Matt Cutts of Google announced on Friday, October 4 that they had released an update to their Penguin search algorithm. The SEO world is referring to it as Penguin 2.1 or Penguin 5 depending upon who it is. The last Penguin 2.0 update in May brought huge changes to the way Google indexes and ranks search results, Google says that the Penguin 2.1 update only affects about 1% of the searches to a noticeable degree. I completely disagree with this as, from what we’ve seen, it’s way more than 1%.

SEO webspam techniques targeted

Obviously, the core functionality of Google’s Penguin updates is to weed out webspam and deliver their search engine users a better experience. Sites that don’t comply with Google’s (laughable) webmaster guidelines saw a decrease in their rankings, and sites that did, most notably big authority sites, saw an improvement in their rankings. Google says that main aim of their webmaster guidelines is to promote high quality content and stop some of the webspam tactics used by some SEOs. Let’s be realistic though. Is any website sitting at the top of first page for major search terms really following the webmaster guidelines?

Naturally, after the Penguin 2.1 update went live, many websites were hit by the drop in rankings; this had a significant effect on their website traffic. As soon as the update went live, help and discussion sites such as Google Webmaster Help, Black Hat World Forums, Warrior Forum and WebMasterWorld were hit with a barrage of new threads from SEOs, all complaining about how their site’s rankings dropped like a stone.

According to Glenn Gabe, who works at G-Squared Interactive, a digital marketing firm, the new Penguin 2.1 update has a much greater impact on a site’s ranking than the previous update back in May 2013. According to his findings, the updated search ranking algorithm identifies and targets newer link spam – specifically the links that have been created after the Penguin 2.0 rollout.

Forum signatures and bios

One of the practices that those doing SEO do to “game” search engine optimization is forum signature spam, which also includes forum bio spam. Comments or biographies in forums with exact-match anchor text links is a sure sign of link spam, and Google’s new update knows how to tackle sites that engage in such behaviour.

Penguin 2.1 is now able to dig deeper into websites looking for link spam. The previous updates had primarily targeted the home page of sites. Now the algorithm can find any page on your site and flag it as violating their guidelines.

Apart from making sure that your website serves high quality content and delivers a superior user experience, your link building activity should “appear” natural to Google’s search algorithms. The Penguin update really targets unnatural links built the wrong way quite heavily. It seems to us that the real target is exact match anchor text in forums, bios and directories.

Keep an inventory of all your tier 1 links

It’s really important to know where your links are coming from and control them as much as you. Check your link profile and move fast if you find any anomalies; that’s the only way to avoid being hit by future Penguin updates. Obviously, you can’t control other people naturally linking to your site. But, you have to control the links you build and keep a detailed inventory of them. This way if you need to make a change, you can remove or change links quickly. If you are building thousands of automated links to your money or client sites, how can you possibly change them?

The biggest discovery we’ve made after this update is that sites with fewer but higher quality links seemed to have had a rankings boost or they held on to their rankings. It’s vital to keep your exact match anchor text well below 10% and to build more links with your brand name as your anchor text.

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