The Google Penguin Update

by John Eberhard

Periodically Google comes out with a major change in its algorithm, that then changes the way Google responds to people’s searches, and changes the way many web sites will rank. In other words, after a major algorithm update, your site may suddenly not rank as well for your major targeted keywords.

So fewer people will see your listing on Google, and fewer people will click on it and come to your site. Which would mean less traffic to your web site all of a sudden, potentially a lot less. For people who have spent years working on building up the traffic to their site, this can be quite upsetting.

Last year people were concerned about the Google Panda update that happened in May 2011. But the Google Penguin update (what’s next, Google Aardvark? Google Albatross? Google Komodo Dragon?) which came out in April 2012 has dwarfed concerns about the Panda update.

Quite simply Penguin is the most dramatic algorithm change in years. And some sites have been hit hard. If your site experienced a dramatic loss of traffic around the end of April of this year, you have likely been smacked by the Penguin.

Have You Been Gaming the System Again, You Naughty Boy/Girl?

The crux of the Penguin update has to do with search engine optimization, and specifically it has to do with links to your site.

The one thing that Google hates more than anything else in the whole wide world, is to feel that people are “gaming” their system. I have described elsewhere the silly logic that they have adopted, where they have based most of their ranking system on the number of links pointing to your site from other sites, but they don’t want you to do anything proactive to increase the number of links coming to your site.

You are supposed to just keep putting great content on your site, and people will see that and think it is so great that they will put a link to that content on some other site.

In my business I have opted for the road of (gasp!) proactively creating links to my site and clients’ sites.

So the Penguin update is essentially geared to detecting an “unnatural” link pattern, and penalizing sites where that pattern seems to indicate that we have been naughty boys and girls.

Types of Links

According to the makers of Market Samurai software, the Google Penguin update looks at all the links to your site, and puts them into three categories. Then if you have too many links of one type, your site is penalized. It’s all very arbitrary, but the general hope on their part is that they can stop people from doing all that pesky link building.

The three types of links are:

  • Brand links
  • Target links
  • Generic links

These links are based on the words on the page of someone else’s site that links to yours. When you have words on a site that are made into a link (usually underlined and in blue) that is called “anchor text.”

Brand Links: These are links where the word that is linked, i.e. underlined and in blue, is either simply a web address, or the name of your company or your product. In my case these would be http://www.realwebmarketing.net, or “Real Web Marketing Inc.”

Target Links: These are links where the words that are linked are a keyword phrase that you are targeting. In my case this would be things like “web design,” “search engine optimization,” or “pay per click advertising.” If these words were underlined in blue and linked to my site, on someone else’s site, those would be considered target links.

Generic Links: These are links where the words that are linked are some random or meaningless words, not your name and not some keyword. For example, “click here,” or “learn more.”

It used to be that we were told that keyword anchor text, or “Target Links” according to this new system, were the most valuable type of links that you could have. But now Google has decided that these are the bad boys of the link universe, and if 50% or more of your links fall into the category of Target Links, you are in trouble. Your site has possibly already been penalized, or soon will be.

The safe percentages that Market Samurai recommends are:

  • Brand links – 40%
  • Target links – 20%
  • Generic links – 40%

Luckily the link building program we have been doing for clients for years tends to produce the highest percentage of brand links, and a lot lower percentage of target links, so we are not particularly worried about this update.

We can do a check on anyone who is worried about their site and their links, especially if your site experienced a big dip in April.

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