Friday Five: 5 Ways to Protect Your Website from Google Penguin in Honor of World Penguin Day

Robyn Norgan
Apr 25, 2014

It may be World Penguin Day, but the animals aren't really type of penguins you need protection from. After all, most of us don't encounter penguins in our day to day life. Google Penguin and it's updates, on the other hand, have definitely had an effect on many websites. Although the original Google Penguin algorithm change was announced April 24, 2012, there have been since been five updates - the most recent being Penguin 2.1 released on October 4, 2013.

First, a little background - the goal of the Penguin algorithm change was to reduce webspam and promote high quality content. Google wanted to decrease rankings of any website that was violating its quality guidelines. Google's quality guidelines include a list of techniques to avoid such as automatically generated content, link schemes, sneaky redirects, hidden text, irrelevant keywords, and more. Basically, their guidelines cover the most common forms of manipulative behavior used by websites, though Google reserves the right to respond negatively to other practices not on their guide as well. So, how can you protect yourself? Here is a list of five things you can do to keep yourself from getting attacked by Penguin!

1. Don't Buy Links

Avoiding link schemes is one of the things on Google's quality guidelines and this, as well as #2 on this list, is one of the link schemes they're talking about. Buying links may increase the number of links to your site - something that Google does take into account for your site's ranking - but they certainly aren't going to be quality links. These types of links are what Google Penguin is looking for and will penalize you for having. Instead of buying links, you should to build links to your website through creating quality content marketing, social media marketing, guest blogging, community outreach, and more.

2. Use Proper Anchor Text for Links

One thing you see on especially spammy websites is link anchor text that either has nothing to with what it's linking to or link anchor text that has nothing to with the article you're reading. Both of these are techniques that Google Penguin is looking to penalize. When you're setting up a link, whether it's to another page on your website or another site altogether, you should use anchor text that gives your reader an idea of where your link will take them. You should also make sure you're varying your anchor text with a variety of unique keywords - don't just use "click here" for every (or any) link!

3. Audit Your Links

You may be avoiding link schemes, but that doesn't mean you don't still have low-quality links linking to your website. It may take time, but it's a good idea to take stock of what websites are linking to you. There are several tools you can use to do this including Google Webmaster Tools, which may even be the first place you'll see a warning about bad links, as well as Moz's Open Site Explorer. As you look through your links you should make sure you're paying attention to both the website the link is coming from and the anchor text they're using. If you are seeing the same anchor text coming from multiple websites, this could be a sign that the websites are spammy. When you don't recognize a website that is linking to you, you may need to take some time to research that site. Does the site look spammy? Is it indexed by Google? Is it not at all related to your website? It's a good idea to understand who is linking to you, so you can figure out whether or not you need to do some link clean up. Just don't stress over a few bad links, Google understands that no website has full control over their links and you shouldn't see a penalty in this case.

4. Don't Keyword Stuff

It might sound like a good idea to include as many keywords on a page as you can, but this can backfire. This is especially true if you are hiding your keywords, i.e. adding additional keywords in the code of your page that users can't see, but search engines can. One of the main reasons Google doesn't like keywords stuffing is because it creates a bad user experience. One thing they keep emphasizing with each algorithm change is the idea of creating your website for the user instead of for the search engine. Obviously, you do need to create your website for search engines at least a little bit, so users can find your website, but once users do find your website you don't want to provide them with awkwardly written content that emphasizes the same keywords over and over again. As it turns out, both Google and users don't like keyword stuffing.

5. Get Rid of Purposeful Duplicate Content

There are obviously some cases where it makes sense to have duplicate content on your site, but if you're adding duplicate content to purposely try and get multiple rankings for the same keywords you will likely be penalized for it. If you were hit by a duplicate content penalty, you should take a look at your duplicate content and try and figure out if it can be consolidated. For content that it doesn't make sense to consolidate, you can use Google's Webmaster Tools to tell Google your preferred URL. You can do this through something called canonicalization, which will help Google consolidate individual URLs with the same or similar content on to the single, preferred URL that you have indicated.

Robyn Norgan
This post was written by Robyn Norgan, who loves penguins as you can see above! As today is World Penguin Day, you might be wondering what you can do to get involved to help protect penguins (now that you've learned how to protect yourself from them). One easy thing you can do is sign Greenpeace's petition to help establish the world’s two largest sanctuaries at sea around Antarctica. According to their website, "adding your voice will help protect countless penguins, whales, seals and nearly 10,000 other incredible species."