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SEO in a Post Penguin World

May 16, 2012 by Larry Dozier divider image

The recent Penguin update has left many webmasters scratching their heads, trying to figure out how to promote their websites.  Is it still possible, in a post Penguin world, to raise your search engine position and increase your traffic by getting links to your site? Absolutely.

Before showing you a strategy for doing this, let’s take a quick look at what Google actually did when they implemented the Penguin Update.

In a general sense, Penguin was a change in the Google algorithm which would automatically penalize a website for using questionable SEO practices. Many of these practices have always been against Google’s webmaster guidelines, but  Google now has the technology to enforce these guidelines algorithmically instead of manually.  That’s important because a webmasters likelihood of being caught using shady SEO techniques is now much higher.

Although there are parts of Penguin which address questionable on-page SEO, the biggest impact which Penguin is having is on backlinks and backlinking strategies.

Google’s guidelines specifically prohibit the buying of links and participating in “link schemes” in order to boost one’s search rankings. In the past, they couldn’t really enforce this in any widespread sort of way. After all, who’s to know if you paid for a link or not, except you and the person who sold you the link?

This is was the problem Google faced, and Panda was the solution which they came up with.

Basically, the smart guys at Google decided that you could pretty much tell if someone were buying links by looking at their link profile. A site’s link profile is a real-time record of all the links pointing to that site, along with the anchor text used in the link and when the link was discovered.

So what is Google looking for when it looks at a site’s link profile? Here’s a short run-down:

Exact Match Anchor Text: for example, let’s say that you have a plumbing business in Greenfield, Iowa. If 90% of your links use the exact phrase “Greenfield Plumbing”, Google sees this as being evidence of overly aggressive link building efforts.

Money Keyword Anchor Text: If the majority of your links use anchor texts which corresponds to common search phrases, this is a red flag for Google. They would rather see links which use the company name or the website URL in the belief that this is more natural.

Links from Blog Rolls: A lot of sites which sell links do so by placing a link to your site in their blogroll. If you look at these sites, they often have more than a hundred blogroll links, most going to sites totally unrelated to the content of the blog. This is an easy one for Google to find.

Links from Web Directories:  One of the first things I used to do after launching a site was to get it listed in as many directories as possible. Apparently, this is now FROWNED UPON by the Google establishment.

Links from Blog Networks:  If you’re at all involved with SEO, you know that several “private” blog networks have been hit hard by Google recently. Google has become pretty good at spotting these networks. It’s still possible to set up and use your own private network, but you really have to know what you’re doing to not get busted.

Links from numerous low quality articles: the days of spinning an article and submitting it to 1200 article directories are pretty much over. Article marketing still works, but spammy article marketing is dead.

So that’s what doesn’t work in a post Panda world, let’s take a look at what does work.

Link Management

Any SEO strategy in this brave new world must involve strict link control. While it’s impossible to exercise total control over who links to you, uninvited links will automatically have a “natural” look to them which doesn’t present us with any problems. The links we need to worry about are those which we go out and get ourselves. We want to make them look as natural as possible.

One strategy which I use is to set up a “firewall” around my money site, which consists of websites, web 2.0 sites, blogs and high quality articles which all link to my money site. Each of these feeder sites needs to be “quality” and something which offers real value to the visitor or reader. The links need to use diverse anchor text. By doing this I am able to give my website a link profile which I’ve had a great deal of control over.

Once I have my “firewall” in place, any more adventurous link building strategy would involve getting backlinks to my feeder sites, not my money site. In this way, link juice (PR) flows up through the feeder sites and into the money site, but I don’t throw any flags when Google looks at my link profile. If I do walk too close to the line, and incur a penalty, it will be a feeder site which gets penalized, not the money site.

SEO Isn’t Dead, Just Tougher

Immediately after the Penguin update, some people started saying that SEO was now dead. It’s true that Penguin has made our job as SEO specialists more difficult, and we now have to work harder, but by being smart and diligent it’s still possible to be successful in a post Penguin world.


3 Responses to SEO in a Post Penguin World

  • Be sure to always track everything. And when doing link profile or other types of forensic audits, compare fresh and historic data. From internal link ratios to anchors and outbound links, they all matter. From spam signals to trust scoring, they can potentially affect your site. So, watch on-site links.


  • When possible look at link profiles and clean up suspect links. And I wouldn’t wait until you get an unnatural linking message or tanked rankings. When looking at links think about topical-relevance. Don’t try too hard for that perfect title. Avoid obsessing over on-page ratios. You don’t need that exact match anchor all the time.


  • June 12, 2012 at 6:51 am

    Charlie Gibson

    In modern society, we are all busier than ever before. Ever since the internet, smart phones, and other advancements in technology, most of us are always on the go, with many tasks to accomplish within limited time periods. So, we go for short cuts. In the post-penguin world, it’s become a lot harder to automate and use shortcuts to promote business. Quality is now required. Quality of backlinks, quality of content, quality of user experience.


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