The biggest lessons business has learned after years of investing in SEO are that the cost of failure is high and there are no silver bullets.
When Google started rolling out the latest Penguin algorithm update, experience told us there would be major winners and losers. Penguin wreaked havoc on thousands of Australian website rankings when it was first released in 2012 and again after last year’s update. Now the dust is starting to settle on the latest refresh, we can reveal the results of our analysis, which includes:
- How we analysed the impact of Penguin 3.0 on Australian websites
- The results of our in-depth analysis
- Tips on how to avoid Google penalties in 2015 and beyond
The Penguin algorithm is part of Google’s response to dubious SEO practices of paying for links from dodgy domains; copying large slabs of popular articles and passing them off as unique; and deliberately manipulating search results to produce higher organic rankings.
Goodbye SEO Mark I. Instead, it rewards well-crafted original content, genuine links from respected websites and ethical SEO tactics that play by the rules. Hello SEO Mark II.
Although last month’s Penguin update is still crawling its way around billions of global websites, we know it has impacted fewer – positively and negatively – than previous versions.
But Penguin 3.0 is a true test for the efforts of website owners who have invested heavily in cleaning up their link profile and are anticipating improvements in their rankings.
For websites still struggling to recover from penalties received after the last update, any further decline in page rankings means there is probably more work required to remove links from shady websites.
Our in-house ranking software analyses the search landscape on a daily basis. This enables us to identify and track movements in keyword rankings for all websites we have monitored over the past 12 months.
Initially, our analysis searched for:
- Significant changes to website rankings (up or down) from October 17 to October 31.
- Major changes in volumes of organic traffic to our customers’ websites.
- Any major changes in impression data reported on the Google Webmaster Tools before and after the algorithm update.
As part of this sweep, we moved low traffic websites off the list for separate analysis and excluded Google Map Rankings – affected by a separate local algorithm known as Google Pigeon, which had its latest update last year.
We also removed websites that had already been hit by manual link penalties because we felt they would distort the results based on a unique set of circumstances.
This process produced a shortlist of about 100 websites that have shown major changes in keyword search rankings after the release of Penguin 3.0.
Our team of SEO specialists identified the following factors to form the basis of our in-depth analysis:
- The percentage of keyword anchors as a total of the link profile
- International versus local domains (.com or .com.au)
- Referrer types (blogs, directory websites)
- Homepage versus internal pages
- ‘Good’ or ‘Bad’ domains
- Social media indicators (Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn etc.)
We figured these factors could be identified relatively quickly and produce clear trends in the data.
As a result of our analysis, we can report the following findings:
- Removing “bad links” and proactively building quality links is generating improvements in organic search rankings for our client and other websites. We have consistently seen this outcome for more than 12 months, so there are no surprises here.
- Penguin 3.0 is punishing the use of short term tricks, such as using high authority blog network links or expired domains.
- Websites with an artificially high percentage of anchor text or specific types of links are also going backwards in rankings.
Google has made it clear the Penguin algorithm will be updated more frequently in future, putting the onus on Australian businesses to reduce their exposure to the risk of penalties now.
Our methodology for measuring your link profile risk:
This means there are serious link issues, you need to fix these before you will see any significant improvement in your search engine rankings. This is as perilous as driving a car knowing the brakes don’t work.
There are warning signs that your site may be overly optimised and your link profile is not natural for a business like yours.
Basically, your link profile looks like you are trying to manipulate search engine rankings. In this scenario, your search rankings may be ok for 6-12 months, but there is at least a 50% risk that your rankings may slip backwards in future updates.
In the car scenario, this is like the tread on your tyres being low. It may not cause problems in summer, but be aware of the extra dangers when the roads get wet in winter.
|High Risk||Potential Risk|
|Paid links without no follow||High percentage of links with keyword anchor text|
|Site Wide Links||High percentage of links not relevant to your target audience|
|Links from private blog networks||Medium to high percentage of links from international sites|
|Links from low quality directories||Medium to high percentage of links from same type of site: ie: most links from directories|
Register for a Free Link Audit to determine if your site is at risk of future Penguin penalties.
- Google Penguin 3.0 Goes Live. How Will It Hit You?
- Why the Google Penguin Update is Good for SEO
- How to Recover from Google Algorithm Penalties