Google Penguin: What is it and why is it important?
Announced in April 2012 and followed by several refreshes until 2014, the Penguin update was designed to assess the quality of inbound links (links to your website from other websites). If a high quality website links to yours, you get a plus point; conversely, if low quality websites link to you, your rankings suffer. The wrath of the Penguin was most severely felt in May 2013 and October 2013.
Before this update, SEO was all about building links by the numbers—the more websites link to you, the better. Where those links came from did not matter. Thousands of low-quality directories, forums, article sites, and blogs were established for the sole purpose of link building.
The rollout of Penguin put a stop to these ‘link farms’ and penalised unnatural links—those that it deems to have been built for the purpose of manipulating search rankings. The most recent Penguin updates target forum spam, low-quality online directories, and link networks.
Anyone who has ever tried tospam build links (or paid an SEO firm to do so) has been hit by Penguin one way or another. The links that used to be effective at boosting your rankings may now be doing the opposite. Even if you did not actively seek out links, you might be surprised at how many inbound links point to your site—many of which you probably didn’t solicit.
So how exactly can you recover from a Google Penguin penalty? The solution is simple—at least in theory. Removing bad links that point to your website should resolve the problem. This is easier said than done, though. This mammoth task involves several steps and countless man hours.
- List all incoming links using specialist tools.
- Review each of those links and decide which ones are ‘bad.’ This often involves looking at each website manually and making a quality judgement.
- Improve all good links. Ensure that the anchor texts on each link are varied. You will need to manually contact the webmaster of each site to adjust them for you.
- Banish the bad links. Contact the site owners and request removal. Some directories will require a fee for removing your link.
- For links that you are unable to remove, submit ‘disavow’ files to Google. This asks the search engine to disassociate your site from those links. Although Google encourages this, there is no clear information on whether it truly makes a difference.
- Start building good links. To do this,create content that other high-quality websites will organically want to link to.