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SAScon 2012: Breaking Free of Google Panda (and Penguin)

The third SAScon session is “Breaking Free of Google Panda (and Penguin)” with:

Pete Young / Neil Walker

Our takeaway points from the session can be found below:-

  • Receiving an unnatural links message from Google is NOT part of the Penguin update
  • Google sent out 700,000 messages via GWT (not all link warnings, however)
  • Google are maybe looking at links a slightly different way. Check out Majestic SEO’s new Citation tool to see how citations are being found throughout the web.
  • Take your Majestic or OSE link profile export and upload to Link Detective to analyse link types
  • Use SearchMetrics to see when competitors were hit by Google updates (visibility chart)
  • Re: link warnings, it may not lead to a Penalty as such, it could be a Declassification. Links devalued result in ranking drops, as opposed to Google explicitly penalising a site
  • It’s obvious, but the sites hit by the recent Google updates are ones which have typically been aggressively attacking certain keywords with their link building

Recovering from recent Google updates

  • Brand needs to be the focus going forward. Build the brand through link building
  • Not all content is good content. Content in itself isn’t “king”, it needs to be quality content
  • The blend is key. Use anchor text variations and distribute wisely when link building
  • The sites that were hit typically had little anchor text variety
  • Stop buying awful links. Blogrolls and that kind of thing just isn’t going to be future-proof
  • Build your brand through social. Don’t treat it as another link acquisition channel, it needs to have a well-thought out strategy that helps to build presence and visibility.
  • Google Authorship is important. Google want to be a knowledge engine, rich formats are becoming much more important.

Q&A Session

Q: I have a site that I think has been penalised. What do I look at to see which bit has affected my site? (i.e. is it home page, sub pages) How do I diagnose?

A: It’s keyword-specific. The links are being devalued; it’s not a penalisation. It’s not necessarily by page-level. A home page can be hit but it’s not necessarily a penalisation. Use Net Peak Checker to analyse URLs/links to get all of the information you need (i.e. mozrank, whether it’s indexed, etc). This is really useful.

Q: If a site has been penalised/hit by recent updates, do you need to get the links removed?

A: There needs to be a degree of housekeeping. Some of them perhaps need cleaning up, but you don’t necessarily have to remove them all. A mass clean out of links is perhaps just as dangerous. Be careful trying to remove too much, it’s unnatural. Look for ones on bad neighbourhoods, and try to get rid of the particularly bad ones.

Q: Should you submit a reinclusion request to Google if you’ve had a Webmaster Tools bad link warning?

A: Pierre Farr at Google said yes you should, but people have got away with not doing it at all. Neil Walker is skeptical about submitting reinclusion requests, as it could just be giving Google more information which they are looking for about bad link networks, etc.

Q: I have a site that’s been hit by the Penguin update after a lot of accidental keyword stuffing on the website. Will my rankings return?

A: If that’s happened, it’s likely that there could be other contributing factors (bad links?). Sort out the issues that you know about on-site, and there’s no reason why you can’t submit a reinclusion to Google (if you’ve been removed). Things should recover.

Q: How best can an agency tell clients about warnings from Google?

A: Transparency is key. Tell your client the details about why it might have happened, what Google’s stance is, and what the plan is to move forward with a better approach.

Q: What is the future for keyword rich domains in relation to building brands? How will Google deal with these?

A: It depends entirely on the site. Keyword rich domains are still ranking. If the website is good quality with good quality websites linking to you, it shouldn’t be seen as trying to game the search engines, even though the domain may be keyword-rich.

Q: If you have a site that’s been hit by Panda and you’ve followed guidelines to fix this. How long does it take to come back to normal?

A: It’s very gradual. Some reinclusion requests were very quick but it can be quite a slow process.

Q: If I was going to buy a brilliant link, what anchor text would you suggest I use?

A: Brand name. Or a combination of brand and keyword.

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