Working with Google’s penguin algorithm

This is an updated post from July 2011 when Google released its new algorithm called Panda. PageRank dropped on so many sites, especially blogs, the cries of anguish were heard all over the world. Since then, the bots have been made more savvy to spam tactics and no blog owner wants to be caught as collateral damage.

The newest version of the search algorithm is called “Penguin”.  The ideal of the Penguin algorithm is to push the content farms (Ask, Wikihow, Answers) that clutter the first page of search engine results with ad-filled blather.  I think it’s safe to say that every blogger and small business site has taken a hit in every round of search algorithm updates of the past two years. Take comfort in the masses.

“Comfort?!”  If everyone drops, that means the algorithm is fair. The playing field is being leveled. Content farms have dropped more significantly that personal blogs. News sites dropped less. This means quality and relevance are back on top.

Take a deep breath.  Google is using this new and improved crawling system that all sites are working to gain from. Imagine we are all at the starting line of the Olympic marathon. We all take one large step back. look too your left, look to your right. Almost all of your competitors have fallen back with you. A PageRank of 4 is not as bad as it could be when we’re all set to 4 now. The bar has been raised. Time to get your site up to that level. These are the key components that I have found as I optimize my client sites.

Slow page loading

Check your site’s speed with Google’s Page Speed Online. Caching pages is a good way to improve load times and handle high traffic. CloudFlare is an excellent system to increase your site’s speed. A sidebar full of ad script is a turn off for your readers and search engines. A few linked images and one ad server script is better.

Broken links

Repair 404 links and remove links that go to non-existent sites. I recommend Broken Link Checker. It is a plugin that uses a lot of server power. Let it run during your site’s slower times. Clean up the broken links and then delete the plugin until you need it again. I use it twice a year in most of my client sites.

Erase all that you learned about SEO from your brain.

Fresh, quality content is most important. No more loading posts with keywords. Delete all one word post tags that are not bringing in regular traffic and any that are not used at least 5 times. Content now of utmost importance. Well-written content and regular readership will keep your blog growing no matter what its PageRank. Google is not updating PageRank itself regularly any longer. They want to see your new thoughts. Write for the reader, not for the search engine. Use bolds and italics sparingly to avoid the look of spam to the new algorithm.

Lack of sitemap

You want the robots to have easy access to your site. Bots love maps. I use Yoast’s WordPress SEO Plugin to make sitemaps that search engine robots prefer.

Does Google know your site?

Get your site on the crawling list for Google. Verify your sites in multiple ways to be sure that you don’t accidentally get bumped off the list because you delete a plugin that had all of your verification codes in it. Use the meta tag (there’s a box for that code in the WordPress SEO Plugin), list the sitemap, add the html file to your site, and verify it by connecting your Analytics account.

Gain authority

You don’t have to be a niche blogger to become popular in specific searches. List your site on your Google+ profile. It doesn’t matter what the social media gurus say about the future of Google+, if you want your name to always be associated with your site, list it on your profile and upload and avatar. Then, add your Google+ profile address to your user profile on your site. The Structured Data Testing Tool will tell you what elements you need to add to your site to boost your site’s recognition.

Create a Google+ PAGE for your site, even if it has your name, like mine. “https://plus.google.com/+Astaciacarter” is my personal profile and “https://plus.google.com/+Astaciacarterdotcom” is my business page. Now I have publisher and authorship credit. Just put the link into Yoast WordPress SEO: Social, in the Google+ tab. If you’re not using the plugin, you can add  into the site’s header.

google plus publisher markup

markup in Genesis Theme settings

Internal self links

Keep sending readers to other posts in your site. Linking to old posts boosts your metrics but using the full link makes the crawler bit think you’re spamming. To avoid that, from now on truncate “http://www.domain.com/this-is-a-post” to “/this-is-a-post”. The browser will know that it should stay in the current site but pull up the other content.

More reading on Google’s Penguin changes

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