As you are probably well aware of, Google released their latest Panda / webspam algorithm update this week in order to reward high quality sites. What they specifically targeted was “black hat webspam” including keyword stuffing and link schemes. By devaluing sites that participated in these black hat techniques or anything against Google’s Webmaster Quality Guidelines, they are hoping to provide better user experience for searchers on the web.

Was Your Site Affected

According to Search Engine Land’s Winners & Losers post about sites affected by the latest Panda update, losing sites could be summarized as those which use databases to aggregate information, press portals & aggregators, and heavily templated sites. The top sites that lost the highest percentage of SEO visibility included familiar names like:

  • Similarsites.com
  • Cubestat.com
  • Merchantcircle.com
  • Aboutus.org
  • Digg.com
  • Bloglines.com

So how can you tell if your site was affected? Start watching your Google Analytics, particularly your Organic search traffic.

If you start to see the graph significantly dip after April 24th, then there is a good chance your site was affected.

You might also want to check your Google Webmaster Tools if you have set it up for your websites. Google has been sending notifications to webmasters in the last month about unnatural link activity.

Don’t freak out right away if you have new messages – Webmaster Tools also notifies you if you need a WordPress update!

What to Do If Your Site Was Affected?

So what do you need to do if your site was affected? You’ll need to be on the lookout for two things: over-optimization with your on-site SEO and unnatural, spammy links. Over-optimization usually boils down to keyword stuffing – too many keywords on a page in the title tag, meta description, and within the content. Unnatural, spammy links usually boils down to too much exact match anchor text and links in unnatural places. SEO.com has a great post on red flags to look for in your link portfolio.

If possible, you will want to remove any over-optimization on your website and try to have any spammy links taken down, then contact Google and ask for reconsideration back into their good graces.

How to Prevent Your Site from Getting Penalized

If your site wasn’t affected by the latest update, and you want to keep it from getting penalized in the future, be sure to do some preventative work like making sure your on-site SEO isn’t overly-optimized. Translation: have more quality content than keywords.

Also, don’t participate in unnatural link building tactics including, but not limited to:

  • Over-used anchor text: Yes, it’s ok to use anchor text, but don’t build every single link to best SEO agency. Mix it up with different keyword phrases, your business / website / brand name, and other variations. Remember that the point is to look natural, and Google knows that 500 sites won’t link to the same exact keyword phrase every single time.
  • Spamming: This includes crappy comments, crappy forum posts, and crappy article directories using crappy spun content. Again, all unnatural looking elements.
  • Link exchanges: While it’s OK to link to someone with a similar website and have them link back to you, it’s not OK to link to just anyone’s homepage and have them link back to you on their link exchange, resources, or other sites of interests pages. Especially if those pages on other sites are linking to a ton of different websites that has nothing to do with yours.
  • Paying for links: If you are following a competitor’s backlink trail and buying blogroll links on the same sites they are, then you will start creating a noticeable “pattern” that Google might detect one day. Think about it – if they bust Site A for buying links, and they see that Site B and Site C have links on the same exact sites that Site A has links on, they’ll make the connection.

Was your site (or a favorite of yours) hit by the latest algorithm update? What are you doing to prevent your site from being penalized?

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