Google’s latest Penguin Update has fuelled a lot of confusion and headbanging in the SEO community. And the discussion boards are filled with cries of webmasters who’ve apparently lost everything with this algorithmic change.If you too are wondering over this update, if it makes you run for the hills & convinces you on drinking 2 liters of red-bull; Relax! In the following paragraphs, we’ll be taking a very easy take on how this whole Penguin update works and what you must do to escape its effects. But before we get cracking on Penguin Survive, let’s first understand what this update is all about:

What is Google Penguin Update?

Announced on 24th April, 2012, the Penguin Update (formerly called the Over-Optimization Penalty and later the Webspam Update) aims at fighting webspam, and punishing those violating Google’s quality guidelines. Close on the heels of Panda update, Penguin works to improve the quality of Google’s search results and controlling squeaky SEO tactics.The change will decrease rankings for sites that we believe are violating Google’s existing quality guidelines.– Matt CuttsOwing a mixup of Google updates released lately, April has been a cruel month and has had many webmasters look understandably shaken and worried. Beginning with the news of an Over optimization penalty in March, erroneous tagging of parked domains on 16th April, Panda 3.5 data refresh on 19th April, the official webspam update release on 24th April and Panda 3.6 refresh on 27th April; there’s been great chaos in the SEO community. The chain of updates has left webmasters wondering if Penguin is the mother update covering all baby updates released in 2012 or is it an independent a ranking factor feeding on multiple variables. Of what is evident, Penguin is the official improvement to the combination of over-optimization and webspam updates.Here’s Googler Matt Cutts clearing some air on this curiosity:I think over-optimization wasn’t the best description, because it blurred the distinction between white hat SEO and webspam. This change is targeted at webspam, not SEO, and we tried to make that fact more clear in the blog post.The update has gone live for all languages at the same time. Google says Penguin roughly affects 3.1% of English queries, 3% of those in Chinese, German and Arabic and around 5% of those in heavily spammed languages like Polish. Here’s Rand Fishkin explaining how Penguin works.

How to know it’s a Penguin Attack?

Analyse your Google referrals…If your organic traffic and rankings have dwindled on or after 24th April, 2012 and your linking wasn’t quite natural; odds are good you were hit by the Penguin. WPMU.org’s analytics is an example in point:Here’s a detailed post on why WordPress Mu was Penguinalised even with 10, 000+ Facebook likes and backlinks from big guns like Technorati, Huffington Post etc.But they say it’s not necessarily an off-the-cliff drop for all. Some would notice an approximately 1/3rd drop in their organic traffic spanned across two weeks after April 24, 2012.

Yes, my rankings have suffered, what NOW?

Penguin is an algorithmic change which means submitting a reconsideration request won’t help… which further means if you make right changes in your site and Google bot recrawls and reanalyses it, your rankings should be fine again. Let’s discuss what Google means by making the right changes…If I were short on time and I had to summarize the whole Panda survival in one line, I’d said – Fix any onsite over-optimization, have all junk backlinks removed and diversify your anchor text in backlinks. But since I have ample time on my hands, I’ll better detail :)

Get rid of unnatural linking

Unnatural links to your site are like ticking bombs. These days search engines are no more a robot you can fool. Very recently Googlers manually examined 1 million sites trading in links and issued them warning notices.Here’s a great video on link pruning (identification and removal of artificial links) with Bruce Clay neatly explaining the concept and helping you get out of it. They say it’s great to investigate in your link profile every fortnight and request webmasters to remove low quality links. In case these webmasters act pricey, it’s great to have Google discount these links. The search engine appreciates this effort :)So what kind of links alert Google? According to Randfish,I see cruddy, link filled footers all the time. Also comment spam, especially those that are sent through automated software blasts, so you think of your XRumer or your SENuke, the article marketing robot, or whatever, that’s going to submit your site to tons of places or find open holes in the web where they can leave comments and link spam and that kind of stuff. Forum signature links, this is actually one where I suspect it’s one of the places where Google really gets to know, hey, this guy clearly is a manipulative, black hat/gray hat SEOWhich means the definition of unnatural links includes:1 Inlinks, footer links & site-wide links with exact-match anchor textMake sure that over 50% of your links contain anchor text that isn’t a keyword you are trying to rank for.Microsite MastersA natural link profile will contain many types of links, including URL’s, brand names, image links, etc.  It won’t contain 99% exact match anchor text from article sites, comment spam, etc.GSQI Image Courtesy – Microsite Masters2 Acquisition of a large number of links in a short period of time (unnatural link velocity) 3 Backlinks from dangerous sites/ penalty sources (sites been flagged for malware, various pop-ups or other spammy issues) 4 Reciprocal links 5 Links from low quality article marketing sites 6 Links obtained by guest blogging on questionable sitesHere are 6 nice ways to remove such bad links. But sometimes you have no control over bad neighbourhoods linking to you and if you can instead focus on positive link building more, it should be totally okay. All you gotta be careful is the usage of exact match anchor text…Exact match and Phrase match anchor texts are uncommon with top rankers. For a quick snapshot on how a strongly branded website diversifies its anchor text, here is one analysed by Search Engine Journal. www.ezloader.com (ranked #1 on Google for boat trailers) has:– 215 linking domains (53% of total) for branded anchor texts – 53 linking domains (13% of total) for phrase match anchor texts – 147 linking domains (37% of total) for partial and broad match anchor text – 1 linking domain for exact match anchor text (i.e for keyword boat trailers)So the bottom-line is kinda same as that suggested by Geoff Kenyon. An ideal natural linking profile should look like: – Approximately 10% Exact Match Anchors (or even less) – Approximately 30% Broad, Partial and Phrase Match Anchors – Approximately 60% URL and Brand (+Keyword) Anchors

Remove hidden text/ links

If you’ve: – Set some text/ links as the same colour as the background – Hidden text/ links behind an image – Used Display:none in your CSS – Adjusted font/ hyperlink size to super smallyou’re playing with fire. This has been around for long now but its only recently Google has gotten serious with it. Inclusion of hidden text/ links can have your website totally deindexed from search results. Make sure there is no deceptive information solely for search engines that your visitors can’t access.

Avoid keyword stuffing

I believe there is nothing called optimal proportion when it comes to keyword density. No formula like that for baking pancakes… The best you can do is read aloud your content to see if it reads naturally where the reader isn’t gonna be annoyed…Unnecessary keyword stuffing in titles, descriptions and content can have Google to send your website to no-mans-land.

Remove purposeful duplicate content across multiple pages/ domains

As cliche as it may sound; original, quality content is the first on-page optimization factor that users and search engines look into. Google’s black and white bear was all against it and Penguin has just re-emphasised on it. Make sure your website does not offer anything that will cause utter displeasure and disgust to visitors.And it’s not just about content but about adding value. Include some external links and informational videos as a follow-up content. Build a website where you can proudly leave your photo and phone number! Check these 4 killer SEO tips straight from the horse’s mouth.

Remove sneaky redirects or doorway pages

Cloaking is a shady practice of displaying one page to search engines and an entirely different one to users…say you’re showing flash to your users and HTML text to engines. Google has a clear stand on doorway pages and it’s better you don’t try game them.

Avoid creating malicious webpages/ files

Google has its own ways and procedures to identify sites distributing badware. Keep a check on your Webmaster Tools for any warning notices. If you’ve already been busted as being malicious, take your website offline immediately, remove all bad stuff and once that is done,request a malware review.

Avoid using cheap SEO services

Sometimes what happens is webmasters with severe lack of time and passion hire 3rd party SEO services without fixing any accountability. A good number of these providers sometimes bring you undeserved quick traffic using BlueFart SEO techniques (automated commenting, article spinning etc). It’s only when the website vanishes off the search results completely, the webmasters run around cluelessly.It’s not bad to outsource your SEO work. You just got to be a little careful with what you choose.

What are the choices that I have now?

Fix spammy stuff

Nobody wants to see a cold and impersonal website. Clean up your website of all spam and over-optimization. If you’ve improved it going by Google standards, it should reposition itself well after Google’s next crawl. If you have 9 more minutes, I’ll leave you with Google’s latest video on 5 common mistakes and 6 good ideas in SEO.

Request Innocence

If you didn’t indulge in any of the bad stuff stated above and are not convinced on being Penguinalized, shoot a message to Google. (Mandatory: Include the word penguin in your note)

Kill the Penguin

Scream out loud – We don’t want no Penguin! and sign a petition to Kill Penguin Update.As I wonder what’s the next Google algo named after a black & white animal (Umm a zebra, orca?) O_o I’d appreciate you contributing in with your comments below.Note – Please don’t put this highly important ranking factor on a to-do-someday list. If you do not make this blog actionable soon, you’ve simply wasted 10 minutes of your day reading this massive post! As Nike says Just Do It!

Ricky Goswami

Ricky is an Award winning Ecommerce Marketing expert and Digital Marketing strategist, with 15+ years of experience of consulting Small companies to Fortune 100 companies. He is Co-Founder at KeywordCountry (@kwdcountry) and Smarter.Codes.