Down here in Florida, you’d barely know it, but it is technically winter. And just as the seasons turn and we must bundle up (at least a bit) to deal with it, Google’s core search algorithm changes regularly, and the world – especially the world of people trying to promote their businesses online – has to be ready.
Well, it’s time to get ready for a change.
What’s an Algorithm Update?
The basic idea behind a search algorithm change is simple. Google wants searchers to find the best and most useful content on the web, as quickly as possible. To do that, they use computer programs to scan websites and evaluate their relevance for particular search terms, based on things like content quality and links from other web pages.
But Google is always finding ways to rank pages more effectively, and when they do, they update those programs. Though the algorithms change in small ways almost daily, most webmasters, marketers, and site builders worry about the big updates, which can come down once or twice a year, and can have massive impacts on search rank.
What is Penguin?
The next major update is expected to be Penguin 4.0. Penguin is a part of Google’s algorithm focused on “unnatural links,” including links that are paid for, or acquired through link exchanges or circles. Changes to Penguin have been teased for a while, but now seem to have been pushed back to early 2016.
Link Justice – in Real Time.
Trading or buying links used to be common, but they’re now officially “Black Hat” SEO in Google’s book – which is to say, they’re for the bad guys.
Like Judge Judy, Penguin is there to punish those bad guys, tanking the search rankings of sites that use links improperly.
Of course, sometimes even Judge Judy gets it wrong, and so has Penguin, occasionally punishing sites that weren’t guilty. Since the first version of Penguin rolled out in 2012, it has been tough for the falsely convicted to get help – because even if they fixed every problem with their site, their rank wouldn’t be fixed until the next update. The upcoming Penguin update, though, is expected to fix that by making link evaluation “real time” – updating link quality evaluations much more often.
Be Prepared. Be Good.
There’s a lot of depth to Google’s algorithm and updates (and our SEO team have dedicated their lives to digging into that nitty-gritty). But for most website owners, a broad rule of thumb should get you halfway to preparedness for not just this, but every Google update:
Build a Useful Website.
It really is that simple. Here’s what that means when it comes to Penguin and links specifically:
- Build Useful Links: Connect parts of your own site with related or similar content, and connect your readers with off-site stuff that they actually want to read.
- Write Naturally: Stuffing your site text full of phrases that exactly match keywords might sound like a good idea. It’s not a good idea.
- Take Care Of Your Neighborhood: On the web, this means making sure your site isn’t linked to from spammy, ugly, insecure, or manipulative sites – and, of course, that you don’t link them. Bad links can cost you.
If your research finds unflattering links, it’s important that they be manually removed. That can mean formally contacting unsavory webmasters (ick, we know) and requesting a link be removed.
If that doesn’t work (and it won’t always work), there may be one further way to improve your link hygiene – it’s called disavowing, and . . . well, it’s best left to professionals like us.
So if you think you’ve got a link problem, give us a shout, before the new Penguin update arrives. It’s coming sometime early next year. SEO is a crucial party of a healthy inbound marketing strategy. Contact us for a complimentary analysis of your site’s current performance and marketing efforts.