This month Google confirmed that it updated its Penguin algorithm with version Penguin 3.0. Google is yet to give us much detail on this latest update, but so far has confirmed that.
- It’s a global update, impacting all versions of Google
- Rollout is not complete, and will continue for the “next few weeks” (from 17 October 2014)
- It impacts less than 1% of English queries but may impact other languages more or less
- Google’s Pierre Far called it a “refresh,” implying that no new signals had been added to the algorithm
- The update is set to demote sites with bad link profiles and boost sites that were hit by previous Penguin updates that have subsequently cleaned up their link profiles
Any update to Penguin is huge news for SEO bods. After Penguin’s initial update a couple of years ago, traditional link building – the bread-and-butter of SEO – changed forever, and brand linking became key.
The percentage of brand links you have in your link building profile is hugely important to your Google ranking. Here we’ll take a look at why that is, and what you can do boost and diversify your brand link efforts.
How Penguin works
The Penguin algorithm looks at a site’s backlink profile and may demote a site that appears to have a poor backlink profile. It does this by looking at your site’s inbound link profile metrics to red flags what it sees as “unnatural” activity – the main signal of which revolves around anchor text.
The emergence of branding as king
Previous Penguin updates have seen sites that relied to heavily on keyword stuffing and links relating too solidly to specific money keywords being dropped like flies from Google’s rankings. If your site was one of them, it’s likely you were carrying an over-optimized inbound link profile, as determined by the distribution ratio of the anchor text in your inbound link profile.
Sites now being rewarded are those with a highly diverse and ‘natural’ range of anchor types making up their inbound link profiles – and, most crucially, those who have a holistic brand across the web.
It’s as simple as this: Google now places a premium on authenticity. Google has had to constantly strive to verify the brand attached to sites as a result of millions of sites having over-optimized for top placement in the SERPs. Google’s main aim has always been to provide users with the best search experience possible, and that means ditching websites that are nothing more than shells. To make the verification process easier for Google, it has updated its algorithm to value authenticated popularity more highly – so social signals, rich snippets, authorship tags and Google+ are now a hugely important part of SEO success.
What should your inbound link profile anchor text distribution look like?
Plainly put, if the majority of your inbound links rely on exact-match keyword anchor text for money keywords, you’re in trouble. Prior to Google Penguin, this kind of link profile would have performed incredibly well. Post-Penguin, it’s a different story, as this type of link profile is a sure signal to Google of link profile manipulation.
A healthy inbound link profile today is far more diversified, relying on variations of the following four main anchor types, including branded links:
Brand anchors – these are made up of some variation of the brand name of the destination website. Variations recognised by Google today include small changes such as stringing words together, abbreviating the brand name, as well as differences in capitalization.
Brand/keyword hybrid anchors – these are made up of a variation of the brand name of the destination website alongside a relevant related or exact-match keyword. Try to work on as broad a range of variations as possible.
Naked URLs – these are made up of some variation of the actual URL of the link destination, whether that’s the homepage or an internal page. Google recognises ‘naked’ or ‘raw’ URLs as being a strong signal of a “natural” inbound link profile and so rank these more highly. Variations here can include http://, www. or both.
Universal/junk anchors – before Google introduced Penguin, you’d avoid anchors such as ‘visit this website’ or ‘click here’, as they didn’t contain any signals to Google as to the relevance of the link’s destination site. Post-Penguin, these are valid anchors, seen as more natural and authentic than links relying on crow-barred-in, awkward keywords.
How to diversify your links
Your first step needs to be taking a good look at your existing link profile. Your can use our SEO tool, Paradox or you can use tools like Majestic SEO to figure out your existing inbound link profile anchor text distribution. Once you have this data you can set about redressing the balance. That means either erasing or diluting until you have a diverse mix of links that are far more brand-heavy.
Don’t be afraid to remove links altogether, and then set about creating a profile that contains variations of the four main anchor types above. Get building, and good luck!
For more info, read our article on Anchor Text Diversity and SEO.