SEO News 24th October 2014 – Google’s Penguin 3 Update

Welcome to Lead Generation Website’s weekly news video blog. Where we bring you the relevant developments in Google and online marketing – for small and medium sized businesses in the UK and worldwide. I’m Robert Keating, and on this week’s edition we only have one item: Google rolls out Penguin 3 update. We’re going to look at: the details, the effects, and what you should do. Now, if you need any more information on this topic – you can email us at info@leadgenerationwebsites.co.uk. That’s info@leadgenerationwebsites.co.uk.

Google rolls out Penguin 3 update. We’ve waited a year for this to happen. So what are the details? This is a worldwide update, impacting all versions of Google. It’s completely global. It’s going out the same time, right across the internet in all countries. Now the rollout is not complete yet. It will continue for the next few weeks, according to Google. Now it impacts less than 1% of English queries. In other languages, it may be less or it may be more. But we’re focusing on the English search engines, and it affects about 1% of search queries in English.

Now Google confirmed that the rollout began on Friday the 17th – and it’s going to carry on for a few weeks. And this is a refresh, not an update, so there’s no new ranking signals. Essentially what this means is that, it’s exactly the same algorithm as from a year ago. There’s no new signals involved.

Okay so, the effects. Penguin demote sites with bad link profiles, and promotes sites that were affected by previous Penguin updates – that cleaned up their link profile. Penguin 1 and Penguin 2 which happened a year and 18 months or so ago – they affected a lot of sites very negatively. Sites which had been using dubious link-building techniques. Now, those sites were demoted in Google. In some cases they would drop out of Google altogether, or drop down to page ten. Now what’s happened over the intervening period is that, a lot of these sites have cleaned up their link profiles. And now that the algorithm’s been run again, sites

that have got clean link profiles – sites that have improved their link profiles – will have been boosted up the search engines. Possibly back to where they were before, or maybe just a bit lower. But certainly, some sites will have seen some significant improvements. And the flip side of that. Any sites over the last 12 months that have been using dubious link-building techniques – have been over-optimising on their pages, and for their incoming anchor text. They’re going to take a big hit – they’re going to get dropped out of Google. They might be on page one or two. And they’re going to end up, if they’re lucky, on page eight or nine – or even lower.

So what is a bad link profile? A bad link profile is when a website has incoming links from low quality or irrelevant websites. Low quality is defined as a website with thin content. That means, it has few pages, it offers no value to readers in its content – so the content’s probably copied or badly put together from other sources. And it’s got low Trust Flow, probably due to a spammy link profile. The Penguin update, it looks at links, it indexes all the links. And then what it does: it looks at where those links are coming from, what kind of quality sites they are, and then the signs of value to them. So if you’re getting a link to your site, from a website that itself has a low quality link profile, a spammy link profile – and it’s a thin site that has few pages, doesn’t really offer any value, really it only exists to give a link. If you’ve got incoming links from sites like that in your link profile – then if you’ve got too many of them. Google will notice a pattern, and it will penalise you.

Now an irrelevant website is defined as one from an unrelated niche. So, getting a link from a carpet cleaning website for your shoe repair business website – this would be an example. Google’s looking much more now at relevance. So, why would a shoe repair website have a link from a carpet cleaning website? Why would any website have a link from a completely random and unrelated website? It can happen, and if it happens once or twice, then Google’s going to let it go. But what they’re looking for is a pattern, a pattern of this happening numerous times. And that’s when Penguin kicks in and websites get penalised.

Bad link profile also looks at anchor text ratios. Now this is something that is quite easy to check. So another major aspect of Penguin, is the anchor text ratio. If you have a thousand links to your shoe repair site – and 500 of them link the text ‘shoe repair London’. Then this gives you an anchor text ratio of 50%, for that single phrase. And this is a sign of manipulation. Because it’s unlikely that any site would naturally get 50% of all links, with the exact same text. Google looks really hard at anchor text , the actual text of a link. If you have too many links coming in with the same anchor text, and that anchor text is a keyword – then you’re going to get penalised.

Let’s take a look at a couple of examples now. What we’re going to do now; we’re going to go over and look at some online services. We’re going to put in some URLs, some websites. And I’m going to show you the metrics and what you need to look out for – in terms of over-optimisation on link profiles and anchor text. Okay. So we’re going to have a look now at some of the effects of Penguin. How you can spot it. How you can analyze your site, to see where the issues are in terms of link profiles and anchor text. This is an online rank tracking service. These are the rankings for a client, that was under a Penguin penalty. You can see what it looks like when Penguin penalty kicks in or is lifted. From the 20th of May this year, up until today, 24th October, and if we just start off here. 25th of May, they’re in position 31, and they drop – they’re near to 52. Come back up, this happens quite often. But regardless of what happened, as you can see, there was some movement. But really, it was minimal and a few months later, position 38 from 31 – it’s not getting any better. And then what we see here, we’re sort of in the low 30s all the time. And then suddenly this is Friday, October 17th, last Friday, position 37 – and then suddenly you notice. Well, overnight they’ve gone up to position number five – position number five. They’ve never got above 30 in the last five months. And then Penguin kicks in, because the link profile has been cleaned up – the anchor text ratio has been put right, bang. Just overnight, hit position five. And they’re still there, a few days later. They dropped down to seven, but basically as you can see, they’ll jump around still. But now the penalty’s been lifted, there’s no glass ceiling – so they’re back on page one. It’s just a question now, of them working on that and getting a bit higher up – entrenching their position. So that’s a Penguin recovery.

Now, if you’ve been hit by Penguin and you’re tracking rankings, what you’ll see is it happening in the reverse. You’ll be up the top, doing really well, and then suddenly just one day – bang, your rankings will fall off a cliff. And it’ll be impossible to get back, unless you do the following. So, let’s look at some analysis now. We’re going to go to a site called Majestic. It used to be called Majestic SEO – it’s now just called Majestic. We’re going to first of all look at a site that I know has been penalised – because somebody mentioned it on a forum and they put the URL on the forum. So I’ve just grabbed that URL, put it into this online service, majestic.com – and it’s going to give me a lot of information. Now I’ve got a paid account. You can actually come here and sign up for free. A free account will be suffice to check your own URL, to check your own website. First of all, you just put your URL in here. And it will give you some interesting information about, how trustworthy search engines consider your website to be. What kind of links you’ve got, and what kind of anchor text ratios you’ve got.

The first two metrics that we look at are, Trust Flow and Citation Flow. Now, Citation Flow over on the right-hand side there as you look, is 31. Citation Flow refers to the total number of incoming links. It doesn’t look at quality, it just looks at quantity. How many incoming links have you got, and it assigns a score called ‘citation’ to those incoming links. In this case we’ve got a score of 31 which is reasonable. Now Trust Flow on the left-hand side there, refers not to the quantity – but to the quality of the incoming links. In this situation, we see the Trust Flow is ten. That means that Citation Flow is three times that of Trust Flow. So what can we conclude from that? The quantity of incoming links is 31, however, the trust of those incoming links is only ten. So there’s a trust to Citation Flow ratio of about 0.3. Now that’s not particularly good because what it means is – a significant number of those incoming links are not good links in so much as – they’re from thin valueless websites. Or from websites that are not relevant to the topic of the site that is receiving the link. So they’re irrelevant. They’re either links from low quality sites, or links from irrelevant sites – and quite often it’s both. So it is both low quality and irrelevant to the page that’s it’s linking to.

The first thing you want to check is, your Trust to Citation Flow ratio. Now there’s no set number for this. The closer you can get to one, or above, the better it is. But everything’s relevant to the particular niche that you’re in. So what you want to do is, check the first page of Google for your main keyword. Check the Trust to Citation Flow ratio, for all the sites in the first page. And then that’ll give an idea of what Google considers acceptable in that particular niche – in that particular market. It’s all relative to what your competitors are doing. They’re going to look at anchor text ratios, and it’s this little box here. And what you can do – you get a nice little pie chart, and it’s interactive. What it does – it gives you your anchor text ratio. So here 47% is other anchor text. Now that’s good. Other anchor text is things like: click here, visit website, my website, go to website, read more, things like that – just, generic text. 49%, that’s about right. If you think about it, when people link into a site, when they’re linking naturally – they’ll use phrases like that. So other anchor text, 50%, that’s fine. And you do need a decent percentage of other generic anchor text. And the next one, 20%, is the actual URL – that’s fine. Next one, 6%, latest online deals. Okay, that’s a keyword. 6%, probably a bit high. Save money while shopping, 6% again. Latest coupon codes, 4.5%. Online deals and discount coupons, 5%. And we’ve got a brand version of the URL with a keyword. 3% discount coupons, India. A particular internal URL there. I’m not sure what that is; it might be someone’s name – I’m not sure. But basically, this site here’s got 6%, 5%, 4.5%. It’s borderline, it’s borderline. Altogether, that’s over 20% of anchor text, just four keywords. If that was my site, I’d be a bit worried. I’d really want to get those keyword phrases down, in terms of the ratio.

Now let’s look at what I consider to be a much healthier. So let’s have a look at this. Now, Trust Flow’s 33, Citation Flow’s 24. So that’s about 1.4, something like that, 1.5 ratio. That’s an excellent ratio. So the quality of the incoming links is much higher that one would expect, based on the quantity. So pretty much every link that’s coming in here is a really good link because, the Trust Flow is higher than Citation Flow. So they’ve got an excellent Trust Flow to Citation Flow ratio. Let’s have a look at the anchor text now. So, highest anchor text. 18% is other anchor text generic, that’s a bit low but it’s fine. Next one: brand name, website, version of the website, URL, 15%. Visit brand name website, visit website, raw URL there, HTTP, raw URL again; this is with a trailing slash on the end. Then it just says: website, version of the brand name, version of the brand name, version of the brand name. So they’re not actually using any keywords at all. There are probably a few, but it’s so few that it just doesn’t register in a [?]. That’s a very, very good link profile. Most sites that are actually doing SEO – you won’t get that. That shows you what you’re kind of aiming at.

Part three: What should you do? Well, there are three things that could of happened to your website. One; nothing – your site is, and always has been unaffected by Penguin. Two; you’ve gained rankings – if you cleaned up your profile, or many competitors have been negatively affected by Penguin – and so you’ve gone up. Or number three; you experience a significant drop in rankings and traffic. This would suggest that you’ve been hit by Penguin 3. If you have lost traffic and rankings overnight around the weekend of the 17th to the 19th of October. Then you’ve been negatively affected by Penguin. What you need to do is, check your link profile for anchor text ratio over-optimisation – and for spammy links, by comparing your Citation Flow and Trust Flow metrics. We’ve just had a look at how you can do that. That’s the first thing you need to do if you think you’ve been penalised. Or if you think you’re in danger of being penalised.

Now you should also check your on-page titles and your webpage copy, for keyword stuffing – as over-optimisation of pages for keyword phrases, will also trip the Penguin filter. What Google’s looking for here is, keyword stuffing. If your keyword is “shoe repair London” and you’ve got 500 words on your homepage. If that phrase appears 20 times, then that’s about a 4% ratio. However, if it appears 50 times, that’s a 10% ratio – so 10% of the words on the page is your key phrase. Google will pick this up and it’ll penalise you. Now also, a few years ago, it worked well. It was good practice to put a number of keywords in your page titles. Again, this is not good practice now. Make your page titles more readable natural sentences – that might incorporate some of your keywords or related phrases. So what should you do? Change page titles to more readable, natural sentences. Use related phrases and synonyms in your webpage copy – if you have too many instances of a particular keyword phrase. Stop building links from low quality sites. Stop using keywords as anchor text.

Now if you’ve been affected, it will be some time before you can get out of the penalty. You have to wait until Google runs a Penguin algorithm again. But it will take you some time to put your link profile right – in terms of anchor text ratio and in terms of disavowing spammy links. So what you need to do is, build links from related and relevant sites that have trust and authority – using your brand name and URL. In general, what you want is fewer links, from more high-quality sites. And, instead of using keywords as your anchor text, use your brand name or your URL. That’s the actual address of your website, and there’s various permutations of that.

If you have many bad links, you may need to submit a disavow file to Google. There’s a link below the video that will explain a bit more about this. But basically, it’s a file that you can upload to webmaster tools that says to Google – “These links are bad. Please discount them.” And Google will actually discount them. In certain cases, this is only in very bad cases, the domain may need to be scrapped – and the website resurrected on a new domain. So if you’ve got hundreds and thousands of spammy links and bad links – then it’s probably going to be difficult, certainly, to equalize the anchor text ratio to disavow all of them. Basically, there are certain situations where it’s just better to give up that domain, and start again. Obviously this is an issue for a business that’s been around for a long time – and a lot of people have the URL, but there are ways round it.

Okay, that’s it. I hope this has been useful. If anyone has been affected by Penguin 3 and you’d like some more information – or you want some advice. You can call us on 01708-208-889, that’s 01708-208-889. Or e-mail on info@leadgenerationwebsites.co.uk, that’s info@leadgenerationwebsites.co.uk. I’m Robert Keating. Thank you very much for watching. See you next week.