Google Penguin Keeps Getting Stricter on Spam

A new report has been released that offers new insight into Google’s Penguin algorithm.  The report, which comes from a Seattle-based internet marketing agency called Portent, suggests that Google has been “applying a stricter standard over time,” i.e. Google’s tolerance for manipulative SEO tactics has been decreasing with each algorithm update.

The study, which was released last week, analyzed the link profiles of the top 50 websites in the Inc. 5000 business list and 20 other sites that were manually or algorithmically penalized.  The Portent team analyzed more than 500,000 links in all using a proprietary tool to determine Google’s tolerance level for spam links over time.

In their report, Portent found that Google has been applying a stricter standard for spam links with each new update to the Penguin algorithm.  After the Penguin was initially introduced last April, the only websites penalized had profiles comprised of more than 80% “manipulative” links, or those that looked like they were only obtained to improve a site’s rankings.  With its second Penguin update two months later, Google lowered the bar to 65%.  Then, with its third Penguin update in October 2012, Google started automatically and manually penalizing sites with as little as 50% manipulative links.

Google Penguin Keeps Getting Stricter on Spam

What does all of this mean for webmasters and SEO professionals? Portent CEO Ian Lurie reminds us that nobody knows what the floor is for Google’s spam tolerance.

“At Portent, we see too many small and medium-sized businesses coming to us for help because their SEO firm built website traffic by acquiring artificial, spammy links. It’s very, very difficult to recover from a Google penalty once you’ve been hit,” Lurie said. “Google’s changing standard for spam means it’s time – once and for all – for marketers to stop taking shortcuts and start creating valuable content. Google is clearly losing patience with manipulative linking.”

With this said, webmasters and SEOs should start cleaning up their inbound link profiles before they get penalized.  Identify those bad inbound links, and then remove them or disavow them.  Let’s also remember that this could be what Matt Cutts was referring to when he stated at this year’s SXSW that the next Penguin update would be one of the biggest and most talked about.  We should consider ourselves warned that Google’s search quality team is currently working on a major update to the Penguin algorithm, and that with the next update, its tolerance for spammy inbound links could be even lower.

To protect your site from being penalized by future Penguin updates, Portent recommends reviewing a list of links that have been acquired or are trying to be acquired.  Remove any links that come from the following:

  • Key phrases in press releases
  • Article directories
  • Poorly written blogs
  • Link lists
  • Random forums
  • Bookmarking sites
  • Anything that looks or feels suspicious

If your website has already been penalized by Google, either manually or under Penguin, Portent recommends using the disavow tool to remove all links you obtained by:

  • Paying someone other than a charity or foundation
  • Using any tool with “amazing,” “super” or any other superlative reference in the name
  • Begging someone for a link that adds no value to their site
  • Trading
  • Writing the same article 100,00 times

Click here to check out Portent’s full report.

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