Is Google’s Penguin Update Still Messing with Your Website’s Rankings?

If you have noticed a decline in your site’s web traffic in the past few months, you’re not alone. Thousands of sites have experienced a similar situation, and it is most likely due to Google’s Penguin algorithm update.

Google rolls out many updates over the course of the year, but the recent Penguin update had a major impact on the search engine optimization world. For years, sites have been able to thrive on various black hat SEO techniques (anything from keyword stuffing to penguinspamming, invisible text and more) and reach top rankings on Google, but the Penguin update was designed to level the playing field.

No longer will sites be able to get by with those black hat SEO methods. Instead, sites are finding themselves being punished for something as simple as over-optimization.

However, even if you have been hit hard by the Penguin update, all is not lost. You can regain your web traffic and once again dominate the rankings with a slight shift in your strategy.

Keep Writing Valuable Content

While content has always been king, its dominance has only increased in Google’s eyes. Solid, worthwhile content is now being rewarded far more than a piece that is simply mashed together with a bunch of keywords. And while you obviously still want to include keywords in your writing, it is important to consider using semantically related words and phrases in your copy.

What exactly does that mean? The most important thing to understand regarding semantically related words (and the concept of latent semantic indexing for that matter) is that a search engine like Google will seek out phrases when indexing content. Those phrases can be related to the keywords you are targeting or not, but casting a wider net for potential keywords will help your rankings in the long run.

Focus on Quality Link Building

Anyone working in the SEO world will tell you that generating quality, organic backlinks takes time. Gaining those links is often the result of consistently writing content and developing relationships with other sites in your particular field. The Penguin update rewards these natural methods of building links, which no longer means the goal is to simply generate as many links as possible. Narrowing your focus on more quality and authoritative links will go a long way in Google’s mind.

Avoid Negative SEO Tactics and Other Penalized Methods

The best way for most sites to avoid losing their ranking or being deindexed by Google is to maintain the status quo. Sites that have been creating solid content from the beginning likely have nothing to worry about, as long as they make note of the techniques to now avoid. Back in April, Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz outlined six changes that should be made in order to steer clear of these penalties:

  • Avoiding over-optimization and ensuring titles are authentic
  • Avoiding manipulative internal links
  • Getting rid of link-filled footers that serve no purpose other than to get anchor text on the page
  • Spammy blocks of texts written specifically for the search engines
  • Receiving backlinks from penalty-ridden sources (comment spam, article marketing sites, reciprocal lists, link networks, etc.)
  • Creating multiple pages that target very similar, only slightly modified, keywords

A lot of these methods have been common practice for many years, which means it has been a tough transition for some SEO professionals. That being said, the key to success in this field is remaining adaptable to change, and the Penguin update simply offers another opportunity to tweak one’s overall strategy.

As long as you continue writing strong content and building backlinks as organically as possible, you should find your sites’ rankings climb and your traffic increase in spite of “the sky is falling down” mentality that is out there.

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