Pierre Zarokian is the CEO of Submit Express, a search engine marketing company. I have met him several times in industry trade shows and they also sponsor our blog. His company serves over 200 SEO clients, so I thought it would be a good idea to get his input on the Penguin update. Below is an interview I did with him about this subject.
Many people have already heard about the latest Google update Penguin. I wanted to see what you have learned so far about it.
Google actually had 2 updates. One was on April 17th, called Panda 3.5 and the other was on April 24th called the Penguin update.
The Panda update is more of a content related update, targeting sites with duplicate content and targeting spammers who scrape content. The first one was over a year ago and Google has had several updates to it since then.
The Penguin update was actually announced by Google about a month prior to its launch and they labeled it as an over optimization update. From the looks of it, it appears to be looking at many factors such as low quality links.
What specifically do you think is the Penguin update targeting?
It is too early to tell. I have been analyzing a few of our clients that were effected and also reading online blogs and forums about it. No one has a concrete answer and obviously Google does not disclose exactly what they did.
From what I can see, I think that this algo is looking at the overall back links and if it finds the majority of your back links are low quality or spam looking you might be effected.
I say this because we had some clients at the low end that had only directory type and link exchange type back links which were effected and then we had some clients at the high end who also practiced link buying, who were affected.
However, it seems that there are many sites that have these kinds of low quality links that are not affected. So Google must be looking at your overall percentage of low quality links as a factor. If you have many natural looking links in the mix and a few low quality links, then you are probably not affected.
Another thing they may be looking at is the link anchor text and if the specific keyword in the link anchor text is being used to many times vs. other keywords on your website or your company name.
What have you seen in specific to your clients that you think might be a factor in Penguin?
We had about 6 clients that were affected so far out of over 200 that we serve. This is not that bad for us given the scale of this update. I am glad that the SEO techniques that we use have not been considered spam.
One of our clients had too many doorway pages with city/state pages that got affected. These were done prior to them signing with us. We think these doorway pages may have affected his ranking. They never wanted to remove them before, because they were bringing a lot of traffic to them, until now. We have not recommended to them to place NOINDEX tags on them.
Another client was selling links on his own website on the footer. We think this may have caused his site to be affected.
A different client had some duplicate content issues from his affiliates who copied his content.
The rest of the clients had a variety of different type of back links, which need to be analyzed so we can figure out if the backlinks are the problem or not.
As I said it is still too early to tell the exact causes.
What specific factors do you think Google is looking at to find low quality links?
– Too many exact match keyword links in anchor texts
– Any footer links
– Any links from unrelated sites
– Any sponsored links that have the words “sponsored” or “advertisers” or something similar posted before it. Note that if this is stated in an image, Google will not be able to detect it.
– Any consecutive sponsored links, with no text descriptions in between the different links
– Site wide links
– Links coming from same IP’s or similar C class IP’s
– The ratio of what appear to be low quality links vs. what appear to be natural links. I.e. if you have more low quality links than natural links, then you may be in trouble
What do you suggest people that have been affected do?
If people are doing their own SEO, then they probably have an idea of what links are low quality, so they can proceed with removing a few at a time and wait a few days to see if rankings come back.
They should also review their keyword links in anchor texts and see if they have too many links for any specific keyword. Normally a company name or the domain should have the most links pointing back to their site, so if there are keywords that are pointing back more than the company name, this needs to be changed. I would recommend not to use any keyword more than 10 to 20% of your overall keyword links.
If the site effected has hired an SEO firm to do this, they should make sure to ask for a detailed link report to see what exactly the SEO firm has done. There are many SEO companies that keep their clients in the dark and never send link reports. You need to make sure the companies you are hiring discloses what they do and that they do not engage in tactics that Google may not like.
If anyone would like to contact you, how would they get in touch with you?
They can visit our site at http://www.submitexpress.com/ (which is our search marketing site) or http://www.iclimber.com/ (which is our social marketing site). They can contact me at my Linkedin profile www.linkedin.com/in/submitexpress