Around a year ago Google started rolling out the Penguin and Panda algorithm updates which penalized a lot of sites for violating their guidelines. One of the categories targeted were ‘poor quality bookmark sites’. It was interesting to see how this affected the sites in the system and those on our lists that are not yet added.
Those with high PR that had been around for years were largely unaffected though there were a few surprises with an occasional PR4+ suddenly becoming unranked. We saw this more amongst article and directory sites. However, what we did see was a lot of sites that were already low PR – just 1 or 2, dropping to 0.
As time went on, another big change was that the sites that survived became tougher on spam. CAPTCHA’s popped up everywhere, some sites also added in moderation and overall the quality of the content improved – which of course is exactly what Google was aiming for.
Now, Penguin 2.0 is right around the corner. What can we expect from Google? How might this affect IMAutomator and what can you do to protect your own sites?
What can we expect from Google?
There are specific techniques / areas that Google are targeting with this update:
- Keyword stuffing
- Paid links
- Bad link neighbourhoods
- High link velocity
- Over-optimized anchor text
- Non-relevant links
- Duplicate content
There is one area that really stands out for us – the one of ‘bad neighbourhoods’. Google considers sites that have a lot of the signals in the above list such as keyword stuffing, over-optimized anchor text, duplicate content etc to be spammy sites. When a whole bunch of those sites are connected together then the whole cluster is labelled as a bad neighbourhood. Sites that link into these sites are then devalued and in some cases penalized.
Bookmark, article and directory sites are often built from templates – a content management system (CMS) that allows the site owner to get a new website up and running very quickly. This creates a low barrier to entry and allows webmasters to very quickly create a whole bunch of sites. They slap on a bunch of adsense or other ads, and let the cash roll in. At least, that is the idea. For us, sites built on templates are very easy and quick to add to our system because we’ve already coded against all the major templates.
The problem here is that many of the people building such websites are not taking any care over it – they do not monitor accounts or submissions. There are other social bookmark submission products that will for example create hundreds of accounts at a single site and spam your link to every one of those accounts. That’s hundreds of duplicate copies of the same link, probably with identical anchor text, on the same site – nothing short of spam. So, these sites get flagged by Google and when a whole bunch of them have been created by the same entity then you’ll often see the whole lot get their PR removed in one foul swoop.
What IMAutomator is doing about it
Over the past few months we have really been working hard to get those big sites in. The sites built from scratch, with real live human moderators, with spam detection, with high PR, lots of traffic and who have been around for years. Look at our supported sites list now and you’ll see the likes of Delicious (PR8), Diigo, Bibsonomy, Mister Wong – all PR7, Foldk (PR6), 5 sites with PR5, 4 with PR4… you get the idea! And let’s not forget one site that we hold dear to our heart – Tagza, a PR5 site that has been in our system since day 1!
We’ll be doing the same thing with our other tools, particularly article sites. These can really be hit very hard from the duplicate content penalty. Directory sites seem to fare better as many have been around for so many years and almost all are human edited and quite high PR. In fact, with directory sites we don’t even bother adding anything below a PR3 these days.
Now we will still add template sites here and there because it is important to diversify your link profile, but of course if they get hit by Penguin then they will be removed. But for those ones we’ll be looking more closely at the existing submissions and if they are full of spam then we’ll avoid that site.
What you need to do about it
There are several steps you can take to ensure that your content doesn’t get hit with the penguin hammer.
Get your on-page SEO right
First of all, make sure you have checked your content and removed anything that is going to get flagged. Don’t stuff keywords, don’t cloak your content, and don’t buy or sell links! If you have ads and affiliate links on your site, make sure you no-follow them. You should do this across your whole site regardless of whether you intend to submit that content to IMAutomator or anywhere else.
One of the dangers of using a service like ours is that it is very easily to blast out a whole bunch of duplicate content very quickly. Every one of our submission tools includes support for spintax – use it! Yes we know it’s more effort but the whole point of getting links is to improve your SEO and if they all get devalued for being duplicate content then you don’t get the SEO benefit anyway!
In the coming months we plan to develop a free text spinning tool which will be integrated directly with our submission tools but in the meantime you can try this free text spinner and then just copy in the spun text to our system.
Vary your anchor text
In the case of bookmarks, directories & RSS sites, the title field becomes the anchor text. With articles, you directly embed links into your resource box. Now for Directory and RSS submission you should only be submitting your home page or feed so for these tools use the company, product, brand name etc. Don’t use keywords here unless it fits in as a tag line.
For bookmarks, this is where you need to be the most careful. I see a lot of people abusing bookmarks and using them to blast out links where the title is not a good human-readable title of an informative post, but instead is just a keyword such as “credit card deals”. Anchor text like this works well when linking to that content when in the context of something else like I did with the “free text spinner” link above but with social bookmarks you are not creating a contextual link – it is an article title.
By all means put your keywords inside the title but make it meaningful – make it something that a real live human being might want to click on and read. Then use the spintax to create lots of variation.
With articles you have more flexibility and you have 2 links per article to play with. Make one of them point to your home page using your brand name and use the other for keywords. Now these are contextual links so you can use your keywords – but vary them! Again, use the spintax tool to create lots of different variations.
Drip-feed your links
Link velocity is the speed at which new links come into a page / domain. Google looks at both of these. Now in some cases you really do want the links fast such as a breaking piece of news. In that case it’s normal that loads of people would be writing about it and linking but if you’re not writing about breaking news, then you want to keep your links coming in at a moderate pace. How many is too many? That I can’t answer as it also depends on the size and age of your site.
Am established big site with thousands of pages of content is expected to have far more incoming links than a brand new one-page sales site. We have the technology built right into our software to keep these links coming in at a slow, steady pace. At the bottom of the submission form you have a speed setting and the default for every job is 1 link per day. You might want to pick an even slower setting if you are submitting many pages from the same domain in a short space of time.
Choose your categories wisely
Google likes relevancy and in the case of submission sites like the ones we use, relevancy is determined by the category that is used for the content. When we add new sites to the system we run it through our category matching algorithm which will match the closest one of our internal categories to each one of their categories. But you have to do your part too and make sure you pick the most appropriate category in your submission.
There’s always the miscellaneous category if you get stuck but due to it’s nature it will receive content which will be on all manner of topics and so the relevancy of any particular item is diluted so it’s in your best interests to try and find something more specific.
We’ll do our part, you need to do your part, and hopefully webmasters of submission sites will do their part too and it will be a win-win-win-win all around for you, for Google, for us and for our supported sites.