Bulletproof Strategy to Benefit from the Google Penguin Update

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I’m sure by now you’ve heard all of the hoopla over Google’s recent Penguin Update. The forums are buzzing with SEO-ers up in arms over the carnage. Matt Cutts has been whisked away to an undisclosed location (not really) while Internet Marketers by the gigabyte are showing up at his front door with torches in hand looking for an explanation.

At least that’s what you might think if you were to read the forums. Believe it or not, there are plenty of people benefiting from the Penguin Update as well. It only makes sense. For every site that gets bounced off the page there is a new site replacing it. Yes, they are out there and they are quietly celebrating Google and their beloved little monochromatic friend. So, how can you be one of those celebrating? Easy, sort of. Here’s a little something to get you started…

Step 1: Stop Complaining

Let’s get this out in the open first and foremost. This most recent update to Google’s search engine algorithm is not perfect. That’s right. Google did not take the time to personally test all 88 billion possible searches that take place over the course of the month to make sure each one is ordered exactly as you would like. This was a sweeping change that touched pretty much every possible term searched. Of course if you are going to cast out such a big net you are bound to catch a few shopping carts, tires and dead bodies. Over the next few weeks the algorithm will likely be tweaked and things will begin to settle a bit. It happens every time. Stop whining about it. Google isn’t going to all of a sudden reverse the update because Bob from Nebraska isn’t happy.

Step 2: Get to Work

Whether or not you have been affected, if you are currently residing on the dark side, it’s not too late to join us over here on the light side (or whatever the heck you call the opposite of the dark side). If you were not given a smack from Google this time around, your day is coming if you think you are going to keep getting away with shady link building, keyword stuffing and spammy content. You are going to have to change your ways at some point, so why not now? If you are looking for a bulletproof solution to your search engine woes, here it is…

Become an authority.

That’s it. It’s simple logic. These updates are nothing more than Google’s commitment to return the most relevant results for the term being searched. If someone is searching for a dentist in Hopeulikit, Georgia (yeah I know, that’s a real town…I actually looked it up) Google is not going to want to show 10 dentists that are the best at link building. They want to show the 10 best dentists in town. Someone who is an authority. The perceived best. As an authority in your field you can’t be ignored…not even by Google. Here’s a start on how you do it…

Write Extraordinary Content
You are not going to be able to get away with that same old regurgitated drivel if you want to be an authority. You are going to have to come up with extraordinary content on a regular basis. It’s tough. Not everything you write is going to be a Pulitzer Prize winner. We’re all guilty of writers block or phoning it in every now and then, including me…I mean, have you seen this post? The important thing is that you can regularly get some wood on the ball and write a really valuable blog post, e-book, white paper or case study that you can post on your website at least once or twice a week.

Give it Away
Stop acting as though you are solely responsible for splitting the atom and that you can’t share your secrets with anyone. You should be giving away as much content as you can through blog posts, e-books, webinars, videos, podcasts, seminars and workshops. Get your message out there so people will know who you are but more importantly so Google will know who you are. If you have hundreds or even thousands of pages of QUALITY content with your name all over it, isn’t it safe to assume that you are going to be seen as a valuable resource by human and robot alike? Don’t just take my word for it, in his post entitled “Where Should You Put Your Content,” Chris Brogan puts it best in saying “I tend to put my content out here as a faith walk, I give away 90% and charge for 10% – it’s the Open & Free Business Model I preach & teach.”

Social Media
Get out that flute and start practicing your pied piper routine. You need to be leading the charge towards a better tomorrow and social media is a great tool to get you in front of the proverbial room and preach your gospel. That doesn’t mean to oversell, harass, annoy or “friend collect.” It means to build a substantial community. Then be an outstanding member of that community. Be the one giving away tons of good information. Be the one that helps others get what they want. Be the one that is always accessible. Be consistent in your message. Eventually, they will hold you up as their personal expert. Just don’t start calling yourself an expert.

Build Quality Links for the Right Reason
Like it or not you still need other sites linking to yours. It’s one of those things that still stands at the core of the Google algorithm. That doesn’t mean that you have to hire a link farm to create a bunch of spammy links. I know that’s the easy way out, but the best don’t take the easy way out just because it’s easy. Start visiting blogs in and around your industry and start commenting on their posts. But here is the key…sound intelligent, create value and add to the conversations in all of your comments!!!! This accomplishes a few things. It creates a link to your website on a like minded blog with a lot of valuable content. It also introduces you to a new audience that wouldn’t normally have found you had you not said something that triggered them to want to check you out further.

Write for Human Beings on Your Site
The content on your static pages like home, about us, services and products needs to be compelling and written for a human being. Don’t over SEO these pages by stuffing them with keywords, making them longer tat hey should or linking ever other word or phrase to another page on your site. Google won’t like it and your visitors won’t understand it. Google is smart enough to understand what the page is about if you write it well without having to drill it into their heads.

Step 3: Keep Going

Look, this whole authority thing is not the easy route, I get that. In fact, I’m sure there is a short cut in the Penguin Update just waiting to be found and exploited. Don’t fall for it. What happens when that hole gets filled by the next update and you’re back to fighting for your life again? There is one thing that short cuts, gray areas and questionable techniques will never have that being an authority will always. Sustainabilty. In the end, there will NEVER be an algorithm update that removes websites for being too valuable. That’s your goal.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/perryboys Ian Hough

    This is a great article, Marc. One of the few I’ve read (ever) that is timely, relevant and – dare I say it – OBVIOUS. The trouble is, as you say, everyone wants to cut corners and hit the top spot overnight. It reminds me of those people who are always looking for an “Agent X” in their diet that will enable them to lose weight while eating carbs and not exercising. EVERYONE KNOWS what they have to do, but we’re inundated with so much rubbish from so-called experts that whenever anyone suggests actually producing quality content and working hard and patiently towards lasting high rankings on Google, they mock it like it’s an old-fashioned notion.
    Brilliant stuff. I’ll be keeping an eye on you from now on :) Looking at your bio it appears you’re a man of quality. Too many SEOs need to drop the spam/automation addiction and start doing what they love the most – writing great content and making friends. We recently started a blog and it’s showing a lot of shares on many posts. The reason? We are writing REAL original content, and people deem it worthy of showing their friends online.

    Thanks again for a sterling piece, Marc. I’ll look for you on G+, Twitter, etc.



    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Thanks Ian! The problem that most agencies have is that they have clients and their clients want it and they want it now. It’s hard to pitch “it’s going to take a little while” to that mentality. Most clients don’t have the stomach to wait very long so when they come across someone that says they can do it fast it really doesn’t matter how…until something like Penguin comes along. Imagine going to the doctor and being told that he can take care of your brain surgery in 20 minutes instead of the 4 hours everyone else is saying, would you go for it? Granted, SEO is not brain surgery, but that’s not the point. The point is that you can choose either fast or sustainable…you can’t have both!  Glad to hear that your blog is doing good and you are writing quality content! What is the link?  Your name just links to your Facebook page.

  • Ken Mears

    Well done, Marc. This is not the first time that I have come across your writings, and you would probably be pleased to know that it was always on other sites pointing back to you (so I guess what I’m trying to say is, first time commenter, long time reader). You really hit the nail on the head here, man. Quality over quantity is the name of the game, and becoming the expert (or authority, as I like to promote it) in your given market is the key to being successful in organic search. The next step is exactly as you put it, utilizing that excellent, original, quality content in SoMe and leveraging your community’s community to help you continue to assert your expertise (or authority). Spending time developing buyer or customer persona’s that will assist you in content creation is a far better use of your time than trying to game the system, IMO. Additionally, I would go so far as to say that knowing what your buyers want will only make you more of an expert in your market, thus propelling you toward the greatest point you made in your post: creating sustained value.



    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Hey Ken!  Welcome!  That’s cool to hear that you wound up on my site from somewhere else pointing here. That just stands up my theory! The tough part is convincing others that it is worth the investment in time and money to do it right!

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  • http://www.professionalbuildingsupplies.co.uk/ Colin Evans

    Very good article, full of common sense. It is time to get back to basics, enrich the content and communicate sensibly. Its the only way in the long run. Well done Marc

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Thanks Colin! Much easier said than done of course but as the punishment for littering up the Internet increases (which is exactly what is happening here with Penguin) more and more people are going to start to change their strategy. It has to start with the SEO companies though.  That’s going to be the tough part!

  • Johnny

    The answer is, you dont really know what works – just like the rest of us. This article is just a “safe” song and dance. Thats all.

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      You are right Johnny! I don’t know where the holes are…but I’m also not looking for them. Google is in a constant state of plugging holes and I’m not willing to bet my livelihood or the livelihood of my clients or students that I can outsmart them. My methodology is to play it smart (some may call that safe I guess). 

      I’ve tried it both ways: I have run campaigns by building questionable links and writing weak “articles” and I have run campaigns by blogging high quality information that acquires links naturally. My ranking with the first campaign improved much faster, was much easier and much less draining on my time. The second was extremely time consuming and took longer. The other difference was that the second was MUCH more successful.  The traffic was of a much higher calibre and resulted in a significantly higher conversion which is ultimately all I really care about. I’m not going to pretend as though I have invented the wheel here. A lot of what I teach is common sense and can be pretty obvious…yet 90% of the websites out there don’t do it, so obvious or not there is a need to get the message out!

      Thanks for reading and I appreciate you challenging me on this stuff!

  • http://www.seoweave.com/ SeoWeave

    Of course everyone knows that you have to have great content on your site.  I have writers for my sites, but others are not willing to go to the extreme and pay the extra cost for the content. They fail to realize that while it is their site, they are still publishing it to the web.  Just like the old media of paper, the junk was thrown in the trash, and the good stuff was read a lot.

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      With all of the tools we have at our disposal it has become SO easy to be a publisher and yet a majority of the people out there are just too lazy to do it right. Do you want to know how easy it is to consistently put out quality content everyday? Here are the instructions:

      Step 1: Do it
      Step 2: When you are done, stop
      Step 3: Go back to step 1

      How much easier could it be? There is no instant gratification but the longterm effects are a game changer!

  • http://twitter.com/CinephileMag Richard Saad

    Great article, Marc. I’m a copywriter for a website design agency and I’ve been slowly waking them up to the fact that there’s no better way to drive traffic and convert leads than by having valuable, human-friendly copy on our clients’ sites and on ours. As a copywriter, I’m always trying to write web content for human eyes. Always. Sure, I’ll put keywords in there and things Google will like, but I’m always writing for real people, not robots. Thanks again for a great article.

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Thanks Richard! If it makes you feel any better, from what I see you have job security on your side. More and more we’re going to need really good copywriters that “get it” and write for human beings. Keep it up!

  • http://twitter.com/Frank_Pipitone Frank Pipitone

    I know that my very new website seems to have benefited from the penguin update.  I have just been trying to consistently write and have not even thought about writing for search engines.  All of the writing on my site is for my potential readers.  I will continue to do that.

    I have written some articles with back links, but have spaced them out and they don’t seem to have any negative effect.  

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      The key really is to write for human beings ad not for search engines. If you are writing legitimate articles that add value and add back links it’s not a problem until the back links are clearly an attempt at getting away with something. You can avoid that by changing the anchor text so each link is not exactly the same each time. Change it up, make it sound human, add value and you are well on your way!

  • http://ducktoes.com Cathie

    Marc, after I read this and then saw that Matt Cutts said in his tweet that your bullet points were solid, I started to follow your advice which (Thank you!) I think is wonderful and helpful. But then I read in Google Webmaster Tools forum that Google search algorithm penalizes links from press releases, so I’m really confused. I hope they’re wrong and you’re right.

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      I don’t think it’s so much about who’s right and who’s wrong as much as it is what your intention is. If you are coming from a place of integrity and putting out press releases to actually announce positive things going on within your company, etc. then you should continue to do that. You are adding information to your site that holds up the things you say you can do. That’s good.

      On the other hand, if you are blowing up something not very newsworthy and pasting it all over the internet on every free PR site you can get your hands on, then you are likely to get penalized for it.

      If you honestly feel like it serves your business and you are doing the right thing, keep doing it! If you can look at it and honestly see that your sole purpose is for SEO I would reconsider or adjust your strategy.

      Glad you were able to follow some of my advice and get something out of it. That means to world to me :)

      • http://ducktoes.com Cathie

        What about better services such as PRWeb that you pay for?

        • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

          I think a paid service like that definitely holds more weight as it weeds out the freebie crowd. However the same rule of actually having something to share still applies!

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