a penguin standing with some large gray rocks in the background

The Penguin Update: A New Breed of Angry Bird

ArticlesThe Penguin Update: A New Breed of Angry Bird

Until recently, mention the word penguin, and most people conjure up images of the adorable stars of Happy Feet.

After April 24 of this year, the image of a penguin is much darker for those of us operating in the online world. That is the date Google launched its much anticipated and controversial Penguin update.

Penguin was meant to even the playing field in favor of websites that use techniques to gain links and traffic naturally versus spamming, cloaking, and content mills. Google says this is an algorithmic change — meaning it’s a penalty applied automatically – rather than a few cranky humans at Google spotting spam and applying a manual penalty.

A Mighty Big Bird

Based on a recent study by SEOMoz.org, one of the thought leaders in the SEO industry, the most recent Penguin update has affected more search queries than any other Google Algorithm update in recent history.

Did the Penguin Get You?

Look at your search-related traffic from Google immediately after April 24. Do you see a significant drop compared with a day or two before? If so, you were probably hit by Penguin. But don’t worry … you haven’t been banished to SERP purgatory forever … there are a few things you can do.

Here are five things for you to look at – areas of possible improvement:

1. Code

You want your website to run as efficiently and effectively as possible; this means clean design and CSS. Google has its eye out for light, fast websites … not ones bogged down by slow, heavy, unnecessary code.

2. Inbound links

What types of websites are linking to you? Remember, relevance is the name of the game, and Google keeps getting smarter. Your best bet is to concentrate on quality over quantity, having a lower number of high-quality links instead of a high number of low-quality links.

3. Outbound links

Also, evaluate the websites that you are linking to from your site. Are these authentic, natural links providing information about your industry and area?

4. Keywords

Keywords and keyword stuffing. In a word, don’t. You know you shouldn’t and will pay the price if you do. Google has developed a new classification system to detect – and penalize- keyword overuse on websites.

Instead, write for your audience, not the search engines, silly. By that, I mean to write as naturally as possible. You can never go wrong with being authentic. When you write naturally and come from a position of wanting to provide value to your audience, you don’t look spammy, and you gain some big-time trust points.

5. Content

Content on your homepage – keeps your word count between 200 and 350 words. And remember, this content is also what will be pulled for your meta description, so don’t forget the relevant placement (not stuffing!) of your keywords.

Overall, content matters. More than ever before.

Perhaps the single most effective long-term strategy for high SERP rankings is providing quality content of value that others naturally want to link to, refer back to, and return for more. Of course, it’s not an exciting or sexy strategy, it’s not a quick fix, and it takes genuine talent and commitment to providing that type of content over time, but considering the options, isn’t it worth it?

Making Peace with the Penguin

The dreaded Penguin is not the end of the world. Take these five areas into consideration as you look at your web design, and I guarantee the Penguin will seem like a less angry bird. And while happy feet may no longer be the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word penguin, hopefully, what will come to mind are search engine results you can be happy with.

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