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Ecommerce Stores: Avoid Being Hit by a Google Update

Last Updated on Sep 10, 2012 by Jenna Scaglione

The latest Google updates have downgraded thousands of websites and even taken some completely out of Google’s index.

If you want to prevent your website from being hit by a black and white zoo animal, aka Panda and Penguin, you may want to read on…

Let’s look first at Google Penguin, especially since Google’s head of webspam, Matt Cutts, recently announced that a large Penguin update is about to strike.

Is he trying to scare us? Possibly. But, regardless, we need to be aware of the details of these updates so we can prevent any future hits.

Disclaimer: The following advice will never offer 100% protection. Even the most compliant stores can be wrongly hit by a Google update. The best you can do is tip the scales in your favor. And if your site is hit, by making some adjustments and applying the information below to your website, you can regain rankings.

Penguin was an algorithmic change that hit the internet on April 24, 2012. It focused on over-optimization, or sites that deliberately tried to manipulate rankings. Most of the negative effects impacted sites that had over-optimized linking profiles.

Here are some practices that led to site downgrades:

  • Spammy looking sites linking to you – thin content sites or sites with too many topics that are built for the sole purpose of linking instead of providing value to the visitor.
  • Keyword-heavy anchor text in links – too many exact match keywords and not enough diversification for anchor text. If over 50-60% of your link anchor text consists of exact matches for your keywords, you will not be able to rank in a post-Penguin world.

It’s important to note that Penguin was not a penalty, but an algorithmic update. Many sites were affected because either their linking profile was deemed over-optimized or the sites that were linking to them were de-indexed or downgraded. If the sites linking to you were affected, this would reduce the number of links you have and you would see a negative effect on your rankings.

Google released the Panda update in early 2011 and its main focus was website content. It focused on downgrading keyword-stuffed pages and thin content sites. Thin sites are those that contain too many links and not enough content to support them.

How do you protect yourself against Panda and Penguin?

First, don’t over-optimize. Forget about stuffing keywords on your site or in your links. Keep your exact match keyword anchor text to a low percentage. I don’t have exact percentages but I have read studies where sites with more than 65% of exact match anchor text were downgraded. I have also heard experts mention that a profile where more than 10% of the links are exact match keywords can be downgraded. I would rather be safe than sorry, so adhere to a small percentage of exact keywords for links and diversify with different phrases.

Use various natural-sounding phrases like “click here” and “this site”  or your site’s url “www.yoursite.com” for your anchor text when looking for link opportunities. And be careful how you source links. The old tactics don’t work anymore. Google is focused on webmasters creating quality content so other websites will naturally want to link to them.

The best strategy you can implement to acquire links is to create shareable, compelling content that generates natural links. And if you are looking for additional link opportunities, make sure to diversify your anchor text considerably.

Your content should read naturally, provide value to the visitor and not be forced, spun or manipulated in any way. Include keywords naturally and don’t stuff your metatags as well. Use only one word or phrase for your title that makes sense to your visitors and don’t abuse your metatag keywords either.

Stick to these strategies and you should do well avoiding any negative effects from future Google updates.


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