Right, so today is National Penguin day; a strange 'holiday' that apparently celebrates the species' annual northward migration. Also, as many of you are aware Google's Penguin 2.0 is looming on the horizon; leaving many SEO specialists in trembling suspense...so we thought we would take a look into some of the SEO practises that could be hit by Google's new update.
Google's Penguin first emerged a year ago to this day and has seen two updates since. The Google Penguin update hit SEOs hard; really hard in fact. Due to the draconian clampdown on websites and their linking techniques (example; take a look at the penalty faced by Interflora earlier this year) many companies were severely affected by the algorithm.
The issue that stands with the matter though is that many companies that were hit really were not that well informed as to why. Admittedly there are many SEO cowboys out there that were rightfully knocked off their horses, but there were also many affected companies that were left baffled as to why their PageRank had been penalised.
This was partially due to the fact that while Google preached the importance of integrity in website links, the ability to abuse Google's decrees was so easy that it almost seemed ok to do it, and when Google eventually put their money where their mouth was and delivered the Penguin algorithm; many SEO's
Google's Penguin algorithm has dramatically reshaped their ability to detect and act upon websites with unnatural links, but at the same time it has also left many honest companies trembling as to whether their SEO practices will also suffer penalisation. With the fourth generation of Penguin due to appear any time soon (and it is rumoured to be 'BIG') we thought we would take a look into what's fair and what's not in SEO linking practices.
'Links are the equivalent of a citation'
The foundations of Google's PageRank thesis are built from this aphorism. To put it into practically, consider it like this; any link that you link out to must have integrous link to your website, article or your entire content as a whole. The integrity of your links is what builds up your PageRank. Google likes links that are relevant, coherent and provide a sturdy bridge between websites. On the other hand, Google treats anything that deviates from this as a problem. Penguin and Google's other attacks on unnatural links are aimed to create a more honest and usable internet, and in all honesty you can't disagree with that.
Treat it like this, your website is like an academic essay. You need good quality content in there that is relevant, high quality and references to the right sources to back up your case. Similarly, Google's algorithms are akin to the professor marking the paper, if he/she can see low reference quality and irrelevant content you will be penalised.
There are many practices that deviate from the mode operation that Google deem correct and consequently have already begun receiving the SEO practice onslaught; footer links, links on right rails, foreign language sites (to your own website's language) and links to markets irrelevant to your company, but as I said these are already subject to Google's algorithms. There are other linking techniques that are still commonplace that could be subjected to Penguin 2.0.
Guest Posts: Anchor text links in Guest Posts
This is a tricky one. If you are writing a guest post for a website, then of course you will want a link back to your website. Guest posts and linking back through them is an extremely effective way to build networks and subsequently traffic to your website. The problem arises when the links between your site and your guest post land contain anchor text rich in keywords linking to a page that isn't really relevant to the post itself.
So for example, say you had a guest post published for a big news corporation like the Guardian about the impact that Google Glass will have on the way web designers create websites (for example) and the anchor text in that post linked to a page on your website that makes you the most money; Google would not like this at all. Though large organisations with quality editorial teams don't allow this to happen, but it is a practice that isn't uncommon in some organisations; the link doesn't bridge two relevant pages and therefore abuses the foundations of PageRank.
Guest Posts: Relevant Content
Similarly, the content of the Guest post needs to be relevant. I know this sounds completely obvious, and it is; but it's really quite incredible how often irrelevant guest posts crop up on websites. You could write an article for a website sans anchor link, but somewhere in the attributions there is a link to your website loosely based on the content of the Guest post you wrote; this doesn't sit well with Google, not only does it not bode well with Google but it also questions the legitimacy of the endorsement of the website you have blogged for, i.e: you have payed the website for a loosely relevant link to increase your PageRank.
Both these examples of bad links demonstrate a lack of good editorial standards to Google and furthermore a lack of good quality content within a website; which doesn't bode well with Google. Consequently if a link like this is detected within a website then the website publishing the content as well as the publisher could be subject to penalisation. It should be noted though that rich anchor links to a valid source are ok to include. The video below is a good source to look at for more information on this.
As far as paid links go, the official Google Webmaster site states paid links should be disclosed through rel='nofollow', this allows links to stay within Google's quality guidelines. Obviously there is the issue of websites that will sell links purely for the intention to manipulate page rankings. Google states that;
'If, however, a webmaster chooses to buy or sell links for the purpose of manipulating search engine rankings, we reserve the right to protect the quality of our index. Buying or selling links that pass PageRank violates our webmaster guidelines. Such links can hurt relevance by causing:
- Inaccuracies: False popularity and links that are not fundamentally based on merit, relevance, or authority
- Inequities: Unfair advantage in our organic search results to websites with the biggest pocketbooks'.
So again this reverts back to the point I made before, that links must be bridges between pages of relevant content. By selling links that are designed purely to generate traffic rather than create a flow of content for search engines, a website can risk losing trust with Google, thus damaging PageRank.
On the other hand, if a website that links to your page gets caught selling bad links then your site can be affected as a result. The website caught selling the link will be penalised and their PageRank will go down and consequently unable to send PageRank forward. This will lead to a lack of trust from Google for the websites outgoing links which means that you won't get the PageRank you would've from that site. Though the consequences for you won't be too detrimental, you will lose the benefit of the link. For information straight from the source, watch the video below.
Infographics can be an insidious source of creating bad links purely due to the wow factor of them. The visual appeal of a good infographic can delude a viewer from the integrity of a content; i.e, it looks so good you don't notice that the content isn't actually relevant. Obviously as is the case with many websites the owners don't actually care about how they get the appeal as long as they somehow get it and consequently infographics that contain weakly or unrelated topic are republished, creating a bad link to the destination they are linking to.
How can page with bad links rank well?
I imagine that you have encountered this once or twice and have been left completely bedazzled by it; it's not logical, surely a page with a bad backlink profiles should be affected by Google's 'Penguin' According to Google Webmaster, Penguin doesn't tackle all types of spam, for example hack sites. You may expect that there is a high possibility that the new Penguin update may be able to tackle these sorts of websites. Similarly the weight of all the links on a website add up. Whereas you may only see the bad links, there could also be a few really good links that will provide more traffic that outweigh a vast number of bad links.
Finally, it is also down to a judgment of content. In some cases it is possible that a website may have really bad content but an excellent linking profile. While this is hardly integrous, it isn't something that directly violates Google's algorithms; again, this may be an issue that Google chose to tackle with the new Penguin update. You can check out the video below for more information on the topic.
Is it the melting point for bad SEO?
Though we do not know exactly what the new Penguin update will bring, we have been promised it will be drastic. If your SEO isn't exactly sound then you can be sure now is the time to scrub it up. After the way in which the introduction of Google's Penguin Algorithm affected SEO you can be sure that the coming update will certainly have new complex measures to ensure that bad linking techniques are thwarted and those employing them are penalised.