This morning Google have announced that they are now rolling out an update to the Penguin algorithm which was last updated way back on the 17th of October 2014. In case you’ve had your head in the sand for the past 4 years Penguin is an algorithm update that targets sites deemed to have a spammy link profile which is in violation of Google’s guidelines on linking.
And unlike a manual penalty the only way to recover from a Penguin penalty is when the algorithm is updated. This means that sites which were penalised back in October 2014 have been waiting a long time to recover and have had to rely on other ways to market their websites.
What’s new in Penguin 4.0?
Perhaps the biggest change to Penguin is that the update is now a real-time update which is a part of the core ranking algorithm. Historically if a site had been affected by Penguin and despite cleaning up the link profile webmasters needed to wait until Penguin was refreshed to see their rankings recover. The new real-time nature means that websites with a spammy link profile will be penalised sooner before they can get a foothold in the rankings. Also anyone that falls fowl (sorry for the pun) of Penguin will see faster recovery for their website.
Another big update to Penguin is making it more granular meaning that it will work on a page by page basis rather than being site-wide. However if your link profile is extensively spammy you can expect that the penalty will still be site-wide for your website.
Penguin’s goal is to counter spammy link practices to stop websites that have artificially inflated link profiles from ranking highly. So if you think your website has been hit, or could be at risk then we give you some pointers on how you can perform a link audit on your website below.
Preparing your website
To help you analyse your website’s link profile there are some great tools available which will let you see how the links to your website stack up.
- Google Search Console
One of the best tools available and also one of the only free tools, Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) lets you analyse the links to your website and see which domains link the most. You can also download a spreadsheet showing all of your links and when they were picked up.
More in depth than Search Console, Ahrefs gives you a good overview of your links as well as looking at your competitors and lets you run reports on a number of common factors including the anchor text of links. Ahrefs offers a free 14 day trail after which the service continues on a paid subscription basis.
Now you have got the tools for the job it is time to give your site a thorough link audit.
#2 Anchor text distribution
If all of the links pointing to your website have the linking text (anchor text) of the keywords that you are looking to rank for, chances are you are going to have problems when the Penguin update launches. The links to your site should be varied and should feature your brand, URL, non-descriptive keywords and other terms. Exact match keywords should be used sparingly and need to be incorporated amongst a wider mix of link text to your site.
#3 Sudden link increases
Seeing a sudden increase in the number of links to your website is a warning signal that should not be ignored. Not only does this look unnatural but chances are a high increase will mean that the quality and value of these links is very low. Other things to look out for are a large number of links from single domains as again this will look bad to the search engines and is almost always a sign of paid link building.
#4 Internal links
As well as looking at the external links to your site it is important to consider your internal links. Not only do they help the search engines figure out what your pages are about, they also help users find relevant content on your website.
Some top tips for this include:
- Vary internal link text
- Link relevant pages together
- Keep your website hierarchy as flat as possible
Make sure your website isn’t affected by the real-time Penguin algorithm by following our advice.
Have you fallen foul of Penguin, share your comments below.