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TerryKyle

Panda/Penguin: Let's Recap On The Big SEO Do's & Don'ts Now

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OK, so now that the dust has settled a little, let's take a look at how to address the cataclysmic Panda/Penguin changes in Google so far in 2012.

At the outset, let me make it clear that there will always be exceptions in SEO (and life) and that does not invalidate generally consistent trends - something that we need in SEO: general patterns of consistency NOT 100% foolproof blueprints (there are always variations in Google).

In fact, quite different SEO strategies can achieve similar outcomes so this thread is not an invitation for SEO fundamentalists to fly into a rage about someone else's opinion here or these guidelines - though mature debate is always welcome.

Also, the following recommendations are based on observations with my own site portfolio, those in my mastermind group and the thoughts of those that I respect in SEO.

What DOESN'T work anymore (or is much riskier, reverses past SEO best practice)

OFFPAGE

- Insufficient Anchor Text variation: mix it up as much as possible, even 20% maximum for target keywords, plenty of ‘click here’s, raw URL link, ‘this website’ type links – this is one of the biggest changes (read

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)

- Lack of backlink type diversity (e.g. ALN/BMR only), forum profile backlinks; xRumer runs (unless at Tier 2/3), blog comments on pages with hundreds of spam comments

- Lack of relevant content on the page where the backlink exists (contradicts past practice)

- Paid PR links do still work BUT don't use them as a sole linkbuilding strategy (of course)

ONPAGE

- Deliberate on-page optimization: Titles, H1 tags, image Alt Text, WP Category, WP tags - should look as naturally written as possible)

- Keyword Density – basically your site shouldn’t look SEOd (opposite of best practice from past)

- lack of onpage engagement elements (more on that below)

- EMDs: hello Google red flag!

What does work in this new era?

- Observing the above ‘don’t’ principles

- Crucially, Google may be replacing the Anchor Text relevancy signal with page/site backlink topic – that’s big!

- Using Aged domains with PR as a repurposed site base still works great (I can still normally get Page 1 rankings within a week with these)

- Adding high PR page backlinks to that aged domain (must have PR) – on relevant topic

- Building many different element types on the page e.g. video, images, social media buttons, moderated comments, odiogo audio reader, (relevant) calculator/s, PDF downloads etc - try to increase visitor engagement

- Highly diverse backlink profile: wikis, Web 2.0, forum posts (not profiles!), satellite/pumper network/s, press release campaigns, pages where some relevant text surrounds backlink (NOT multiple topics on backlink pages)

- Buying domains that are already/still ranking on

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- Spun content is OK IF carefully done manually (for backlinks targets, not Money Sites obviously)

- Healthy mix of nofollow and dofollow links (recommended not thoroughly tested)

RECOVERY?

In terms of recovery from a nasty Penguin-shaped slap, pay close attention to upgrading your onpage elements as per the above recommendations, build some high quality new links (e.g. high PR page backlinks on pages with relevant content) with HIGHLY varied Anchors (no Money keywords at all).

When rebuilt, get the site recrawled with this free service:

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If that fails (and any turnaround WON'T be immediate), I have some other measures not discussed elsewhere but I won't publish them here on an open public forum. If you want to know about those and your name isn't Matt Cutts, PM me here on TP.

You should also read these articles on the topic:

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Joe Finn also has a pretty good WSO on Panda/Penguin recovery here (skip straight to the mindmaps):

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Thanks team.

An intriguing development in these updates is how exactly Google now determines relevancy of a page for its SERPs, especially if:

1. On-page optimisation has been aggressively targeted

2. Anchor Text over-optimisation is also now verboten

In simplistic terms, I view ranking on Google as a combo of [a] authority (hence my love of aged domains) and relevance - something normally directed by Anchor Text and on-page factors.

So if those are out, it is looking more like Google is shifting to backlink page topic as a pretty big element in determining relevancy for the recipient Money Site page.

To be more succinct, it looks like the on-page optimization may be moving from the Money Site to the backlink page.

Stay tuned.

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Thanks Terry,

On my behalf and googles'... jk ;)

You are right on the money with the onpage seo of THE BACKLINK SOURCE.

Having massive success with bookmarks. A typical bookmark page will have your KWs plastered in the title, the post tags, related bookmarks etc.

Even just a "click here" link from a source like this is highly powerful.

Rob

Edited by Robinlowemi7

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- Crucially, Google may be replacing the Anchor Text relevancy signal with page/site backlink topic – that’s big!

This one is key in my opinion and is what I'm currently testing out.

I have 2 sites ranking top 4 for their keywords at present. No big deal except they are both sites I'm ageing prior to building out. One site is full of generic weight loss plr, the other has no content. Yep, no content and ranking top 4 for it's key phrase. It's doing so based on key phrase in url, title and description only. I'm sure once panda is run again the site will disappear but this has left me with an interesting thought process:

How does Google determin relevance of the page the backlink is on? If the site I mention is ranking solely due to these factors, are these factors alone enough to 'shape' a backlink?

I've built 10 review pages on a newish site which I'm backlinking using generic terms within content that has the key phrase in the url, title and description. The content is being posted to web 2 and wiki sites. I want to see if these alone will be enough make the pages gain rank for their key phrases without anchored backlinks. Should be interesting.

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I think the tips in the OP are solid and it is going to be interesting to see how this thread progresses as time passes. I have to believe that we will see a lot more changes soon because of things like neil_patmore mentioned above, ie. pages with no content ranking. That type of thing can't be allowed to continue for too long and I'm actually quite surprised that google hasn't rolled back the latest algo changes because their have been so many examples of "hello world" pages ranking or serp results that are completely unrelated to the search query.

The situation that is going on in the serps is crazy and although I still plan to practice SEO as a way to get traffic I'm finally going to invest some time and resources into using paid traffic methods to generate some revenue. That's something I should have done a long time ago but the recent chaos in the serps has given me the motivation I needed.

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mainly diversity is the key of what i notice. i was always using it but seems that what many guys lacked.

This.

Basically, diversify and don't go overboard when it comes to pointing links @ your money site. Tiered linking still seems to be working just fine. I'm sure this will change in the future though. As everything does.

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This one is key in my opinion and is what I'm currently testing out.

I have 2 sites ranking top 4 for their keywords at present. No big deal except they are both sites I'm ageing prior to building out. One site is full of generic weight loss plr, the other has no content. Yep, no content and ranking top 4 for it's key phrase. It's doing so based on key phrase in url, title and description only. I'm sure once panda is run again the site will disappear but this has left me with an interesting thought process:

How does Google determin relevance of the page the backlink is on? If the site I mention is ranking solely due to these factors, are these factors alone enough to 'shape' a backlink?

I've built 10 review pages on a newish site which I'm backlinking using generic terms within content that has the key phrase in the url, title and description. The content is being posted to web 2 and wiki sites. I want to see if these alone will be enough make the pages gain rank for their key phrases without anchored backlinks. Should be interesting.

Would be eager to know the results :)

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Great writeup Terry!

My motto is "Make it look Natural"! You want your off-site and on-site optimization to look as natural as possible. Concepts like keyword over-optimization (putting your keyword way too often in your on-page content) and anchor over-optimization (too much exact match anchor text) aren't natural looking and they are penalised by Google.

Google wants us to "write great content" and expect traffic to magically appear, but it's not possible in most cases. So continue to build to SEO, just make it look natural!

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Great post, Terry. In agreement with much of what you said. Just wanted to nit-pick on this point:

- EMDs: hello Google red flag!

Do we have any evidence for this? We know EMDs have been hit but EMDs tend to have a plethora of similar characteristics besides just being EMD that may have been the trigger for their drop in the rankings.

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as far as emds, I would not recommend them now either. See lots tanking, but it is probable they also overdid anchor text. Bing loves emds, so would only use them to rank in bing. This is just general observation and looking at some authority seo articles that said emds were targets of penquin....

301 age domains is still a powerful technique if domain is penalty free imo

So many domains are penalized now that I would build some links to it first for your kw to confirm your 301 demain is not poisionous

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If you cannot get the aged domain to rank for the kw you are targeting for your main site, I would not 301 to your money site

Also yes I think poison 301s would work for negative seo. I am not a fan of negative seo tactics, as we all know how much it stinks to get all your rankings creamed. Doing it to someone else is cruel imo

I have personally seen a few bad 301s ruin rankings during panda prior to penguin. I assume same rules apply, but google is always changing so something observed in feb and march may no longer apply

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Great post terry, thanks for your hard work and sharing your experience and knowledge. Could someone tell me what an EMD is please, the rest I get :-)

An EMD is an Exact Match Domain. Let's say you mainly want to rank for the keyword, 'get your ex back', you then buy and use the domain, getyourexback.org

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Many thanks and bugger it, I just bought one for a new site I'm building as both my sites tanked thanks to those pesky black and white critters and use of BMR. What would you advise for a good domain?,should I still have main keyword in the domain or go for something related but not exact keyword?

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Great post, and concentrating more on Social Signals is a good idea imho, we've been concentrating more n social signals and non-spammy websites, and we've had great results!

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Great post, Terry. In agreement with much of what you said. Just wanted to nit-pick on this point:

Do we have any evidence for this? We know EMDs have been hit but EMDs tend to have a plethora of similar characteristics besides just being EMD that may have been the trigger for their drop in the rankings.

as far as emds, I would not recommend them now either. See lots tanking, but it is probable they also overdid anchor text. Bing loves emds, so would only use them to rank in bing. This is just general observation and looking at some authority seo articles that said emds were targets of penquin....

I believe that Brandon has a point. EMDs tend to be more specific so a lot (most?) probably have higher anchor text and on page keyword percentages than the average site. It may well be that the EMD itself is not the problem but that EMDs tend to have the other characteristics that Google is now targeting.

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Terry, Good stuff, very useful. Thanks.

I read an opinion in another forum that Panda is a continuing series of changes to the basic Google algorithm, but that Penguin was more of a "one-off" event or perhaps a specific function that would only be showing up or run periodically.

Any insights on this and what it might mean for any potential "healing" of a site once on-page and off-page issues have been cleaned up as much as possible?

In other words does a site get re-evaluated with Panda/Penguin criteria on a continuing basis or is there some vague 30-60-90 day cycle of some sort? Guess this might require a crystal ball, but figured I'd ask anyways.

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