Constant Vigilance v. Google Penguin in the War Against Webspam

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When I think about the current state of Search Engine Optimization, I am always reminded of my favorite nugget of advice from Professor “Mad Eye” Moody of the Harry Potter series: Constant vigilance. Of course, that battle cry was spoken by a crazed Death Eater who was impersonating the real Moody and was actually trying to do in The Boy Who Lived, but I digress.

By definition, vigilance describes the state of constantly being watchful of potential dangers or threats—always on alert and waiting for something to happen. While our daily lives at Adpearance do not closely mirror the drama and danger of a fictional wizarding world, what we do merits its own kind of vigilance in regards to Google’s search algorithm.

Case in point, Google’s Penguin update, which was released on April 24, has wreaked havoc on a number of businesses that have yet to recover from lost rankings and organic traffic. Penguin devalued and deindexed links found to be “spammy,” including a number of directories, 20% of which were permanently penalized or banned.

While reputable SEO agencies refrain from such “Black Hat” link building tactics as keyword stuffing, article spinning and submitting to low-quality directories, some clients who come to us do bring along a backlink profile that would make our moms shudder. If nothing else, Google has taught us it doesn’t like links that hang out in bad neighborhoods…and neither does your mom.

For example, one of our clients recently redirected and relaunched a new website in May 2012. That first month, we recorded a baseline of 167 top-ranking keywords in the first 20 SERPs of Google. When we measured again in June, that number plummeted down to 40. In performing a complete link profile audit, using tools such as Google Webmaster Tools, Open Site Explorer and NetPeak, we identified a core list of unnatural links.

Out of 462 domains, 112 were deemed “spammy” and marked for immediate removal. Additionally, 280 links were flagged from a second website that was redirecting traffic to the first using a 301 redirect, which carries 90-99% of the link juice from the referring site. Some of the worst culprits include the following (open at your own risk):

• da.ngero.us.html (The name says it all.)