Sometimes, numbers can be misleading. When Google’s Matt Cutts, for example, estimated that the recent Penguin 2.1 update has had a noticeable impact on around 1 percent of all search queries, it is easy to assume that the algorithm shift passed by with barely a ripple. Instead, the fifth-generation of Penguin has created turmoil across the rankings, sending former top websites plummeting downward and their owners scrambling to return to Google’s good graces.
What Penguin 2.1 Means for SEO
The causes of all this trouble are backlinks that show signs of artificiality, leading Google to believe that a webmaster is attempting to game its system. Link spam detection is no longer resigned to identifying cheap directories. Penguin 2.1 appears to specifically focus on anchor text. Some reports indicate that a link profile with more than about 10 percent exact-match anchor text for a keyword is likely to provoke a penalty.
Penguin 2.1 also checks the distribution of links throughout a domain. A website with useful content should see links pointed to many different pages as different people recommend different things. A high concentration on the home page indicates link manipulation.
Reversing a Penguin 2.1 Penalty
Even innocent websites following Google’s recommended practices can fall victim to a penalty at any time; it is the unfortunate result of an automated system that operates on a pass-or-fail basis. Whether you failed to game the system or simply have a messy link profile, it is possible to restore your ranking after getting slapped by Google.
Google, knowing how difficult it can be to keep track of and manipulate inbound links, provides webmasters with several tools to examine and repair their own backlinks. Webmaster Tools, for example, can present a more-or-less complete list of links, which can then be used to pick out the low-quality domains and anchor text causing the problem.
From there, it is a matter of rote removal and disavowal, until your profile is once again acceptable by Google’s standards. Scrutiny of backlink quality should only become more pronounced as Google develops more sophisticated algorithms, meaning that whether or not you saw a drop in rank for Penguin 2.1, now is the time to begin cleaning up your link profile and carefully considering your own link-building methods.