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Beat The Penguin ChecklistBefore You BeginIf you’ve been hit by Google’s dreaded Penguin update, or want to make sure youdon’t getpenalized in the future, then this checklist will help you to safely optimize yourwebsite,maximize your rankings, and gradually reclaim your traffic, sales and income.Before you begin, there are two preliminary steps that are now critical to youronline success.❑ Step 1 : Analyze your link networkMore than ever before it is important to understand where your backlinks are comingfrom andwhat keywords are used in the anchor text of these links.To help you with this analysis, we created a FREE tool that will help you to conducta 5-minutelink network check-up.❑ Step 2 : M onitor your rankingsIf you are not already doing so, you need to track your rankings in the searchengines for themain keywords you are targeting.The reason this is so important is that if you’re going to make changes to yoursite, you need tomeasure the impact of these changes. Always remember:You can’t improve what you don’t measureThe best way to monitor your rankings is to use an automatic monitoring service suchas theRank Tracker module in Market Samurai.Once you understand your link network and you are carefully monitoring your rankingsfor yourmain target keywords, you’ll be ready to apply the ideas contained in thischecklist.O n Page O ptimization ChecklistGoogle has described the Penguin update as a “web spam”update. Therefore it is critical that your site follow Google’srecommendation in regard to making sure your site avoids any ofthe practices that Google may perceive as being used by searchengine spammers. This starts with making sure you have good,relevant On-Page optimization.❑ 1. Don’t Panic.
It’s important to understand that Google’s algorithm changes all the time. Withevery majorchange, a lot of people give up and walk away from their online business. It is thepeople whostick around, analyze what happened, and take the appropriate action that eventuallysucceed.So make the decision to stay calm, and take a data driven approach to improving yourrankings.❑ 2. Don’t randomly delete content.A lot of people have a knee-jerk reaction to Google algorithm changes and take ahatchet totheir website. For example, one of our users had a blog on their domain that includedarticles,which they had syndicated. In response to the Penguin update, they immediatelydeleted theblog. The problem with this is that this created a big hole in their site, with a lotof incoming linkspointing to – nothing.These “dead links” might actually be a red flag to Google as they may make yoursite look likean expired domain that has been purchased for SEO purposes.As a good standard practice, if you do delete content make sure you do a 301 redirecttorelevant content on your site.You can read this article on SEOMoz about what 301 redirects are and how to applythem toyour website. If you’re using Wordpress, then you can install a plugin like the“Simple 301Redirects” plugin to achieve a similar effect.❑ 3. Eliminate over optimization in all your page titles.Search Engines punish sites that try to “keyword stuff” their titles with too manykeywords.Check the title of each page on your website for over optimization. Change the titlesof yourpages to be optimized for human readers, rather than for search engines.For example if your page is currently titled:„Grap h ic d esig n serv ices, g rap h ic d esig n f irm , Su ccess By Desig n ‟You should change the page title to something like:„ Su ccess By Desig n , af f o rd ab le g rap h ic d esig n ‟You can read this article about best practices for writing title tags.❑ 4. Create unique Title tags and Description tags for every page
One surprisingly common error that we see on a lot of sites is that people havecopied codefrom an existing page to create a new page and end up with pages having duplicatetitles ordescriptions.This is a problem for a number of reasons. Firstly, it creates multiple pages on yourwebsite thatare all trying to rank for the same keywords. Secondly, the Google Panda updatepenalizes sitesthat have a high degree of duplicate content, and duplicate titles and descriptionscansometimes trigger this penalty.Check that every page on your site has a unique title and description that clearlydescribes thecontent or purpose of the page.❑ 5. Check Google Webmaster Tools for ways to fix your HTM LGoogle Webmaster tools is a free service that Google makes available to webmasters tohelpthem to diagnose any problems with your website that might affect Google’s abilityto index andrank your site. It offers a lot of useful tools to analysis of your site andhighlights simple thingsyou should fix such as Google Bot crawling errors, missing pages, and duplicate titletags forexample.Here’s an excellent video that Google has created that shows you how to useWebmaster Toolsto improve your rankings on your website:Watch the Video❑ 6. Reevaluate your internal links.If you have created internal links to a specific page using target keywords in youranchor text,change the anchor text of these links to include brand and generic terms. As a ruleof thumb aimfor 40% brand links, 40% generic links and 20% target links.For example, for our product “market samurai” we would want to create links where:●Around 40% of links contained brand related keywords such as “Market Samurai”, aswellas Branded URLs, such as “http://www.marketsamurai.com”.●Around 40% of links contained natural organic “generic” keywords such as “clickhere”,“check this out”, etc.
●Reducing the size of your image files●Eliminating Flash animations●Eliminating unnecessary java script files❑ 10. Create a helpful 4 0 4 pageWhen your server cannot find a page that your visitor is looking for you shouldhandle this ‘404Not Found’ error in an elegant and useful way.Instead of just displaying a message like “ Yo u 404‟d it . Gn arly, d u d e.”You should present them with a useful message and links to a relevant page. Thiscould includeyour home page or your site map. Avoid redirecting all your 404 traffic to a singlelocation suchas your home page, as this is can be seen to be a search engine trick for which yoursite maybe penalized.You can also check your “crawl errors” page from within Google Web Master tools fora list ofany 404 errors. You can then create placeholder pages or 301 redirects to eliminatethese‘holes’ in your site.❑ 11. O ptimize your images for humansFor each image on your site, you should include alternative text using the altattribute.It is very important not to fill your alt tags with keywords. This is known as‘keyword stuffing’ andcan have a negative impact on your rankings.Instead of trying to stuff keywords in your alt tags, you should take the approach ofcreating abrief description of the image that would help a visually impaired person using ascreen readerto understand what the image depicts and how it relates to your content. For example:<img alt="An Australian flag"src= "http://mysite.com/images/australian-flag.jpg">❑ 12. Add rel= ” nofollow” to all comment linksBe sure to configure your content publishing software to automatically add therel=”nofollow”attribute to all comment and message board links.This will prevent you from passing your reputation to other sites. More importantly,it preventsyou from being penalized for linking to sites that Google considers to be low qualityor spammy.
Google can and will penalize your website if it perceives you are linking to “poorqualityneighborhoods”. Adding the rel=”nofollow” attribute will prevent you fromtriggering thesepenalties from comment spam.* No t e: Wo rd Press v ersio n s 1.5 an d ab o ve au t o m at ically assig n t h e n o f o llowat t rib u t e t o allu ser-su b m it t ed lin ks (co m m en t d at a, co m m en t er URI, et c.)❑ 13. Add a social dimensionWith social media becoming more and more important, make sure that you give yourvisitors theopportunity to share your content with their friends and followers via Facebook,Twitter andGoogle +Social signals such as traffic, and “Likes” and “Tweets” are all positive signalsto the searchengines that your site is of a high quality and deserves to rank highly for a keywordphrase.If you use Wordpress, you might want to check out the floating social bar Digg Diggor the rangeof social plugins from Shareaholic.com❑ 14. Focus on keeping people on your siteLog into your Google Analytics account and check your ‘bounce rate’ which is thepercentage ofusers who enter your site and then leave without viewing any other pages.Pages with a high bounce rate are a signal to Google that your page is of a poorquality matchfor the keyword that they found your page for. Google uses this information as afactor in theirsearch algorithm.Monitor this metric and do what you can to increase the amount of time visitorsspend, and thenumber of pages they view on your site.Provide links to other relevant articles in the side panel and at the end of yourpages. Give yourvisitors as many reasons to stay as possible. Put yourself in your visitor’s shoesand imaginewhat they are looking for. Present them with as many high-quality, relevant optionsas possibleto convince them to stay.Here are two useful Wordpress plugins for decreasing your bounce rate:1.SimpleReach Slide2.Related Posts Thumbnails
That concludes the ‘On Page Optimization’ section of the Beat The Penguinchecklist. On thefollowing pages you’ll find a series of steps for improving your Off PageOptimization.O ff Page O ptimization ChecklistPerhaps the biggest steps you can take to recover from aGoogle Penguin penalty or to ensure that you avoid a futurepenalty is to address your site’s Off-Page optimization.For years Google has been telling Webmasters that your linkscan’t hurt your rankings. At best, poor quality or questionablelinks to your website would simply be ignored. This was toprevent your competition trying to “de-optimize” your site bybuilding a whole lot of spammy links to your site.However, all that has changed with Penguin. For the first time in Google’s historyyou can bepenalized by having an “over-optimized” link-network. While it’s true that asingle link may notbe able to harm your site - certainly the wrong mix or “pattern” of links to yoursite definitely canpenalize or even knock your site out of the search engines.As off-page links are much more difficult to control than on-page links - thisrepresents a realchallenge to SEOs who are stuck with existing link networks that cross Penguin’soveroptimizationthreshold.To avoid these penalties, we highly recommend that you follow the items in thefollowing “Off-Page” SEO Optimization Checklist:❑ 1. Update links from sites you ownCheck the links from sites you own that point to your money site. Look for links inyour sidebars,headers, footers, and blogrolls that contain target keywords. Change the anchor textof theselinks to reflect the new recommended ratios: 40% brand links, 40% generic links, 20%targetkeyword links.For a more detailed explanation of link ratios, watch this video.❑ 2. Update links on sites you don’t own where possibleCheck to see if you can update incoming links from other people’s sites such as yoursignaturelinks in forums and guest posts or comments that you’ve posted on other blogs.Change the
anchor text from these links to modify your link network ratios as required.❑ 3. Eliminate links from de-indexed sitesExamine your link profile for links from de-indexed sites. To check if a site hasbeen de-indexed,put the site URL into Google and click ‘Search’If nothing comes back then the site has probably be deindexed. If the site is adirectory, removeyour content if possible to eliminate links from deindexed web properties.❑ 4. Eliminate links from low quality content syndication networksIf you’ve built links using low quality content syndication networks (such as poorquality BlogNetworks, or poor quality Article Directories), request that your articles be removedfrom thesenetworks.Needless to say you should also stop submitting articles to low quality articlenetworks.However, be careful about completely suspending your link-building activities. Goingfrombuilding tens of thousands of links a months to building none or just a handful oflinks is a suresign to Google that you’re trying to manipulate their results and may result infurther searchengine penalties. We recommend replacing low-quality link-building approaches withhighqualitysyndication alternatives.If you are going to reduce your link-building activities, then do so gradually overthe period ofseveral months.❑ 5. Use high quality link networks to balance your link ratiosIf you’ve built links using high quality article networks, consider submitting newarticles withgeneric and brand anchor text to balance your link ratios as required.So, in the case of our main website “http://www.marketsamurai.com” that we’retrying to rank forthe SEO target phrase “keyword research tool”. If our network had too large aproportion of linksfor “keyword research tool” (say over 40%) we would try to balance out the ratiosby performingadditional link-building for brand keywords (such as “market samurai” or“http://www.marketsamurai.com”), and generic terms such as “click here”.
Make sure you keep checking your link ratios using the FREE Link Network Health Checktoolto monitor your progress.❑ 6. M anually clean up your link networkWhile this is a painful process, you may need to go through your link network onedomain at atime and identify the low quality or spammy sites that are linking to yours.You can then use WhoIs to identify the technical contact for the site and send theman email torequest that they remove the links to your site. In extreme cases you may evenconsider offeringpeople a reward (such as by offering people a cash payment or an amazon.com voucher)if theyare particularly unresponsive to your requests.❑ 7. Pay for someone else to clean up your link networkIf you’d prefer to pay someone else to clean up your link network you can tryservices such asRemoveem.com which offer self service and full service options.❑ 8. Create a diverse Link N etworkMake sure you are getting backlinks from a diverse range of sources. If you are justbuildinglinks from one source then you are asking for trouble. Remember, the goal is to makesure thatyour link-network appears as “natural” as possible to the search engines.A diverse link network will include links from blogs, press releases, forums, Q&Asites, youtube,and social networks like Facebook and Twitter.❑ 9. Use target anchor text selectivelyDave Jenyns from Melbourne SEO Services recommends that when you create links fromsitesthat are less than PageRank 1, you should use brand or generic anchor text (eg.“marketsamurai” or “click here”). You can then save your target anchor text (eg.“keyword researchsoftware”) for links from higher PageRank sites.❑ 10. Check up on third-party SEO service companiesIf you are employing a third-party SEO company, make sure you know exactly what theyare
doing. You can’t assume they are doing the right thing anymore, because for thefirst time ever,their actions can actually damage your rankings.Often cheaper overseas outsourced link-building companies can be slow to update theirSEOlink-building strategies - so be warned. Ask for a list of links that they have builtfor you, andquery them about what techniques they are using so you can determine if theirstrategies aregoing to be effective, or a hindrance with Penguin.❑ 11. Submit a Reconsideration Request to GoogleIf your site has been penalized, you can submit a “reconsideration request” toGoogle to havethem manually re-evaluate your site and lift any penalties they may have imposed.However, don’t do this straight away! Instead, use this checklist to fix what youcan and thenwait 4-6 weeks to see if your changes make a difference algorithmically.If you still do not see any change in your rankings then you should prepare your caseforresubmission. Instead of just complaining to Google, you should take the followingapproach:a.Document all the changes you have made to clean up your link network. (Be asspecific aspossible).b.Briefly describe why inclusion of your site will improve Google’s results andprovide abetter user experience for their users.You can submit your reconsideration request here