Since Google’s latest update Penguin, many SEOs have been like sitting ducks waiting to receive a Google Webmaster email stating their site has been penalized. This update has really shaken up the strategies of every SEO as we have seen big time companies get hit along with well-known SEO firms! As the rumors spread across blogs and social media, no one is really sure what to believe. Well, SEO guru, Rand Fishkin, recently addressed the myths that have been lingering throughout the SEO World in a Whiteboard Friday post a few weeks ago and as SEOs, we shouldn’t be afraid of Penguin!

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Google’s Penguin Update was created to put forth more effort into eliminating spam in Google’s search results. This algorithm was designed to pick up on the over-optimization of web sites as well as anything that violates the Google Webmaster Guidelines, which can include keyword stuffing, cloaking, unnatural linking, etc. As an SEO, I know to play by Google’s rules and serve my clients well.  However, since the update, I’ve quickly learned that not every search marketing firm, is like Web Talent, as our phones have been ringing non-stop with webmasters who need help picking up the pieces of their banned website. Luckily for them, our team is fully capable of repairing a site that’s been hit by a Penguin penalty, but as an SEO, I had to wonder why their previous SEO team was trying to cheat Google’s system.

After listening to Rand discuss The Top 10 Myths That Scare SEOs, But Shouldn’t, I decided to highlight what I think are the top 5 uncertainties or rumors that SEOs have been facing since the release of Penguin.

Unnatural Linking

As an SEO, I spend numerous hours on link building each month for a variety of different clients so when I heard “unnatural” linking, Google had my attention.  Did I do something wrong? Would Google see my sites as over-optimized? Did I get my clients too many links?  As with any link builder, these thoughts run through your head. However, Rand cleared it up for me.

When it comes to having a lot of links pointing back to your site, all you have to be sure of is that they’re not manipulative in any way. If you have a good amount of links coming sent by one particular domain, that’s okay as long as there is good, quality content and a natural reason as to why they would link to your site. As a general rule, one link per domain is sufficient because the rest aren’t going to do anything for you.

On the flip side, if you acquired these links in such a way that could be perceived as manipulative or shady, this is when Google’s Penguin will attack. Don’t purchase links, don’t have links sent by spammy sites and if you find those sites linking to you, contact those webmasters immediately and ask for them to be removed. If you or an outsourced link builder is building a spammy backlink profile for your site, that’s like putting the fish in front of the penguin, you’re dinner.

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Google wants your site to receive “editorial votes,” not just links for SEO, so it’s important to take the time to build up your site by providing content that will be beneficial to viewers.

Keyword Density

Next, rumor has it SEOs are concerned about keyword density. Now I’ve only been doing SEO for less than a year, but even I know that this is a thing of the past.  However, many SEOs go back and forth with this concept. Some say, the percentage of keywords on a particular page needs to be about 2.78%. Others proclaim that percentage to be inaccurate, but if you do have too high of keyword density, your page may be declared SPAM. How do you know what to do?

Well, Rand believes that SEOs shouldn’t even be worried about keyword density and that we should be focusing on writing content naturally. If we write naturally and our users love the content, then the keywords seem to fall into place. It’s when manipulative tactics like keyword stuffing are used, which sends a red flag to Google. Even so, as a rule of thumb, an SEO or Webmaster should forget about keyword density and look at the page with the user in mind. Does this page of my site offer valuable, quality content that users will enjoy reading and will find useful? If you only have 20 words on the site and 10 of them are keywords, again, it looks fishy.

Content Scraping

So let’s say you’re a blogger and you’ve taken the time to write some awesome content for your daily post. You have established a great online presence and the number of followers you have continues to grow. Then, one day, you notice another blogger took a post that you wrote and put it up on their blog as if it were their own! Not fair, I know, but instead of panicking and yelling at your computer screen, prepare yourself for the next time anyone decides to scrape your content.

Content often gets scraped off your site or blog through an RSS Feed and then gets republished elsewhere. In a sense, people who repost your content are giving you a compliment, but there are things you can do to make sure you get the credit for your work. Including links within your content is essential even though the majority of people who do scrape and republish your piece will link back to you. However, just to make sure they know who’s boss, make sure the links you’re putting within the body of the content are absolute links so that if it should be picked up or copied, the links will point back to your site. If one or two spammy sites have picked up your content and are linking back to you, this isn’t something to lose sleep over. You can email the webmasters and ask that they remove the content, but if you don’t, Rand says Google won’t hold that against you. You just don’t want a lot of those sites constantly scraping your content, as this is when you’ll have a problem.

Footer Links

For years, webmasters have chosen templates for their sites that have links within the footer. It was never a big deal and it allowed the user to quickly navigate through the site. However, with the release of Penguin, bad things have been said about footer links, as they can be perceived as site-wide spammy links. When it comes down to it, the issue isn’t that you have links within the footer of your site, it’s what kind of links you have placed there. The original purpose of footer links is a good reason to keep them; if they provide a good user experience.  Along with everything in SEO, things become bad or spammy when people abuse them. If you begin stuffing tons of links with exact match anchor text in the footer, you look like you’re trying to manipulate the system. Your footer shouldn’t go for miles and miles down the page.  It should only contain useful links that lead to other good pages of your site.

Link Bait

When content marketing became the direction in which to take SEO efforts, some wondered if too much “link bait” could result in a Google penalty. Many e-commerce based sites thought that if they do everything right, (they have a blog, they make infographics, they provide cool videos and great content) that eventually, Google would penalize them for simply creating viral content in order to earn links to their site. They believed the focus of their business would be lost and it would look like they were simply in it for backlinks.

In his post, Rand claims that both Google and Bing have announced they love the practice of content marketing and creating good stuff on the Internet, even if it is only partially or semi-relevant to your niche or industry. It’s the best way to increase brand awareness and bring attention to your business. If you create quality link bait, it will not only help with SEO, but also your social media presence. Let your creativity soar, your viewers will love you for it and you’ll build your company’s reputation.

Well, there they are, my top 5 myths. As you can see, SEO is like everything else, great until people abuse it. If you’re doing things right with the site’s user in mind, there’s no need to worry about Google’s updates. However, if somehow you’ve gotten yourself in a mess and have been penalized for any reason, it is imperative that you take proper action in order for Google to reconsider your site and allow it back into the search results. Don’t let a Penguin push you around, reach out to us today.