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07 Jan 2013

A penguin without a tail

Google’s Penguin update had a significant impact on many sites on the web.  I thought I’d launch this blog with a discussion of some of the observations I’ve made regarding this massive Google algorithm update.

I have been running tons of backlink reports with very detailed data, including authority score, links to linking pages, domain age, PR, and anchor density.  I’ve analyzed sites that are performing better in the SERP’s after penguin, and sites that tanked after the update.   On the sites that tanked, I noticed:

– They lost their long tail.

– Sites that had high anchor density for money terms dropped.  The exception was when the anchor density was high for the name of the site.

– If the anchor density looked too artificial upon human review.  The top ranking keywords by anchor density were all money terms, such as “blue widgets”, “red widgets”, “yellow widgets” etc, and it was obvious that those links were manually acquired and the anchor text manipulated.

– The anchor text didn’t look natural.  Naturally occurring anchor text includes many variations, such as “click here”, “site name”, “”, “friends”, etc.

– They didn’t have a presence in social medial or web 2.0 sites

– The ratio of paid and low quality links to editorial contextual links was low

Everything that I mentioned above was reversed on sites doing well.  Here’s an example of a site with a gorgeous backlink profile:

For many years Google has struggled with the propensity of having their SERP’s manipulated by sites that use very high anchor density.  In the past there were many Google bombs, many which are still active today.  This was a basic flaw of using an algorithm that relied so heavily on links as votes.

When Google’s algorithm was written, the social web did not exist.  Now, with social media and user generated content, instead of relying on links as votes, Google can now rely on other social signals.  I believe they “upped” the value on these signals which allowed them to change how they evaluate anchor text and density.  By replacing social media markers with anchor density and other easily manipulated metircs Google can finally combat  link networks, google bombs, etc.

A few ideas of the methods I was planning to use to combat this:

*  Create and promote infographics
*  Create a database of sites that accept guest bloggers and work on establishing a name as an author and then distribute content on these guest blog sites.
*  Run contests to increase likes and tweets in social media world
*  Doing old-school PR and contacting sites, establishing conversations, and trying to figure out how to get people to pick up stories and share our stuff

Please if you have other ideas or observations, do share!

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Search engine marketing expert with 15 years of experience in the industry, working with small mom and pop shops as well as large corporate websites. I have experience with all aspects of inbound marketing, including SEO, Link Building, Social Shares, Usability, Conversions, PPC, Email Marketing, and more.