After releasing two Penguin updates within approximately four months of each other in 2013, rumors of Google releasing a third update in 2014 are a-buzz within the SEO community. If your site was affected negatively by Penguin 2.0 or 2.1, you're probably worried about the damage that 3.0 is going to cause.
That's why we've outlined this list of measures you can take to help Penguin-proof your site:
Clean up inbound links. This is actually something that everyone should make a habit of doing every few months or so. For those who are unfamiliar, you can access a list of all the URLs that link to your site from within your Google Webmaster Tools account. One of the factors that Google pays close attention to (and may penalize you for) is your link to domain ratio. This is calculated by comparing the volume of inbound links pointing to your site vs. the number of unique domains linking to your site. If this number is too small, e.g. 300,000 links from 100 domains, then your site is at high risk of being hit with a penalty.
And because other sites don't need permission to link to yours, monitoring your inbound links regularly is important. To protect your site from a Penguin penalty, go through the list of inbound links that your Webmaster Tools account displays and disavow all the ones that look "spammy" to Google.
Remember, Google likes content, so a link from a quality, relevant, credible, content-rich site is an ideal SEO link. With that said, Google also likes variety, so it's ok if a few of your links are coming from directories or information-related sites like Yahoo! Answers. In short, these are the types of links you should disavow:
• Non-niche directories with no particular focus or criteria.
• Non-genuine blog comments with spammy link text.
• Site-wide links can be a red flag, investigate further.
• Any sites completely unrelated and irrelevant to your site.
• Profile links and low quality article links.
Remember, it's crucial to do this manually. While it can be tedious and time consuming, it will help ensure that spammers and low quality links don't affect your SEO efforts negatively.
Begin a link building campaign. It's never too late to start a linking campaign, or amend your strategies if they're not up to current white hat standards. If your link building strategy still looks the same as it did two years ago, it's time for a few changes. Not very long ago, four or five guest posts to four or five blogs per month that incorporated "keyword rich" anchor text were enough to get an "A" in link building class. However, this tactic was abused so frequently that Google now mostly regards these kinds of links as spam, according to an article written by Matt Cutts earlier this year.
Now before you start disavowing all inbound links coming from blogs, keep in mind that guest blogging can still be a useful tactic. Like all things in life and SEO, moderation and tact are the keys. Contributing one or two guest blog posts a month to credible, quality bloggers who will partner with you (and not just hand over the reins) can still be effective, but you should do your research first. Here are a few tips for practicing safe guest blogging:
• Look at the author of each article on the blog. Is the site overflowing with guest blog posts from a bunch of different sources? If so, it's probably best to look into the opportunity a bit more or choose to stay away. This can be an indication that the blog is opening itself up to spammy sites.
• Don't flood your content with anchor text. In fact, don't use keywords anywhere within the content of your blog post. If it's in any of your site's meta tags, don't use it. Google likes links that are natural - that connect two pieces of relevant content. If you own a site that sells shoes, and "women's wedge boots" happens to be one of your keywords, don't write a piece of content that looks like "we offer a variety of shoes, such as women's wedge boots, women's sandals, women's evening shoes..." where you proceed to list your entire inventory just to use "women's wedge boots" as anchor text. It results in an unnatural writing style that Googlebots are smart enough to detect. Instead, write something like "we offer a wide variety of stylish boots for men and women at unbeatable prices." It's catchy, user friendly and natural, and Google can still figure out that your site sells women's boots.
• Make sure the blog is 100% relevant to your website. If you sell women's shoes, you want to post to fashion blogs and blogs targeted at fashion-conscious women, not blogs focused on non-profits or gardening.
This being said, your link building campaign doesn't begin and end with blogs; eBooks, infographics, whitepapers, social media posts and videos are the most foolproof forms of inbound links. Get creative. Host a contest on Twitter, create YouTube videos that engage your audience, post content that people would like to share on Facebook and Google+. It's these tried and true steps that will keep you on the right side of Penguin while boosting your SEO rankings.
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