Ensure You’re Penalty Free In 2016 With The Pending Penguin Update

The next Penguin update is coming soon so now is the time to make sure you are fully prepared for it to either avoid penalties or to recover from the last Penguin update.

To help you prepare for the update that is due to arrive in the new year. I have listed some things for you to work on for the new year.

Gary Illyes, a Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, confirmed the release the new update on Twitter in October, though we were later updated by a Google spokesperson that it will not be happening until the new year.

This is great news for those who were hit by the previous update as you now have the chance to show Google you have made changes for the better and have cleaned up your backlink profile. It has also been rumoured that the new Penguin update will be in real-time which means your website will be affected as and when spammy links are added or removed, though thats been the plan for a while.

So run a link detox backlink report of your website and check it is clean and if not, get to work on cleaning it before the new update hits.

Quick History of Penguin Updates

We seen the last Penguin update (Penguin 3.0) in October 2014 although Google deemed this a ‘refresh’ and not an update as such. The aim of the update was to decrease rankings of websites that had poor backlink profiles while helping websites that had previously been hit to clean up their backlink profiles to see an improvement in organic rankings.

Penguin 3.0 wasn’t welcomed with open arms by marketers and online businesses as many had complained about the poor communication from Google. Before Penguin 3.0, there was Penguin 2.0 which was the real game changer. It affected around 2.3% of web queries and was aimed to target those who bought bulk backlinks, websites that had links from spammy directory sites and those that left hundreds of comments on blogs.

It also aimed on improving organic rankings for websites that had valuable content that naturally generated backlinks.

Vary Backlink Anchor Text

One of the most important aspects to keeping a clean backlink profile is to make sure all your backlinks don’t have the same anchor text that is a target keyword. For example, if my target keyword was “SEO Expert”, I wouldn’t ask people linking to me to have the anchor text as “SEO Expert”.

This looks like spam to Google and can have a negative effect on your organic rankings. Instead make sure backlinks have a variety of different anchor text such as:
Your URL
Your brand name
A closely related keyword
Phrase match keyword
Exact match keyword
Keyword and brand
Branded text


There is no set rule as to the percentage you should use each anchor text however i find a sweet spot for your money keywords is 6 to 9 %,be sure the majority are branded though.

Unusual Backlink Activity

Another major factor in determining whether you have a poor backlink profile is whether there are unusual spikes in referring domains or referring pages. If you find that you have a high number of referring pages from the same domain, check they aren’t linking to you from every single page as this can flag up as red to Google and can lead to a decrease in rankings for you.

Also make sure when building ethical links not to cause any unusual spikes in referring pages or domains as this could lead Google to think you have bought links in bulk from a link building farm which will again have a negative effect on your rankings. One more thing to watch out for is site-wide backlinks, you don’t want to have too many of these as this can also have a negative impact on your rankings.

Disavow Spammy Backlinks

Once you have your link detox backlink report and have checked for all the above, it is time to decide whether to disavow the backlinks that could be dragging your organic rankings down. Take caution & always get professional advice to some level if you are dealing with 100’s of back-links.

Manually removing links will result in a cleaner backlink profile while disavowing them may alert Google to these spammy backlinks that they may have not even noticed. If you do decide to disavow spammy backlinks then follow this tutorial on how to do it properly.

Optimising Internal Links

While the Penguin update is mainly about having a clean backlink profile (external link profile), having a clean internal linking profile will also help. Internal links don’t necessarily have a huge factor in how your website ranks organically however it does direct Google on how to crawl your website and prioritise which pages are more important.

As well telling which pages are more important, you will also be telling Google which pages on your website are related to each other but be careful not to over-optimise your internal links. Just as with the external backlinks, use a variety of different anchor text to keep it clean and not spammy.

Which Tools To Use

I have two tools that I use to help me determine how clean my backlink profile. They can be used by anyone and have free subscriptions as well as paid. I pay for both subscriptions so as to get a full insight into how my backlink profile is performing.

Ahrefs – The first of the two is Ahrefs which I use to check my backlink profile. It has a scoring system that allows me to determine which websites linking to me may be classed as spam. It also has a graph to shows backlink trends which you want to avoid any unusual spikes on.

Screaming Frog – This is an amazing tool that will crawl your entire website and gather data such as page errors, external URLS, status codes, whether external links are secure, missing heading tags, missing meta data, all anchor text, all nofollow and follow links and many more features.

Have you cleaned up your backlink profile since the last Penguin update?

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