On the 24th of April, Google launched an algorithm to fight web spam and it was named the Penguin Update. This update has a lot to do with over optimisation tactics that were abused by SEOs and a couple of the sites I work on have been affected  by this. In an attempt to get the rankings back, I tried a few things:

1. Changed the title of the homepage from an exact match to a partial match

2. Added the nofollow attribute to sitewide links to the site

3. Changed anchor text from main keyword to the URL of the site

Now this site that I’m talking about is an exact match domain (EMD). The website has been #1 for the keywords it needs to rank for (a 2 word phase). 90% of the anchor texts on the backlinks were too aligned with the keyword that site wants to rank for. So I decided to change the homepage title to a partial match. I also had the option between removing sitewide links or nofollowing them and I chose the latter. On a forum with about 25 posts, I changed the signature from being keyword focused to being just the URL of the website.

The website is over 2 years old and has around 260 links coming from 20 unique domains. Most of the backlinks are from article directories so the link profile is really low.

Did I manage to escape the Penguin filter?

No, I didn’t. Actually the site is nowhere to be seen. However I’m sure it was hit by Penguin rather than Panda and this was confirmed by a trick that you could use to search for the keywords (eg blue widget -amazon.com). When you typed this in Google, you would see your rankings pre-penguin.

Why was the website still being penalised you may ask? The reason is simple – the backlinks are from low quality sites and are still too keyword focused whether nofollowed or not.

So what’s next?

Here’s my action plan:

1. Revert to old title for the homepage

2. Removed sitewide links completely (instead of nofollow)

3. Dilute the anchor text from the backlinks by building more links with varied text (eg click here, website, cool site). The idea is to make the backlink profile look more natural to Google.

Results are not guaranteed for anything because algorithm changes and Google gets smarter but instead of letting the site die, I’d rather experiment with it. I’ve also checked some EMDs and found that they kept their rankings because they had less than 5 backlinks which were on high PR sites (not to be confused with high authority sites because they were not in the same niche). The anchor texts were exact keywords that the domains are ranking for, so it seems that quality is what we need in the future.


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