Penguin 3.0 is speculated to run any day now, and SEO professionals are scrambling to get their websites in line for the update. (Why so many have waited until now, I have no idea.)
Here are some things you should do before the next Penguin update — and for your website’s SEO in general.
1. Audit Meta Tags
Go through an audit of your titles and meta descriptions. If any of these items run over their recommended character count, are empty, or have a ton of keywords stuffed in them, you should clean that up as quickly as possible. Just keep a keyword or two in your title and description and make sure both of those items are compelling, encourage click-through rates and match the content on the page.
2. Reduce Keywords Stuffed In Content & Improve Quality
This is a major one. The days of stuffing keywords throughout content are long over — these days, the important thing is the quality of your content. Make sure your content is packed full of useful facts, statistics and dates that show the depth and encourage good usage metrics. If you are using your keywords more than a few times, you are starting to get into a grey area.
3. Cut The Keywords Stuffed In Alt Tags, Titles, Captions
Google hates this. If you have stuffed keywords in your link titles, your alt tags, your image captions, etc, you could be in for it. Take a moment to go through and audit your site to make sure none of those items are over-optimized.
4. Audit Excessive Footer Links With Anchors
It is OK to have a few footer links that go to important service or product pages, but don’t overdo it. Google no longer has the 100 links per page rule, but they will take action if it looks too spammy.
5. Double Check Website Malware & Hacks
Google has a malware report in Webmaster Tools. Make sure to take a look at that to ensure you site is no being held back due to this. In addition, in some cases websites get hacked and the website HTML will be riddled with blackhat hyperlinks, usually with anchor text such as e-cigarettes or Viagra. Make sure to review this.
6. Deal With The Manual Actions
I am a firm believer in cleaning up any manual action, even action against links. I know that many people don’t feel this is necessary (especially the blackhats who built the links — I can already hear all the comments about this point. Read this first.). But it’s hard for everyone to sleep at night if they know the website could be held under water, to any degree, by a poor link portfolio. Therefore, I recommend taking care of all manual actions if possible.
7. Make Sure There Is No Hidden Text
People used to hide text pretty often. This allowed them to get the ranking benefit of the content, but by hiding the content, it wouldn’t hurt usability or conversions. What I have found, is there are new methods in SEO that makes extra text, on certain types of pages, unnecessary. You can even rank better without it. Furthermore, the pages that do need text for rankings can be designed in such a way so that they still look good and text does not need to be hidden. Regardless, don’t hide all of your text on the page. It is a liability.
8. Trim The Spun Content & Thin Content
Spun content and thin content is less Penguin related and more Panda. However, you should still audit it and take those pages off the website. Anything that is duplicate content or thin content is worthless in the new world of SEO. I have seen a few sites slowly lose more and more rankings due to this issue.
9. Make Sure There Is No Cloaking
When you show search engines one thing and users another, and you are being deceptive, that is an issue. Make sure you don’t have this occurring on your website. Although it is not directly related to more of Penguin’s core filtering, it is a good idea to remove cloaking.
10. Review External Hyperlinks With Anchor Text
Penguin is a very link heavy algorithm. Make sure you do not have excessive hyperlinks with exact match anchor text. Whenever this is a noticeable percentage of anchor text for a commercial term, you are at risk.
11. Kill Blatant Global Links
Global links are pretty unnatural. If you have a link that is on every page of someone’s website, chances are, Google will notice and be suspicious. Evaluate the links and take them down.
12. Double Check Blog Network Links & Clearly Inserted .edu, .gov Links
If you are in paid blog networks, get those links taken down ASAP. Also, if you paid a company to go out there and slap a hyperlink at the bottom of an old .edu or .gov page, that is a liability. If anyone actually looks at that page (manual review team more likely than Penguin) they will realize that it’s totally random. It will catch up to your eventually.
13. Find The Off Topic Or Adult Links
Some of these blackhat linking companies just don’t care. They will get any link they can (I recently had a new client come to us after using one of these companies; I couldn’t believe the type of links the last company created). If you have links from websites that are totally off topic, or adult, that is going to be an issue and something that Google can recognize.
Summing it Up
The next Penguin update should be coming up quick. If you want to get back into Google’s good graces, or stay in Google’s index to the full degree, make sure you follow the bulk of this advice. If you make the right updates, it could mean more search traffic for your website.