a very under-developed article which focuses heavily on keywords and anchor text links within the article. They are usually not necessarily written to be read by humans as much as by the search engines, and are often mass-distributed around the web. Article marketing has long been a link-building mainstay, but its days are numbered.
The main thing to remember is that Google is getting smarter every day. SEO tactics that worked in the past, may still work now, but as we move forward, they are going to be continually phased out. It goes without saying that Google wants good quality content to be pushed to the top of the pile, and the only way to do well in search engine rankings for the longterm is to create good content that people will want to link to. Then promote the hell out of it.