Posted to Volacci's blog on October 22nd, 2012

Evolving With Penguin: Google's Web-Shattering Shift & What to Do About It

As Dickens once said, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.”

google penguin update

More change has taken place in the SEO and Internet marketing realm over the past year than it has in the past five years combined. Thus, the age of wisdom. But many marketers have not changed their approach even slightly since Google decided to step up its game. Thus, the age of foolishness.

Where do you fit in?

This article is for you if...

  • didn’t know that Google has been adjusting its algorithm over the past year
  • know about it and don’t know what to do about it
  • ...your website has seen a large drop in organic traffic and/or rankings, but you don’t know why
  • think you know all about how to combat Penguin and Panda and don’t need any additional advice

I think that covers everyone.


Traditional Link Building: A Falling Pillar
Link building has been one of the pillars of SEO for, well, forever. Google’s algorithm once bestowed favor upon sites that had high volumes of inbound links, regardless of link quality, because a site that has lots of links must naturally be a good site, right?


It took a while, but Google eventually saw the holes in this logic and began making updates to its search algorithm (the way it indexes webpages) in the form of Penguin and Panda. After the updates, it wasn’t enough to have thousands of links from sites with a 0 PR helping domains.

A New Hope
Our company shift took several forms, and it wasn’t overnight. In fact, we’re still evolving. We landed on the below items to deliver us from the old ways of SEO. And we think they’ve been working pretty well. 

1. Write, write, write
Become an industry thought leader by writing articles for notable industry blogs, being active in social media (Google Plus, Twitter, Facebook), and finding industry experts to create content for your brand. By writing for other websites, your domain will get a link; social media engagement will give your brand some legs; and posting content on your website by industry leaders will result in natural social links. All of these things involve writing, so get out your quill and get to work.

2. Understand your link profile
How many inbound links does your site currently have? What kinds of sites are currently linking to your website? Are you proud of your link profile? What areas need work? I use Open Site Explorer for my link profile needs. A Pro account is worth the few bucks a month it costs, especially if you’re a marketer.

Once you make an assessment of your link profile, make note of your baseline inbound link number so you can track improvements and scores moving forward.

3. Eat the low-hanging fruit first
You probably have a large network of employees, suppliers, affiliates, partners, students, or anyone that has a website and deals with your company. Ask the people you know first to link to your website, as this tends to be a good first step to successful progressive link building.

4. Create high-quality, linkable content
This point is wordy because high-quality and linkable go hand in hand. One of Google’s updates late last year (the Caffeine update) pinpoints spammy content and penalizes sites for it. That’s just one of a dozen reasons why should create compelling content that people want to read.

5. Create and distribute infographics
Not only are they pleasing to look at, but they have a much higher chance of going viral and being shared than any other form of content. You can get some great inbound links from people reposting your infographics on their sites. Here’s an example of one we did recently about the 2012 Socialympics.

6. Keep changes to your link profile subtle and gradual
A quick jump in a website’s link profile throws up major red flags to Google. If you’re doing link building the correct way, there won’t be a case where you get too many links too fast. Keep that in mind as you decide if you want to keep doing traditional link building from here on out.

7. Link internally and diversify the pages that get links
Internal linking -- linking from one page to another within your domain -- is still a beneficial thing to do. Link the pages within your domain, and place these links over your brand’s relevant keywords whenever possible.

Along the same lines, make sure that the homepage is not the only webpage receiving inbound links. Your deeper pages, such as blog posts, article, product pages, service pages, etc., should get a large amount of link juice, too.

Next Steps?
Now that we’ve established that there’s been an earth-shattering industry shift and the ways to combat a drop in rankings and traffic, it’s time to get to work. 

How is your brand adjusting to Google’s algorithm updates? What are some progressive link building tactics that I didn’t address? Did your website see a major drop in traffic in April or May?

Your comments, questions, emails are welcome!