Ranking factors SEO tips

Penguin 4.0 website backlinks penalty

The SEO community is scrambling after Google confirmed it’s release of the long awaited ‘bad links’ update – Penguin 4.0. Since the beginning of September many website rankings have crashed.

Overnight, some websites descended from page one for search terms to (in some cases) down around page 50. The impact of this will force some operators out of business – including quite a number of shonky SEO providers. It’s that serious!

So what is it and how could you be affected?

Penguin 4.0 origins

The first release of Penguin occurred in 2012 and was designed to crackdown on website owners buying links pointing back to their site in order to achieve better Google rankings. Basically, people were buying a whole stack of links from link farms to artificially inflate the popularity of their site. The initial Penguin update took aim directly at these obvious websites and followed those links (courtesy of Googlebot) through the web – applying penalties as they identified associated domains.

If your website has recently experienced what in your opinion is a massive drop you can pretty much assume you’ve got some dodgy sites linking back to yours. A lot of people got away with it the first time, but at version 4.0 you can assume that Google are getting a lot better at sniffing out sites attempting to ‘game’ the system.

The quest for higher PageRank

The whole ‘buying links’ frenzy started when SEO operators thought they could outsmart the Google PageRank algorithm. In short, the higher the number of high quality links from web pages with higher PageRank resulted in higher rankings on Google search results. The first release of Penguin put a stop to that – plugging a hole basically.

But SEO operators continued to devise sneaky tactics to get around Penguin. The link farms / networks morphed into low quality publishing platforms, but Google started to work this out too. So here we are today – Penguin 4.0.

You are probably reading this because your site has tanked, or you know sites that have tanked and hoping you aren’t next.

What to do now? Disavow, disavow, disavow!

There is a way out of this mess:

  • Locate websites linking to yours
  • Determine which ones are link farms / networks
  • Let Google know you aren’t responsible for the dodgy inbound links.

Let me know if you need a hand with this, otherwise you can Google all of the information you need to know about disavowing links.

Follow best practice

If you want a website to be found on Google it’s pretty simple:

  • Create ‘sharable’ content for your website people will want to see
  • Make sure your content is structured and nested under the appropriate titles and headings
  • Reach out to other websites that complement what you are doing and hopefully get them to link from their website to yours
  • Share your content on social media

If you have great content you may not even need to reach out for links – that’s the ideal!

Just DON’T try gaming Google, because in the end you WILL lose. Penguin 4.0 should have taught you that by now.

SEO tips

What are the most common SEO mistakes?

You’ve done everything you can to make your site rank but nothing is happening. You ask yourself why. What are the most common SEO mistakes, and how do you fix them?

Too often I get clients asking me what’s wrong with their website. There’s a sense of paranoia around SEO. People think Google is out to get them because they don’t spend money on AdWords. Then they buy search terms only to find out it makes no difference to their rankings. I don’t for a minute believe that Google extorts anyone for money. The company is way beyond the need for any such nefarious tactics – yet some website owners believe it to be true. So I run a quick analysis of their website and tend to find the same common SEO mistakes – time and time again.

Common SEO mistakes

This list of common SEO mistakes is based on what SEO companies do – not the website owners. SEO requires a particular multi-layered skill set that very few SEO providers can deliver. SEO is not just about content. It not just about links, and it’s not just about technical expertise. SEO requires the sum total of skills in order to achieve high search engine rankings.

Top 3 most common SEO mistakes

You may cringe at first, after reading the following, but then you will know. Then you will be armed with the knowledge you need to get you website ranking once again – or for the first time. So let’s begin…

1. Buying low-quality links

I’ll be the first to put my hand up on this one. Out of ego I made the decision to buy 50 links from a link builder on the sub-continent. I was enjoying a friendly competition with a friend and SEO colleague in a race to the top for a specific search term. I was two spots below him so I made the reactive decision to throw some links at the page to overtake him. The Google web crawlers quickly pounced on my folly, and my site was immediately punished – severely. I then had to go through the process of disavowing those links, but not before I had them removed. My site bounced back, but only after I worked hard on my content. Here’s what that looked like…

Common SEO Mistakes - low-quality links
Google Webmaster Tools graph after Penguin recovery

2. Don’t try and game Google

I speak to a lot of SEO “experts” – it would have to be the most secretive profession out there. Very few are willing to share their secrets about how they get client sites to rank, but they are big on singing their own praises. They say they’ve found a loophole in how Google works and that they are getting great results, Then, more often than not, a couple of weeks later Google releases an algorithm update and all of a sudden those client rankings have plummeted. Those soon-to-be past clients are already looking for another SEO provider.

Don’t GAME Google, okay? Sooner or later you will get punished. It’s inevitable!

3. Create quality content – don’t duplicate it

You think to yourself, I’ll just Google the term I want to rank for, click the first link, and rewrite that piece of content in my own style. What do you think that will do to your site? That’ll be okay, right?Wrong! Just don’t do it. Either write from your your own mind or do the research. It one of THE most common SEO mistakes. Search algorithms are written by some of the smartest minds in the world, and can pick up on even the slightest bit of duplication.

What is the most important tip you will ever read about SEO?

Read Google Webmaster guidelines. These guidelines are parameters you should always stay within when doing SEO. Don’t ever go outside of these parameters – just don’t. You’ll thank me in the long run.