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Google’s Penguin 2.1 survival tips

At the start of October, the fifth installment of Google’s Penguin update, Penguin 2.1, was released. Despite being a ‘minor release’, Penguin 2.1 already seems to have had more impact for webmasters than the earlier minor updates of Penguin 1.2 and Penguin 1.3, and is expected to affect approximately 1% of searches.

The aim of the whole Penguin program is to operate as part of Google’s search algorithm that looks for sites which are spamming search results yet still ranking well. 

The role of Penguin 2.1 is to carry out a more thorough level of analysis in order to identify spam activities deep within pages. Its objective is to target those companies who are using link spam as a means of increasing traffic to their website, manipulating PageRank and gaining higher rankings.

What Penguin 2.1 loves to hate

The main victims of Penguin 2.1 are those websites that contain:

  • Link spam, in particular:
    • Forum span
    • Form bio spam
    • Blogroll spam
    • ‘Do follow’ blogs
    • Spammy directories
    • Blog comment signature spam
  • Classified websites with heavy, unnatural links
  • Negative SEO (e.g. through use of paid links, stealing content before it is indexed, fake reviews)
  • Paid backlinks or participation in link schemes
  • Low-quality backlinks generated with automated tools
  • Excessive link exchanges
  • Over-optimization of anchor text

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Tips for surviving a Penguin attack

In terms of best practice, nothing has really changed with the release of Penguin 2.1, and ensuring that your site has high-quality, unique and engaging content will go a long way to preventing problems. But if you find yourself hit by Penguin, here’s what you should do:

  • Don’t waste time, but move as quickly as possible
  • Monitor your link profile for unnatural, inbound links
  • Check your Webmaster Tools to check if your site has any penalisation or manual action applied to it. (If so, you’ll need to sort out the problem as below, before filing a reconsideration request.)
  • Pay particular attention to forum posts and anchor text
  • Remove unnatural links (Google expects you to reach out to webmasters multiple times if necessary to ask for links to be removed, rather than simply disavowing all bad links)
  • Disavow unnatural links that can’t be manually removed, using the Google Disavow tool
  • Try to find alternative, natural inbound links, e.g. through guest blogging and social media
  • If you use a SEO agency or consultant, make sure you’ve thoroughly vetted them and keep on track of exactly what they’re doing and why, to avoid being blindsided in the future

Most importantly, it’s vital to maintain business as usual. Keep producing fresh, new content, build and maintain strong social media communities and encourage natural, inbound links.

Ultimately, Google want to provide searchers with the most relevant, useful and up-to-date information in response to their searches, so websites that are vibrant, active, living hubs with great quality content and plenty of user interaction will always fare well. And after all, that’s exactly what you should be aiming to provide for your users.