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Google's Penguin

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Google's Penguin

Late last month, Google unveiled a massive algorithm change that effected the search engine rankings of many different sites. The change known as "Penguin" targeted sites that were 'over-optimized,' many of these plummeted as a result. In essence, Google has 'reset the deck' in a effort to clean-up its search engine results.

After facing a lot outsider criticism due to the poorness of its search results, the Google set out to do something about it. The primary reason for Google's results being so bad was mostly attributed to relentless SEO practices. Search engine optimizers worked hard to increase the rankings of sites that offered little to no value to Google users, and many of them were successful at getting these sites to ranking highly on competitive search terms.

In short, frustrated search engine users were quick to bounce when they came upon crummy microsite or SEO "doorway page," and their faith in Google's results diminished.

'Over-Optimized' = Unnatural Backlinks

Google's Matt Cutts and his posse of search engine gurus set out to determine why such terrible sites were appearing at the top of the search results. They pinpointed backlinks, namely 'over-optimized' backlinks, to be the culprit.

So what does having 'over-optimized' backlinks mean?

For the past few years, building backlinks to a site was the best way to increase its authority and search engine rankings. In order to attain a high ranking on a certain keyword phrase, the anchor text of its links needed to include the specific keyword target in which the webpage was set to rank for. So for a webpage optimized for "hair loss treatment," the best links for SEO would be those with the anchor text 'hair loss treatment."

Pretty simple concept that worked like a charm. "Penguin" changed all that by taking an in-depth look at the backlink portfolio of websites. Those websites that had an overwhelming amount of backlinks with exact phrase match anchor text (or anchor text that included the entire keyword target for its respective page) were consider "over-optimized." As a result, those websites fell in Google's search results and the rest is history.

How to Pinpoint 'Over-Optimization' and What to do About It

Over-optimization through Penguin's eyes is an evaluation of site's backlink ratio. That ratio looks at the anchor text of each link pointing to a site and weighs which links are keyword optimized and which appear to be natural. Optimized anchor text will include the exact phrase match of a page's keyword targets, where more natural backlinks will simply be the site's name or the URL of the page (such as "www.hairlosswebsite.com" or "Regrow Your Hair" - the name of the site).

To effectively pinpoint just how over-optimized a website is, one must run a backlink scan using a spidering tool such as SEO SpyGlass. Based on report from that scan, the anchor text of the site's backlinks will need to be thoroughly investigated. If it appears that too much over-optimization is presence, one must 'balance the ratio' with more natural backlinks.

So instead of building links with nothing but exact phrase match anchor text, ethical SEO's must diversify their backlink portfolios. Some strategies for backlink diversification include using:

  • variations of anchor text to include only some keywords, rather than always using exact phrase match (also known as "partial linking" in the ecommerce SEO world)
  • a blend of do-follow backlinks and no-follow backlinks (80:20 is a good ration here). Such no-follow backlinks include forum and blog comment links, which are rather easy to build
  • the domain name or URL of the page being linked to * relevant link sources that have similar content that reflects the backlink and its anchor text

Have you been effected by Penguin? Feed us your thoughts in comments section below.

 

This article written by Tyler Tafelsky, one of our Internet marketing specialists here at OIC Group, Inc.

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