Writing by Nick Stamoulis in SEO
Since the Google Penguin Update went live on April 24th (with Penguin 1.1 rolling out a month later), I’ve received an influx of calls from site owners that want to what they can do to recover their lost traffic. Let me start off by saying that before you can recover from Penguin you need to know where you went afoul of the algorithm. Since Penguin was created to target web spam, a good place to start is with your link portfolio. The Penguin update appears to have been looking at three major factors when it comes to link portfolios:
1. If the majority of a website’s back links are low quality or spammy looking (e.g., sponsored links, links in the footers, links from directories, links from link exchange pages, links from low quality blog networks).
2. If majority of a website’s back links are from unrelated websites.
3. If too many links are pointing back to a website with exact match keywords in the anchor texts.
If your site is guilty of any of the aforementioned tactics (and you need to be honest with yourself about this!) then that’s probably one of the major reasons your site was penalized by Penguin. It’s possible that those “easy links” you built a few years back have finally caught up with you, even if you’ve been doing your best to stick to white hat link building recently.
The gut reaction of many site owners once they realize that their low-quality link portfolios are the reason for their penalty is to simply gut their back links; remove as many of the bad inbound links as quickly as possible so their site can recover from Penguin. The problem with removing all of those low-quality links at once (especially if you aren’t actively engaged in white hat link building) is that you’re essentially erasing your entire link portfolio. Since links are the bread and butter of SEO this could actually hurt your site even more. Those low-quality links might not be doing much good for your SEO, but they are connecting your website to the web at large. Emptying your link portfolio leaves your site in an awkward position.
When trying to recover from Penguin it’s important to think of your link portfolio as a seesaw. You want to tip the balance from bad to good links, but it needs to happen slowly. The search engines like to see a slow, diversified approach to link building so trying to build too many links (even if they are quality) too fast might throw up another red flag. When your site has already been tagged once you don’t want to give the search engines any more reasons to look unfavorably upon your site!
I understand that many site owners are terrified at the prospect of waiting for too long to recover from Penguin, especially since their livelihood relies on their site doing well. The problem is that since Penguin was an algorithm update, even if you did everything right and your website was perfect and squeaky clean tomorrow, Google won’t know about any of the changes until they get around to re-crawling your site and push out a new Penguin update. You’re going to have to wait to recover from Penguin anyway, so you might as well make sure you do it right.