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How To Penguin Proof Your Site

By | May 12, 2018

How much is too much of a good thing? Can you try too hard to rank and end up making things worse? 

Just the term over-optimization seems counter-intuitive. You can’t optimize anything TOO MUCH. Optimized should be optimal – right? 

Over-Optimization Affects How You Rank

We’ve been monitoring several orders lately and noticing a glaring mistake in people’s backlink profiles. This mistake is absolutely holding these sites back. 

Although it’s an easy enough mistake to make, once you know exactly what it is, you can fix it fairly easily. It might save your site and give you an edge on your competition.

Google has algorithms that affect your SEO results. We all know that. And an important one to know about is Penguin. It’s important because it’s critical to know what Penguin is up to and how to ensure your site is safe.

Back in 2012, Google came out with this algorithm update to punish sites that had used too many exact match anchors when building links. And punish they did.

Suddenly, sites that had ranked stopped ranking. Penguin rewarded high-quality websites. And Penguin minimized the search engine results page (SERP) presence for websites that appeared to use keyword stuffing or manipulative link schemes.

But how does Penguin decide if you were a “good guy” or a “bad guy?” Does your site deserve to rank high on that SERP? Or should Penguin punish your site by lowering your rankings?

Where to start? Let’s begin with Exact Anchors and how they impact what Penguin thinks of your site.

Exact Anchors for Building Links

An anchor is the highlighted text on your webpage that includes the hyperlink. When a visitor clicks on the link, they go to the other page. 

The system is the same for both internal and external links. Internal links point to other pages on your site, like your blog. External links take the visitor to another website. 

And these links are great for SEO. Like really great!

  • Internal links help search engines clarify your site’s structure and topic. So, when someone searches for “air conditioning systems,” for example, they don’t get results about “car exhaust systems” or “new iPhone models.” Internal links help tell Google (and the other search engines) what you do. 
  • External links provide authority. That’s why it is so critical to link to solid, relevant sources. Avoid external links that might get taken down and stick to trusted sites. 
  • Anchor text explains the topic on the linked page, so your visitors are not led astray. If you have ever clicked on some anchor text and ended up on some page that surprised you, the site did not do a good job deciding on anchor text. The anchor text helps your ranking because it also provides context for search engines.  
  • “Exact match” refers to your anchor text (the hyperlink words) matching exactly with keywords.

So, this sounds like a good way to optimize your site. Just stick in a bunch of internal and external links that match what people might type into the search bar. But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. 

Because Google knows. Google can sniff out unnatural linking if you try too hard. And trying too hard has never been attractive… 

Where the Need to Penguin Proof Your Site Began

It was over a decade ago, so like a century in internet time. First, Google created Penguin to check your profile, and if 30% of your profile was one anchor, your rankings were at risk. 

Within a year, in 2013, Google shifted the Penguin algorithm to penalize more sites. So, only 5-10% of your profile could be exact match anchors. Alas, even more sites were penalized.

You would think that by now, how to work within Penguin’s rules would be clear. But it’s hard to say exactly what anchor text percentage you should have because it varies by industry and by SERP

You can check your Search Engine Rankings easily. CLICK HERE

We’ve looked into lots of sites, and you can DEFINITELY see sites with higher anchor text percentages still ranking… but it’s still something you have to look out for.

The thing is, Penguin runs constantly – so just because you’re ranking today doesn’t mean you’ll be ranking 3 weeks for now.

The Present and Future of Over-Optimization 

None of this is new, but when we looked at some of our customers’ sites, we still see tons of over-optimized profiles!

In the past, Google would try to get the best answers for queries using both keywords and links. And that hasn’t completely changed. But they do have some newer approaches that make optimizing content touchier. 

Sometimes the best content just didn’t show up at the top of page one of the search results.

Some people follow some of our advice to build anchors like “click here” and naked URLS – that’s all great… But for a lot of sites, they are already over-optimized, and it’s simply not enough.

How do you know how many is too many links?

The number of backlinks you need goes up faster than the difficulty ranking. Like, if your keyword difficulty is 10, 10 backlinks are probably enough to rank. But with a keyword difficulty of 50, you might need100 or more backlinks to rank.

What happens…?

If your site is already over-optimized, what happens when the NEXT Google update comes around, and they lower the acceptable percentage again?

Your site could be in danger!

But how do you know if a site is over-optimized? Or in danger of being in danger with the next Penguin algorithm change?

Now is the time to make sure your site is not already over-optimized and prepare for the future. 

What to Do? – What to Do!

It sounds dreadful (and it is), but the fix for this is pretty straightforward. 

The EASY way to avoid this is just to get a TON of non-optimized links. You want to really “pad” your site so that over-optimization isn’t even a question.

An optimal profile would have lots of links with brand anchors like “Starbucks” or with naked URLs like http://www.starbucks.com – so these are the types of links you want to be creating. If you can achieve that, you’ll be in a really good place to avoid over-optimization!

Sounds easy enough, right?

But where do you get these links?

When you build these links, you want to get them from quality, authoritative sites. And one of the best places to get them is through social media profiles.

You want to send REAL brand signals from good sites back to your money site.

You see, social profiles are the PERFECT solution. 

Sites like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, and LinkedIn are all high authority domains. Using social media profiles means that you send real links and real BRAND signals and diversity back to your site… all with NON-optimized anchors. 

Plus, you can build as many social media profiles as you want! (Or that you have the time and patience for…)

Now, these sites aren’t going to RANK you, but they will protect you… And you definitely need that.

So, these additional links serve multiple purposes:

  • They diversify your link profile
  • They send brand / social signals to your website
  • You can use them to seed your content across the web so more people will see it

Still sounds pretty great, right? But…

What to Do If You Have Other Things to Do

You can obviously do this yourself, but it takes quite a bit of time to register 50+ social profiles.

And you probably have something else to do. Specifically, something better to do! 

As critical as this is for your website, you can delegate this. A good link-building strategy is vital these days, but few companies have the personnel in-house to spend the time it takes. 

So, we created a service to do this for you if you don’t have the time… and we streamlined it, so it’s very affordable ($1 or less per profile!).

Your brand is hand-registered on the top social sites in the world. We’ll fill out your profile, upload a picture, and create a non-optimized link on the page back to your site. 

Problem solved. 

Put your mind at ease about the whole Penguin / over-optimization issue. The place to start is by scheduling a consultation for an SEO Audit HERE

If you have any questions, just leave them in the comments!


Clayton Johnson is the CMO of The HOTH SEO company. He has over 8+ years experience in the SEO industry and has spoken at events like SEJ Summit. The HOTH has been featured in Inc 5000, Forbes, SMX, Pubcon, Content Marketing World, Affiliate Summit, Brighton and more.

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