While Google updates their results many times each day, from time to time they unveil a major algorithm change. The most recent change, code-named “Penguin”, occurred on April 24 and it caused some major changes in the search results. The main story that you’ll read about (in articles such as this one from Search Engine Land) is that Penguin has hit small businesses very hard. While that may be true, the great thing is that search results are a zero-sum game; if some sites are going down, then others must be going up.
Penguin primarily knocked down sites that were using shady means to climb higher such as illicit links, over-optimized titles, etc. By following safe practices, as we do, you’re relatively safe from changes like this. In fact, as Google has continued to tweak Penguin over the last few weeks, most of our clients are seeing more traffic as a result. For example, here is a traffic report from a local business that we work with; the red arrow shows the date of the main Penguin update:
If you’ve been hit by Penguin, what are some things you can do to recover?
Start building quality links
It’s quite likely that you ranked well as a result of junk links (from directories, etc), so you need to replace those with quality links from reputable sites. A great way to do that is to write guest posts, update your profile on business groups that you’re a part of, and things of that nature.
Remove bogus links
If you know of any bogus links pointing to your site that you can remove, do it. A good example are companies that produce free WordPress themes and stick their link in the footer of those sites; many of them have been hurt by Penguin. We’ve never been one to stick our link in the footer of your site, and we’ve done that primarily out of respect for our clients, but now it appears that avoiding that shady practice is good for both of us!
Remove copied content
If you’ve added content to your site that was copied directly from somewhere else, remove it. Not only is it likely to hurt you in the search engines, it’s a rather shady thing to do anyhow. Use a snippet of the article and link readers to the full story to read the rest of it.
Don’t over-optimize your page titles
If you’re a roofing company in Birmingham, a suitable page title might be something like “Bob’s Roofing – Serving Birmingham, Alabama since 1987″. It gets some nice keywords in there, but still sounds reasonable to a human. However, I’m sure you’ve seen the crazy over-optimized ones like “roofing, tar, shingles, leaky roof, gutter repair, birmingham roofing, alabama roofing, birmingham shingles“. That’s the kind of junk that Google is smacking down, so fix it if it’s a problem for you.
At the end of the day it’s simply about writing good content, obtaining natural links, and optimizing your site so that Google can understand what it’s about. As time goes on, keyword-stuffing and other gray SEO techniques are going away, and solidly built sites continue to rise to the top. There’s a reason our clients get a combined total of nearly five million visitors from Google every year, and with updates like this that number will continue to rise. Ranking well in Google takes time, but if you go slowly and do it right the payoff can be huge.