Home Search Engine Marketing Are You a Penguin Target ? Learn How to Identify Probable Causes for Penguin Penalties

Are You a Penguin Target ? Learn How to Identify Probable Causes for Penguin Penalties

by amol238

Penguin Causes

Google has been keeping webmasters on the very tips of their toes with regards on how they capitalize on SEO since they introduced Panda in their search engine ranking algorithm. When the Penguin (what is it with Google and animals?) rolled in, many websites that were optimized using spammy techniques and black-hat practices got penalized for violating Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

Unfortunately, there were also a number of casualties who were actually following the said guidelines to a T; this raised lots of questions among website administrators.

The main question on everyone’s minds is this: how does Google Penguin identify websites that should be penalized?

 What Penguin Considers as Violations

Spam is Google’s biggest enemy right now. Penguin is set to penalize websites that are found to be guilty of spamming and manipulating search results. There are so many strategies that can be considered as spam, but all of them revolve around these three violations.

 1. Keyword Stuffing

Keyword stuffing is one example of website spamming, and Penguin is hot on the heels of websites that manifest spammy behavior. There are many webpages that contain nothing but a jumble of keywords, and they usually end up as link mines.

Google wants to avoid this kind of rank manipulation, and keyword stuffing is usually the first stage in black-hat link schemes. This is also closely tied with the second item in this list. Any company that provides expert SEO services probably told you not to stuff keywords for long, long time.

 2. Excessive SEO

Google’s Matt Cutts specifically and explicitly cited excessive optimization as an example of search engine manipulation through SEO, and that’s something they want to stop as much as possible. Google is all about providing users with quality results on their SERPs today, and this is the main reason why they will penalize low-quality websites that nevertheless rank because of very technical SEO.

Over-SEO refers to link buying, cross-domain linking, keyword stuffing (as mentioned above), creating doorway pages (pages that trick visitors into entering a website), hidden texts (text in the same color as the background), and link spamming. All these also lead us to number three.

Be careful about the SEO services you choose. In this Panda- and Penguin-monitored race, sometimes it’s better to be the turtle rather than the hare.

 3. Low-quality content

Web pages with poor content are most likely the product of keyword stuffing, excessive SEO, and downright poor writing skills. The first two are deliberate violations while the third is a skills deficiency that will not be tolerated simply because it will not pass the standards set by Google.

Since we already know what will set Panda and Penguin off, it is only right to do adjustments and changes wherever necessary.

 Concentrate on These Points

The following areas need to be reexamined closely. See if there are things that must be done or gone so that your website won’t be on the radar of Google Penguin and Google Panda.

 1. Keywords

Be discreet in using keywords in the sense that they should sound natural and would grammatically fit in the text where they are inserted. This strategy helps in two ways: first you get to avoid the wrath of Panda and Penguin, and second, your readers will not feel as though you are merely trying to sell them something.

Readers are more encouraged to click on a text link when it is inserted at the right part of the discussion in the article, not when it appears to be an advertisement for one product or another.

The same goes for exact match domains. Using exact match keywords as website domains used to be very helpful in ranking a website. The Penguin won’t place much importance on that this time around though, so don’t bother with them for your future websites.

 2. Anchor Texts

SEO experts recommend using long-tail anchor texts instead of being keyword-specific. This goes back to our point about keywords needing to be used in the right context within an article and inserted in a grammatically correct sentence. Long-tail keywords containing the “how to” phrases for instance are great to use as a title and can be inserted in the article without any problem.

The purpose of using a variety of keywords is that using one keyword repeatedly alerts Google into thinking that you’re manipulating the search engine algorithm in your favor. Stubbornly going along this path will incur you penalties.

Zealously using spammy anchor text might get your website stuck in a morass of Google penalties.

 3. Links and Backlinks

The Penguin is also very sensitive to obvious linking schemes, so do away with those practices now. Since link buying is considered a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, the best way for you to get backlinks (and apparently the way Google wants it done) is to establish your website’s credibility.

Give other websites very good reasons to recommend your site to their readers and impress them with tour published articles so that they will be encouraged provide direct links to your pages.

Don’t depend on the text links too much as well. Since an abundance of keyword-rich text links is a red flag for Penguin, cut back your text links. If you really want to use keywords for alt tags, utilize images as links instead.

Another important thing: give back to the online community you belong to. Bloggers understand that the comments section is just as important as the article itself. This is where the discussion among the readers and the writer takes place, ideas are ruminated and additional information about the subject matter is traded back and forth.

There will be commenters who will want to refer to anther blog and post a link. Be sure that your blog doesn’t use the “nofollow” tag.

Yes, your link to external sites will contribute to their ranks and do nothing for you; however, it does cement your image as a genuine website that’s out to provide quality content and valuable information to readers. It will also allow you to become friendlier and develop closeness with other websites. That will be more important in the long run. Think of this as the gratis that pays you back eventually.

 4. Content

The most important is to clean up the content of your website. If you’ve been spinning articles before, now is the best time to stop. Again, duplicated, spun, and mediocre-quality content are the red flags for Panda, while the excessive SEO that goes on behind the replicates and keywords are signals for the Penguin.

It’s no longer cunning SEO strategies (or so Google wants everyone to think) that’s important, but rather high-quality website content that users will find valuable. Google started filtering websites with poor content quality through Panda, which checked content quality.

It targeted sites filled with spam, duplicated content, spun content and nonsensical text . The Penguin now backs it up by locating spammers and websites benefiting from excessive optimization. Everyone has to admit, this is a spanking combination that gets the work done (if not too much so).

Start investing in well-researched, well-written, and informative articles. Content is apparently the most important aspect of a website for Google now, looking at how the Panda and Penguin are programmed to act.

Image credits: Ami

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Caleb June 19, 2012 - 5:44 pm

From my experience there are several things that the Google Penguin update looked at. The two major ones are over optimization and back links. With over optimization make sure you don’t over optimize any one area of your website. For example don’t use the same word in the Meta keywords twice or more. Another example is not to use your keyword in all of your header tags (H1, H2, and H3). A great way to not over optimize and stay natural while still helping Google tell what your content is about is by using LSI keywords in your content.

The next thing is back links. Make sure you vary your anchor text a lot. Use exact anchor text, partial anchor text, your brand name, your URL (http://www.yoursite.com), and generic phrases such as click here. Also make sure your back links come from a variety of sources such as blog comments, guest blogging, web 2.0 sites, video submissions, etc. The last important things with back links is make sure your back links are relevant to your website and high quality.

brianix June 20, 2012 - 3:38 pm

Caleb, you are right. Probably the most important thing to do after the Penguin is to diversify anchor text and back link sources.

Jasmine June 19, 2012 - 11:13 pm

Brian, thank you such such a detailed article on the Panda and Penguin analysis. I am sure your article is very informational and useful for all of us, bloggers and website owners, especially for those who have been hit by the Google updates.

brianix June 20, 2012 - 3:39 pm

Jasmine, have you been hit by these updates?

Jasmine June 19, 2012 - 11:15 pm

By the way, what do you think of my website, do you think Google will like it, or the other way round? Hmm… looking forward to your analysis. 🙂

brianix June 20, 2012 - 3:41 pm

I actually looked at your back linking profile. I am not kidding, many backlinks pointing to you don’t look promising…

JamesW June 20, 2012 - 4:15 am

Great post, and honestly all these updates are ridiculous. If someone told me two years ago that we will over optimize our website with SEO in the future, I would think he’s crazy.
thanks for sharing these tips

Nanvy @ CRM Software Solutions June 21, 2012 - 7:02 am

I do believe from the beginning when learned about SEO, few things are not good like using keyword stuffing and doing excessive SEO. The links should not come from low site or in quantity.
One should learn from this post that what he / she should take care in order to prevent the penguine penalties.

Alicia June 21, 2012 - 12:56 pm

Penguin in the cup, that’s so cute! Anyway, I think I am safe for now since I do not notice any drastic traffic drop.

You mentioned that “Be sure that your blog doesn’t use the “nofollow” tag. “… I think this will really encourage comments on a blog, but I am also sure that many bloggers will not like to do this. My blog is also using nofollow. 🙂

brianix June 21, 2012 - 2:06 pm

The nofollow encourages comments but also encourages spam. If you have a popular blog get ready for some weird comments 🙂

Kevin Gabbard June 25, 2012 - 7:10 pm

I honestly believe (or should I say hope), that the thing that will come out of Penguin, is people creating good quality content for their sites. There will always be other ways to generate traffic, but the most natural and ultimately best for those visiting your site will be the content.

Increase PC Performance June 26, 2012 - 9:56 pm

That’s true. A lazy person doing black hat SEO will be eliminated. Thanks for the panda and penguin update. Its now turn for the people who really providing quality content on readers.

Matthew Woodward August 16, 2012 - 4:16 pm

Penguin did not target black hat SEO, keyword stuffing, cloaking, link schemes or duplicate content.

It is important to highlight that just before the Penguin update was applied, Google went on a deindexed rampage against public high PR blog networks and high pr homepage backlink networks. This caused mass confusion and hysteria among the SEO world that had grown to rely on such simple linking techniques.

Peoples rankigs were crashing through the sky as their sites lost huge authority from all of the high PR trusted links they had.

It was during this hysteria that Google launched the Penguin update which just added to the confusion of most SEO’s. Certainly the ones that believe everything they read as they were scouring forums for answers which were mostly just peoples wild guesses and opinions.

What the penguin did specifically target was the over optimisation of the inbound anchor text profile. I had sites that were hit and sites that weren’t and performed an analysis across them. The common factor? The exact match anchor text of all the sites that were hit was over 65%. Here’s a tutorial that shows you exactly what I mean with real world data http://www.matthewwoodward.co.uk/tutorials/how-to-analyse-your-backlink-profile-for-current-future-penalties/

brianix August 16, 2012 - 6:13 pm

Hi Mathew and thanks for commenting here.

“Penguin did not target black hat SEO” – I guess it’s a matter what you define as black hat . A profile with even 50% of backlinks being the same is black hat to me, no matter if those links were coming from articles, directories or blog networks.

I have a couple of recent clients that came to me after being hit by Panda, and one of it doesn’t have a single backlink with the anchor text for which one of his pages has been penalized. Instead he has some on site issues. So, on site over optimization was a target the Penguin.


Matthew Woodward August 16, 2012 - 6:59 pm


Yes it’s true I suppose it is how you define black hat seo but I believe a lot of white hat companies got caught out with the over optimisation profile even if coming from white hat genuine sources.

I would expect clients hit with Panda to have on site issues.

brianix August 16, 2012 - 7:14 pm

I also believe that there’s been lots of “white hat” SEO companies that got into trouble for over optimization. Luckily, none of our client got penalized 😉

I forgot to mention, but congratulations for the video tutorial on backlinking profile analysis. Very useful.

I do perform similar analysis, only I don’t keep data centralized. I will surely add your spreadsheet to mines 🙂

Matthew Woodward August 17, 2012 - 11:52 am

Thanks for your kind words, I found a lot of people were having a hard time with it so figured I would just share how I do it.

What do you mean by you dont keep your data centralized?

I have done similar tutorials for link building here http://www.matthewwoodward.co.uk/tutorials/the-ultimate-guide-to-tiered-link-building-part-1/ which is weighing in at over 90 minutes so far :S

brianix August 20, 2012 - 4:27 pm

I meant to say, I don’t have all the data in one spreadsheet.

Matthew Woodward August 20, 2012 - 5:33 pm

Ahhh I see what you mean.

Does yours have any additional elements/metrics that you use?

brianix August 20, 2012 - 7:48 pm

One thing that I add is the backlinking strategy (i.e. articles, directory, guest blogging, etc) for all live links. That is time consuming as it’s performed manually, and I can only afford to do it for clients who are willing to uncover their competitors strategies.


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