Penguin 2.0 has just rolled out. Brace for impact.
For the approximate 2.3% regular US-English queries that it affects, many SEOs have been waiting to see if the traffic to their website will be negatively affected.
While many black-hat practitioners that were affected by Penguin 1.0 can only hope their rankings don't plunge further into the depths of obscurity, the rest of us are crossing our fingers and hoping that we made it through relatively unscathed.
However, if your website was affected by Penguin 2.0, there are a few things you can do to ensure that your website gets back on the straight and narrow. And remember: the majority of positive comebacks after Google algorithm updates are from websites genuinely wanting to provide the best possible website for users instead of those just looking to skirt by until the next Google Zoo animal is released.
If you were affected by Penguin 2.0, read on. I've done my best to guess what Google has changed, based on information from Matt Cutts prior to the launch of Penguin 2.0, as well as what Google aimed to solve with Penguin 1.0. As the SEO community performs tests and learns more information about specifics of Penguin 2.0, the collective knowledge of the update may change. For now, if you've been hit and are looking for likely answers, here's what you need to do to recover your rankings.
1. Learn From Your Mistakes
The previous Google algorithm updates have already told us what Google is looking for-- great content, natural link profiles (both inbound and outbound), and an organic, natural link velocity that steadily increases month by month. If you were penalized by previous Panda or Penguin updates, then it's time to make the changes necessary to get back into Google's good graces.
If Panda and Penguin 1.0 were slaps on the hand, then consider 2.0 the wake-up you need to get your website completely back on track. The next updates will be even more intuitive and stringent, so making those big content-focused changes now can prevent even further lost traffic in the future.
2. Stop Shady Practices
A crucial step toward recovering from Penguin 2.0 is to stop all "shady" practices as determined by Google. This includes unnatural link building, and spammy or keyword-stuffed onsite content.
Besides looking for these types of black hat practices, Google is getting better at recognizing when sites are trying to be deceitful, especially when it comes to focusing on typically-spammy search queries, catching sites that are participating in link swapping schemes, and content that contains keyword stuffing or unnatural links. The easiest step toward recovering from Penguin 2.0 is to stop these sorts of practices all together.
3. Pick up The Pieces
The bridge between destruction and normalcy is the recovery phrase, which may take weeks or months, depending on the website and level of black hat SEO practices that Google believed they were involved in.
If you believe that your website was penalized because of shady link building practices (which is likely if you were hit by Penguin 2.0), you'll need to identify what links could be causing you harm, and then attempt to have them removed. Any links you fail to get removed, be sure to disavow.
To identify what links could be causing you harm, use a tool like Open Site Explorer or Majestic SEO. Alternatively, have a professional perform a link profile audit to identify harmful links for you. Here's a step-by-step walkthrough I wrote that describes how to audit your own link profile.
You can disavow links through Google Webmaster Tools. This tool should be used with caution and only after personally reaching out to these websites to get the links removed. I recommend disavowing all harmful links (even ones that have been successfully removed); it can't hurt.
Besides attempting to clean up your external link profile, you should also do a comprehensive audit of all pages on your website and make a list of what needs to be done internally. Work on publishing only high-quality content that provides value to the reader and includes only natural anchor text and useful internal linking. Make sure you are correctly set up for Google Authorship, and never use any keyword stuffing or unnatural language that may make Google think you are attempting to make your content appear to be something it's not.
4. Put Best Practices in Place
Once you begin to clean up the damage, it's time to set a plan for moving forward. This can include a recovery plan, depending on how extensive your website is, which may include targeted goals for rewriting all website content or the steady removal of any lingering inbound links acquired via black-hat methods.
After these goals are set, the emphasis should be on strictly implementing best practices for all future websites and content creation. All content and website links should:
The SEO team should work closely with the content developers to flip the focus and message back onto providing quality over quantity, as well as a natural variety across content platforms. For instance, twenty poorly written articles about buying dresses online for an e-commerce clothing website aren't going to fair as well as four well-written, seasonal guide blog posts, an e-book on style or fashion, and a robust social media profile all about fashion and style.
For many SEOs who worked in the era where anything goes, these algorithm updates are an unsettling change that has been difficult to learn. However, when it comes to SEO, websites should take on an "adapt or die" mentality, as search engines are becoming more intuitive as to both what a user is searching for online and the quality of the websites that want to provide it.
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