Get Ready for the Next Penguin Update

Earlier this year, Matt Cutts indicated a big Penguin update should be expected. Experts are anticipating the 2013 update will come around the same time as last year’s – towards the end of this month. This update is expected to have a high impact on many sites, and there’s little time to prepare. Over the course of the next week, you’ll want to be as proactive as possible in order to prevent digging yourself out of a penalty later. Here are things you can do to protect your website from the impact:

Ratio of Brand and Natural Back Links to Anchor Text Back Links

Last year’s update affected websites with high percentages of keyword anchor text back links, indicating that the websites with healthy link profiles had at least 50% brand anchor text links. Each update gets more stringent, and we should expect to see the percentage of acceptable keyword anchor text links decline. Those back links containing valuable keywords on the cusp of medium to high search volume will be the most susceptible.

You can assess the percentage of natural back links to keyword back links by using a tool like Open Site Explorer from SEOmoz. The tool will show you the total number of links to your website. You can then filter to show only external links in the results. Using this number, you’ll want to hop on over to the tab that shows your anchor text links. Sort to show only those from external sources. If you add up the number of natural back links, such as www.yoursite.com, yoursite.com, yoursite, or straight html back links, you’ll have an idea what percentage of your link profile will appear natural to Google. If your back link profile is high in keyword anchor text back links, your only option now to prepare is to either edit the anchor text to your brand name or html, or to delete the links. This is a quick way to get an idea of your back link profile, but a tool like Screaming Frog will give you a complete list to work from.

Removing Poor Quality Links

In a YouTube Video by Matt Cutts, he discussed the types of links Google likes and dislikes. The common theme seems to be that if you have editorial control over the anchor text, that link will be considered lower quality by Google. While we’ll have to sit tight to assess the full spectrum of what Google tends to favor and frown upon with this update, directories and article directories are two types of back link sources which fall under this categorization. Submitting to a few, high quality and niche related directories is fine, but if your back link profile consists of dozens of directory links, it’s time to work on getting them removed. Given the short period of time you have to act, you should focus first on those back links containing the valuable medium to high search volume cusp keywords we mentioned before.

Relevance will increase in importance, so if you have a lot of links from unrelated websites, you should also focus on eliminating those. Moving forward, you’ll want to think about whether a link from a website will send traffic to your website. If you don’t think that site’s audience would be interested in your product or service, it probably isn’t a good link to acquire. When you do acquire a link, let the source choose how to link to you.

In the future, as these search engine updates are rolled out, you should expect the process of increasing your rankings to become far more difficult.   The tricks and shortcuts have reached the end of the road and relationship building will be essential.

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