Wondering if your website will be penalized in Google’s next Penguin update? Well, if you’ve done anything solely for the purpose of ranking in search engine results, then you very well may be susceptible to a penalty.
So how can this be avoided? You’ve ditched the black-hat SEO company, and no longer buy links or stuff keywords into your content, so what’s left for you to do?
It’s simple; it’s time for some serious spring cleaning.
Though it is unclear at this point what the newest Penguin update will focus on, or even when it will be released, it’s safe to say that now is a better time than any to begin cleaning up your act. Google, among other search engines, is constantly striving to perfect their algorithm to provide the best user experience for their viewers. Long story short, they’re working to downplay any inequities that result from websites “playing the system,” developing a number of tactics to rank higher in search engine results.
So where should you begin?
Start with this question; do you write or publish guest blog posts?
If so, you may want to perform a bit of research to determine whether or not this is beneficial enough to merit a potential penalty. Google has really begun cracking down on guest blogging practices. Though penalties to this point and time have been corralled within large blogging networks, there’s no telling whether or not these penalties will spread their wings and take flight – or waddle in the case of Penguin – closer to home.
This is not to say that guest blogging is dead, or that you will definitely be penalized if you utilize guest blogging! But, if you are using guest blogging solely for SEO purposes, it’s time to, as Matt Cutts so eloquently puts it, “Stick a fork in it.”
If you do decide to continue with guest blogging, make sure that all content is useful to your audience, and triple-check that your partner rigidly follows quality guidelines. A one-off post for a tiny bit more visibility is NOT worth a penalty, I can assure you.
Next, it’s time to dust off your Webmasters Account
You know that account you created a while ago when you submitted your site to Google, and then shoved into the back of the marketer’s closet? Yup, I am referencing Google Webmasters, and I really can’t stress enough how helpful this tool can be.
What better way of knowing exactly what Google prioritizes than by utilizing their super-clear platform designed precisely for this reason! Webmasters helps website owners structure their sites for search engines spiders while also catering to the actual human experience as well.
Once you’re logged into Webmasters, check to see if you’ve been hit with any manual actions under “Search Traffic.” This is an obvious indicator of how your site is currently working with Google. If you do have a webspam action, remedy the issue as soon as possible.
Next, move onto the “Crawl Errors,” which are located under the “Crawl” tab. This tab will detail any errors from the past 90 days that may affect your ranking. Perform redirects to any “404 Not Found” pages, address DNS issues if there are any, and click through any other recommendations; you’d be surprised by the amount of crawl errors that can creep up when not regularly maintained! Lastly, check for any “HTML Improvements” under the “Search Appearance” tab. Following these recommendations, Google will more easily be able to crawl and index your site.
Checking your Webmasters account monthly (if not more frequently) will help maintain site performance, and follow Google’s best practices. Plus, Webmasters offers some quality data such as search queries and index status so you can easily keep tabs on optimization efforts.
For a major cleanse, empty out the dirt that has collected in your filter
Spammy anchor links = dirt.
Check out the anchor text links back to your site. This can be done through Moz by clicking into Links > Link Analysis > Anchor Text.
Aside from branded anchor links, if you notice that one phrase has a much higher number of root domains containing the anchor text, this should raise a red flag. If this is an issue, you may want to consider working to get these links removed, especially if they’re coming from domains with a low authority.
Google has emphasized that links may not be purchased, and when there are a bunch of anchor links with the same text, it looks like you're utilizing black hat practices. The problem is that you don't necessarily have to be buying links in order for a situation like this to happen. So, it's safe to keep track of this to make sure that doesn't happen.
Now, in light of all that I have just said, most websites will not need to worry about experiencing a penalty. You don’t necessarily have to become Mr. Clean and clean your whole house and everything in it to avoid a penalty. Instead, be conscientious of how your website is performing, and work to maintain best practices. In doing so, your website will be A Okay in the eyes of Google!