How Affiliates Can Overcome Google’s Penguin Update

Google seems to be developing a habit of delivering crippling algorithmic changes to affiliates disguised as animals. The Panda update of 2011 certainly crushed many affiliates, especially those who relied on traffic and links from so-called “content farms” like article directories. Just when all seemed safe, Google unleashed its latest update for 2012 in the form of a penguin!

The Google Penguin update, which is still rolling out at the time of writing, has the stated aim of reducing web spam by targeting sites that are using what it deems to be blackhat link strategies to manipulate search results, or sites that have developed an overly unnatural link profile.

The jury is still out as to whether Penguin has actually improved search results for users at all – many prominent SEO voices (and “grassroots” Google users) have plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that websites using spammy links are actually ranking higher now than they were before. It also appears that many legitimate websites, which have worked hard to build their rankings over the years, have suffered badly. Another complaint about Google’s Penguin update is that it has resulted in certain shopping sites ranking unnecessarily high for massive numbers of search terms.

However, this debate is neither here nor there – the algorithm update has occurred, and the effects must now be dealt with by us humble affiliates. In this blog post, we’re going to look at how affiliates can overcome Google’s Penguin update using ethical and reliable link building and traffic generation methods.

The New Do’s and Don’ts of SEO for Affiliates

What you need to understand is that Google isn’t saying that you should not build links! Instead, they are encouraging webmasters (and therefore affiliates) to put the quality of their sites’ content before any link building efforts.

Therefore, the most important thing you can do in order to “beat” Google’s Penguin update is to make sure your site is jam-packed with quality content. You also need to be adding more content on an ongoing basis. It seems very unlikely that Google will ever penalize a website for having too much content, provided it delivers value or use to readers.

If you want to overcome Penguin then create your content with the following guidelines in mind:

  • Don’t use “filler” content – this is best defined as writing articles that have plenty of words but no real meaning or value. Filler content might read well and look great, but it won’t leave a good lasting impression on readers (and could have adverse effects like a high bounce rate). Usually, this type of content is outsourced or spun, and always highly targeted to long-tail keywords. Make sure that any article or blog post you write actually offers something useful to readers, rather than words for the sake of words.
  • Avoid spun content, at least on your main website. Although spun content does have its uses on Web 2.0 sites, lower ranking article directories, etc., you should avoid it on your main website. It simply isn’t as good as writing unique articles from hand, even if you’re a spinning pro and can create perfectly readable articles using a spinning tool, at the end of the day you’re not delivering any marginal quality or value by adding multiple spun articles to your website.
  • Above all, when creating content, ask yourself whether you would subscribe to your content, or whether it would actually teach someone something. If the answer is no, you need to increase the quality of your content.

Now that you know the importance of quality content for beating the infamous Google Penguin, what can you do for link building?

The following link building methods are going to give you the greatest advantage in the search engine rankings game:

  1. Optimizing your internal linking. Okay, this isn’t strictly “linking” per se, as this is on-site. However, really sprucing up your internal linking structure will beef up your website, yielding both more traffic, and higher search engine rankings. You should be linking together relevant and related pages on your website, new pages to old pages, and vice versa. This will help PageRank to diffuse naturally through your site and help index new pages more quickly. Don’t make the mistake of linking only to your home page or affiliate pre-sell pages.
  2. Guest post regularly. Guest posting on blogs is probably the most effective link building method in 2012. Because virtually every niche has a stable of popular blogs, this is a huge (and often untapped) source of powerful links. Reaching out to bloggers in your niche and offering quality, free content in exchange for anchor text links back to your own website is now one of the most effective SEO methods out. A single do-follow backlink from a reputable high PR blog is probably worth hundreds, if not thousands of context irrelevant links from article directories. The referral traffic element of guest posts is also impressive, especially if you add a good call-to-action into your post. The secret here is to write outstanding blog posts that really enhance the site you are writing for.
  3. Create link bait. This can loosely be defined as any content that naturally attracts links from other sources over time (as opposed to actively seeking links for a page or piece of content). Central to the mysterious art of link baiting, is creating very informative, engaging, or entertaining content that people share with others. Social networking, such as Twitter and Facebook, plays a huge role in propagating link bait, as do social bookmarking sites such as Reddit and Twitter. Although there are no hard and fast rules for making link bait, and it can be a bit of a crapshoot at times trying to build links this way, you can increase your chances by researching what people in your niche want. Then it’s just a case of fulfilling this desire with awesome content (it could be an article, video, infographic, or even a podcast) and then promoting via social bookmarking and social networks.

Although Google’s Penguin update has hurt many affiliates, it isn’t an insurmountable problem. What you need to remember is that Penguin was released to combat web spam, especially those sites which are trying to artificially manipulate Google’s search results using blackhat linking methods.

However, if you focus on creating quality content first (as well as building more “discerning” links using methods such as guest posting) then you will find yourself in a far better position to counter the Penguin update. Not only that, but you will also be safeguarding yourself from future algorithm changes, as Google looks set to continue rewarding quality over quantity.

So now that you know what (and what not!) to do with your SEO, it’s time to put it into action.

About the Author

Simon Slade is the CEO of Affilorama, an affiliate marketing training portal that offers free video training, education, and internet marketing tools to both beginning and advanced affiliate marketers. If you want to discover many more techniques we recommend then make sure you check out our AffiloBlueprint, our affiliate marketing course.