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Google Penguin Update: A Guide to Birds & Backlink Penalties

Google Penguin Update: A Guide to Birds & Backlink Penalties

Today, January 20th, is Penguin Awareness Day. So naturally, there’s no better time to talk about everyone’s favorite flightless bird and maybe a bit about avoiding backlink penalties from the recent Google Penguin Update. Let’s do it.

  1. There are 20 species of penguin and pretty much all of them kick it in the Southern Hemisphere. Some even hang out around South Africa (horrible office pets, we’re told).
  2. Contrary to popular belief, penguins don’t jump, but can bounce up to 5 feet.
  3. Penguins can drink sea water. Salty delicious.

If you’re interested in learning more about our planet’s awesome little flightless friends, check out this plethora of knowledge on penguins.

As a digital marketing agency, we also feel obligated to talk about an entirely different kind of Penguin. This penguin isn’t cute or fluffy, but instead, it’s daunting and will make SEO specialists cry for their mommas. Of course, we’re talking about the Google Penguin Update.

In September 2016, Google’s latest algorithm update indiscriminately affected online brands web traffic, again. Without a well-planned SEO strategy, brands have had a hell of a time ranking in search engines and effectively promoting themselves online. Let’s explore why.

Google’s Penguin hunts for spammy backlinks

Gaining and maintaining organic backlinks is one of SEO’s primary jobs. So what does that mean?

Organic backlinks are unpurchased and unsolicited web links between someone’s website, social media apps and blogs. Organic or natural links are one of the top three website ranking factors that Google Search takes into consideration. Unnatural or spammy backlinks are web links, which are purchased in bulk to artificially boost web traffic to the specific website. Before 2012, the more unnatural backlinks your SEO specialist could buy, the more authority or more traffic your website would have. SEO guys and gals that purchase backlinks today are considered Black Hat SEO specialists–also known as spammers.

Initial Penguin Algorithm update released in April 2012, making purchasing backlinks a violation of Google Webmaster guidelines, which resulted for the first time ever as a ranking penalty. If your brand isn’t monstrous, but your site has thousands of backlinks, you should check with your webmaster. Chances are many of those backlinks are spammy AF. Pre 2012, it was not uncommon for a local mom-and-pop shop to have tens of thousands of backlinks from all over the world. That’s a red flag and the Penguin Update will hit you with a penalty and there goes your site’s traffic.

RELATED READING: LSI Keywords: How To Nail On-Page SEO In 2018

Emperor penguins bounce around. The Google Penguin Update bounces website traffic.

The Google Penguin Update penalizes websites that are on Google and who have purchased backlinks to inflate their rankings. Penalized websites lose rankings and, in severe cases, are de-indexed or removed from the Google search engine results. It goes without saying that this algorithm largely affects Search Engine Optimization and digital marketing strategies. Google even penalized its main search website for low-quality backlinks. No one’s safe. But fear not, Google now allows webmasters to “disavow” unnatural backlinks, thus lifting the Penguin penalty from their search results in real time.

The Google Penguin Update is here to stay… and so are backlink penalties

Initial Penguin Update penalized whole websites for having some or numerous unnatural backlinks and Google did not allow webmasters to “Disavow” those links until the next search algorithm update. The latest Google Penguin Update, released in September 2016, runs in real time and is now officially incorporated in Google’s core search algorithm. This latest update softened the ranking penalty to specific pages on a website without penalizing the whole site. That is great news for SEO’s, who can now isolate individual pages and take corrective actions. While unnatural backlink penalties are hard hitting, they are now easier to deal with.

The quickest way to check for Google penalties is to log in to your Google Search Console and check ‘Manual Actions’ and ‘Security Issues’ for your website. If there’s a penalty from Google regarding your links or other issues, you will see it there. Just follow Google’s penalty correction instructions and your site should be just fine. If not, give us a call.

Google backlink penalties are easy to avoid. Don’t buy backlinks. Instead, you can opt to earn organic backlinks through quality content, social media sharing, and other organic digital marketing strategies.

“ Pro SEO tip: Another great way to check links and avoid backlink penalties is to use a third-party digital marketing software, such as SEMrush – a must-have for branding agencies. ”

Alex Journist

SEO Specialist

Using the right combination of SEO tools, webmasters can figure out which backlinks should be disavowed before getting smacked with a Google Penguin penalty. SEMrush helps track the welfare of your website’s SEO and automatically compiles a recommended list of toxic backlinks to be removed.

At Magnetic, we use a suite of SEO tools to monitor and optimize our website along with those of our clients.

There you have it. Not all penguins are cute and fluffy. That said, Google’s Penguin Update is here to stay and so are the backlink penalties. Earn your backlinks organically through solid SEO principles, evergreen content, positive social media posts and just good ol’ fashion digital marketing strategies. Put in the effort and you’ll have nothing to fear.

Happy Penguin Awareness Day!