How Google’s Penguin Updates Penalize Black-Hat SEO

By October 25, 2013 January 16th, 2014 Search Engine Optimization

Google penguin image

If you’ve ever worked with an SEO professional, you may have heard of Google Penguin, a Google algorithm that decreases the search engine rankings of websites violating the search engine’s webmaster guidelines.

And what makes Penguin especially angry? Black-hat SEO, otherwise known as search engine poisoning. Black-hat SEO involves deliberately manipulating search engine indexes to increase a website’s relevance to targeted keywords. Although this type of work falls under search engine optimization, it is also considered spam – and Google doesn’t consider spam relevant.

So Penguin was created to combat link schemes. The algorithm negatively affects websites with spammy backlinks. If you’ve created backlinks to your website in less-that-reputable websites (read: websites that have nothing to do with your keywords and only serve to house backlinks), Google will detect your link bombing and punish you.

A business owner recently approached us about improving his website’s SEO. We took his website domain and plugged it into Ahrefs, and we discovered the number of referring domains had dropped this month. This could only be explained by his team’s negative SEO efforts.

bad SEO graph

According to Ahrefs, the website had a total of 275 referring domains. However, when we took a look at its backlink profile, only about a dozen of those backlinks were really relevant to his business. The rest of the links were either not relevant or spammy.

This month Google rolled out its latest version of Penguin, 2.1, and this more diligent algorithm decreased the website’s number of referring domains by 5 percent, as the above graph shows.

In October 2012, Google estimated Penguin would affect 0.3 percent of search queries. How can you escape its wrath? Simple: by creating high-quality backlinks that are actually relevant to your content.

For example, Spicy Spirit Marketing manages the website of a San Mateo-based law firm. In order to increase the website’s visibility, we plug its URL in websites and directories that are relevant to people searching for legal services. These websites include law blog directories, business directories and other law blogs.

More important, we continuously create fresh, original and relevant content for the client’s blog. It is positive SEO, which will not be affected by Penguin. Instead, our work will only help elevate the website’s search engine ranking.

As you can see in the graph below, our work resulted in an increase of referring domains, despite the Penguin 2.1 rollout. Penguin did not affect us at all.

good SEO graph

Although our client’s website only had 37 referring domains according to Ahrefs, we had limited our backlinks to only the most reputable websites. By keeping our client out of spammy sites, we avoided poking the Penguin.

To learn more about the changes Google made to Penguin this month, check out Search Engine Watch’s story on Penguin 2.1.

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