[avatar user=”Mark Alperin” size=”thumbnail” align=”right”]

Maybe we should apologize from the start with this article. If you’re reading this, it could be that you were penalized from a Penguin update and you’re pretty sour from it. But, we aren’t. We’re thrilled with the newest Google Updates that have been going on. There has been a ton of talk about the newest Penguin update, including an unconfirmed algorithm update about a week prior. Between these, there has been a lot of keyword movement and SERP placement. But that’s just fine with us. In fact, we’re so happy with it, we want to hug a penguin. You however, may feel like beating one up.

Penguin Update: A Negative to Many, a Positive for Some

Penguin is targeted at eliminating and penalizing sites that employ spammy link building tactics. At Lead to Conversion, we’re White Hat. That means we build relevant, high quality links, don’t engage in spammy behavior and most certainly don’t try to manipulate keyword rankings through paid backlinks or by buying links. That also means Penguin is doing work we can get behind and undoing the kind of work that gives many SEOs a bad name.

Rather, we take the time to establish relationships with relevant content sites, spread backlinks that are meant for users, meaning they will drive referral traffic, and work to get articles posted that are actually meaningful and useful. We embrace content marketing. It’s a strategy that revolves around finding and targeting users with a real interest or need in a product or service, not in targeting search engines, web crawlers or robots. That doesn’t mean that we ignore them. It’s still just as important for a search engine to be able to crawl a site. It’s just that we don’t ignore one for the other. The people who thought black hat tactics were a good idea and tried to scam the search engines are learning the hard way how much of a negative impact that can have.

Google has talked about the right way to do things for a long time and with their first Penguin update a year ago, they started to walk the walk and not just talk. With every successive change the negative impact has increased. Close to 60% of all sites affected by a Penguin update have yet to recover. There isn’t much positive about that. Now we’re at a point where these techniques just aren’t viable for long-term growth. That thrills us as it levels the playing field for a lot of businesses and confirms that any ‘future-proofing’ happens by targeting the user not the search engine. At LTC, we do our best to make sure that actions now have positive results in the future as well as the present.

New Penguin Update Changes

So far, we’re seeing that Google is doing exactly as it said; they are penalizing sites with spammy links and are going much deeper into the site, not just penalizing the home page, but interior pages as well. More than just spammy links, things like link velocity and huge spikes in velocity are affecting sites as well. So if you built several thousand links in one month but average only a few dozen throughout the rest of the year, you’re probably hurting right now. We’re also hearing that penalties can be passed from tiers too. If your site has a link from another site and that site is penalized, you’re could be as well. These types of penalties are very hard to trace and require a lot of time to uncover. Luckily, once identified, there are many ways to recover, including ‘nofollow’ tags on the links.

We’re also noticing higher value from social signals. This, for the most part, has positive effects while everything is running. However, the problem comes if you decide to turn social ‘off’. At this point this is just speculation, but we’re beginning to see that the positive effects of social diminish if the business participates in social but stops during their down months. Simply turning social ‘off’ seems to cause keyword rankings to drop. It will be interesting to continue to track this and see how it progresses.

How to Tell if You’ve Been Hit by Penguin

It’s pretty easy to tell if you’ve been hit by the latest Penguin update. The update rolled out on May, 22nd and by the 23rd sites were effected. If you track keywords, you’ll notice that all or most of them plummeted on either of these two days and never came back. If you notice that all or most of your keywords went up, then rejoice, and hug a penguin. Negative for some, just turned into a positive for you.

Another way to tell is through analytics. If you notice a drop in organic traffic from Google, on the 22nd or 23rd and no recovery, then you were hit. There is a little more going on with organic traffic though so there are a few things to consider when judging this way. The update came out on a Wednesday/Thursday. Does your site loose traffic on the weekend? If your site traffic plummeted but did so in a normal fashion, for example if you’re a B2B company, then you should be OK – seeing how things recover through the working week is key here. Also, the update happened right before Memorial Day Weekend so if you don’t get weekend traffic you probably don’t get traffic over holiday’s either. Again, the key is seeing how traffic is during the normal workweek and comparing that to traffic from matching days.

If you were unlucky (and by unlucky we mean decided to engage in super black hat tactics) enough to get a Webmaster Tools Message about unnatural linking, then your site was manually flagged. This is actually different than an algorithm devaluation, but the effects are the same, you’re site has very little to no organic traffic.

Have no fear though. That’s what LTC is here for. There are several different options when dealing with these penalties and recovering. The main ones are controlling the inbound link through removal, ‘nofollow’ tags, and disavows, or by 404’ing the page, but there are other options and every site requires different strategies. They do all start with an assessment and a good understanding of what’s going on though. While it’s never fun to undergo one of these penalties, nothing feels better than recovering from one. And even better than recovering, is recovering with improvements to conversions through even more targeted traffic and by every definition, that’s taking a negative and turning it into a positive.