In April 2012, Google launched its first ever ‘penguin’ update. Its target was to kill websites that ranked well in Google, but used shady tactics to get popular – mostly phony links that point back to the websites.
In simple words, the penguin update targets any website or blog that builds shady links. This includes irrelevant links, spam tactics, low-quality and dodgy directory links and the like.
Google’s core aim is to provide more visibility to websites that are following search engine guidelines and providing high-quality and focused content to their audiences.
In order to keep the internet clean and provide searchers with superior content, Google comes up with penguin updates from time to time. Each time there are winners who get higher visibility against the roll out, and there are losers who get demotion (in terms of visibility) against the update.
Image via: Search Metrics
According to the Search Engine Journal, we are weeks away from Google’s next penguin update that is said to be in real-time in 2016.
The million-dollar question is, which side do you want to be on?
I’m sure you want to make it to the winners’ list. But how do you ensure that you are safe?
That you will not only survive the update, but get the powerful and positive push out of it that your website requires?
This post is the answer to all such questions.
Am I safe?
To find the answer, you could;
Run your website domain in Open site explorer and check the SPAM score in the result box.
The ideal number is ‘0’ and the worst number is 17. If the number of spam score goes beyond 5 or 7, this could mean that you could come under the Google radar and the penguin update, which is just a few short weeks away from release, might hurt your website traffic, rankings and visibility.
There is another way to test your safety levels, which in my opinion is more reliable compared to the Open Site Explorer method. For this, you need the paid version of Link Research Tool’s Domain compare.
Once you have the software up and running, put your domain on this tool and see your scores on ‘Power’ and ‘Trust’. If both are equal, it means your domain is faring well.
If the difference is as close as is shown in the above example, this should also work. But the increase in the difference between the two numbers shows that the quality of the domain has been compromised.
Let’s say your domain ranks 4 in Power and 1 in Trust, it is an indication that you are in Google’s red zone.
I’m in danger. Now what?
If you are safe, congratulations!
If not, you need to take preventive measures so you don’t fall prey to the next penguin update.
Once again there are two ways to deal with this situation.
If most or all of your links in your profile are toxic, get them cleaned immediately by reaching out to relevant people. If they are under your control, that’s even better. Get them out of the way as soon as possible.
If not, then you are left with the ‘disavow’ option.
If I was in the similar situation, I would deal with it like this;
Step 1: Collect all links pointing to your website. There are multiple sources that can help you with that such as Moz Open Site Explorer, Google Webmaster Tool, Ahrefs.com Index, Majestic SEO and the like.
Then, collect the data from all mentioned sources, remove duplicates and put them all in one spread sheet.
Step 2: Run the list in software like Link Detox or Kerboo (previously known as Link Risk) and see how many of your links are toxic or bad. Separate the good ones from the rest and reanalyze bogus links manually.
These software are very effective, but to mitigate chances of error, I always recommend to double check the bad links and see how many of them are actually so.
Step 3: Create a link disavow file. Add all the bogus links in the ‘text’ file and upload it on Google Webmaster Tool.
By submitting a disavow file, you are telling Google that you do not want ‘link juice’ from the following few domains/URLs, which leave you with only decent links. This is how you can save yourself from the Google penguin update attack.
But what if you have very few quality links in your profile while most of your links are dirty?
Well, you might not become food for the penguin but due to the lack of quality links, you might lose rankings from your money making keywords.
How to stay safe from penguin and still not lose rankings?
It’s very simple! Remove or disavow bad links from your profile and build relevant, high quality links that point back to your website and you are good to go.
I agree. It sounds easier than it is. But it’s not impossible.
Important Note: Links are an important ranking factor, but thinking that links are the sole reason why your rankings are moving up or down is wrong. Always make sure that other factors like on-page optimization, UI, UX, page speed, quality of content, bounce rate and other elements are in place, and up to par. This will give a big boost to your rankings.
Penguin Proof Link Building Ideas
The rest of this post is going to touch upon some link building ideas that will help you get quality links quickly to help you survive penguin updates, at the same time allowing you to regain/retain your rankings on money making key phrases.
- The Local Citation Links
When we talk about building quality links, I usually prefer to wisely choose the low hanging fruits. If you are a business with a physical location, you can get quite a few good links by taking the local SEO into account.
Register your business on Google Maps, Yahoo Locals, Bing Maps and then submit it using the same NAP to other citation websites like the Yellow Pages. If you are in the United States, this is the resource you should bookmark, whereas for Australia and Canada, you can check these resources out.
Once you have submitted your business, you will get some high-quality links pointing back to your website. I’m not saying that by doing this you will be able to fully secure your rankings or minimize the level of damage, but it is definitely a good start.
- Start thinking like a B2B Website
This is another idea that can give you quick quality links. If you are a B2B website, awesome! If not, all you need to do is think like one.
Look at your distribution partners who are selling your products and services. Also, see who is distributing your products on other websites. Once you have the list, reach out to them and request a link that points back to your webpage.
If you are supporting an event or speaking at a conference (or have spoken in the past), ask the organizers for a link. Chances are they will do as you bid as this will only make them appear more transparent to their target audience.
- Reverse Image Search
If you have ever worked on infographics or created custom images in the past, this should work like magic for you. The idea is simple. Just go back into your assets (images and infographics) and reverse search on Google to see how many other blogs and websites are using them without linking them to your website.
Create a list of the contact details for each of these websites and send them emails requesting links. If your email is convincing enough, you will probably end up getting lots of links in just a few days.
Note: Make sure you are reaching out to standardized websites as low-quality ones will leave you in the same rut you are trying to get out of.
- Broken Link Building
Now this one requires some pro-level skills but if there is a smart SEO or Inbound guy working for you, this shouldn’t be a problem. The idea is to look into your content assets that are good and make a list of them. Next step is to find websites that have talked about similar subjects and currently have 404 pages on it.
Collect the URL of 404 pages and run them through tools such as Open site explorer and Ahrefs.com’s site explorer and see who are linked to those 404 pages.
Reach out to them and suggest your content assets as an alternate resource to their website. If your content is worthwhile, they will most likely jump at the opportunity.
Here is a detailed guide to broken link building that can be of great help.
- Simple Outreach technique
Here we are talking about a technique that (if done right) could work wonders for you. First, collect all your linkable content assets in a sheet. Secondly, search for like-minded people for each of your blog posts or write-ups.
Once you have the list of people and their contact details, simply reach out to them and see if they are willing to look at your piece, and if possible, link or share it via their social media profiles.
Do not expect a lot of links, but you can definitely get some quality links and social media shares that point back to your website.
Note: Never say no to social shares. A single share from an influential social profile could lead to heavier traffic and links that come naturally to your website.
- Use/Re-use Authorships
This is an idea that most people either never use or don’t realize the importance of. You can make the best use of this opportunity if you are a business that has multiple employees. Call a meeting and ask everyone about writing opportunities (where they can write or if they have written in the past).
There will be some who have good connections in your chosen industry or have written for a magazine, blog or even better, contributed to their university website or blog.
Make a list of all the resources. Now, you can either author the articles yourself, or use your connections – friends, colleagues, business partners – that are willing to write for you.
You could also hire a professional writer to do the job for you. (Reminder: Always make sure that the websites you choose for your articles are well-known, high-quality ones that are relevant to your business.)
Next, create excellent content for the chosen websites (better to write to the editors beforehand and discuss what the website would like to carry that is also relevant to your business) and then send them to the editors.
Within a few days or weeks you would probably get some first-rate editorial links pointing back to your website.
Note: Please note that most high-ranking blogs have a backlog, but not even trying them out because of this reason is not the smartest thing to do.
Remember that real-time penguin update is only weeks away. To steer clear of the penguin penalty, you have to make sure that your website is clean. If you’re unsure about your website’s position then this is the best time for you to follow through the above mentioned ideas to make the best use of this update.