April 24th, many of you know of this day is the day machines took over the world and a hero by the name of John Con… that doesn’t sound right.
The Penguin update may have not caused the world to be overrun by highly advanced robots that seem to always be advancing their technology through complex equations, formulas and *gasp* constantly creating Arnold look-a-likes! However, the panic that spread throughout the digital marketing world felt by many businesses, large and small. there was no where to hide.
This is how I battled the Penguin… & Won
A little history on myself before we divulge into the process that I went through for the past month and a half. I am admittedly green in this subject and have taught everything I know about SEO to myself since January 2012. Shortly, I grabbed a job and turned into a sponge gathering information and strategies that internet marketers have been using for the past 10 years. Obviously the digital marketing world has changed quite a bit.
Enter me, a new breed Search Engine Specialist that has read numerous articles and has applied what he has learned to multiple websites thanks to the breakthrough I received in January. I found success using basic SEO practices (thank you, SEOmoz) as well as experimenting with more complex and difficult strategies (boo SEOmoz – kidding). So with a small amount of experience, and a lot of knowledge waiting to be exerted, I took on the Penguin with my bare hands… and a laptop. Bare with me people, I’m still in learning mode.This is how I re-generated leads lost from Penguin update in 8 Steps
Google’s Penguin Strikes First
May 1st – Nearly a week after the Penguin update, my boss asked me why there were no leads. First thought, blame it on the sales people. Kidding. In fact he told me that leads have been decreasing for the past week. Interesting. Immediately I start researching and sure enough I found the multiple “freak-out” articles online. (keep in mind these websites were made and optimized before I even started working here). I also provided a great way of visualizing how I felt. Here we go.
Penguin Problem 1
I started sifting through the 50+ old corporate website analytics and noticed the immediate downfall of nearly every website.
The first 5 websites I looked at haven’t been touched in 4-8 years, but were productive in gathering leads, the websites still had the 4:3 formatting, and I do not want to talk about the anchor text at the bottom of each website.
Google Webmasters was verified on only 25% of them.
The ones that did have webmasters verified had 70 errors each.
The websites were spammed with anchor text, with spam links to all of the websites.
This was approximately 30 minutes into auditing 4 of the websites. There are more errors but for the sake of me not wanting to have an anxiety attack or go back into the deep depression cave that was my life for the past month and a half, I must move on.
Planning the SEO Retaliation
After meeting with our senior marketing manager, I came up with a plan to hopefully to resurrect the lead channels lost after the penguin update. The bulk of my strategy was to focus on going back to the basics of great SEO. Bare with me as I take on the mighty Penguin.
A much less complicated way or describing our plan, I provided a summary of what I needed to accomplish:
The Problem: Total Leads had significantly dropped creating a hole in our projected revenue stream.
The Solution(s): Technical audit; New sitemaps; Consolidate Website onto one webmaster/analytics account; Fix Webmasters Errors; Fix Analytics; Remove Spam; Implement Basic SEO; Re-audit.
The Results: Below!
After creating an initial pre-report from webmasters, and a custom excel sheet to keep track of my journey to the center of the SEO, I finally stood armed and prepared to take on the latest Google update. We will go through this process step by step.
Step One: Check if the websites are functional
Yes, simple step. Yet these sites have not been checked on in years, so I wasn’t surprised to find that many of them were down. Everything is run internally, so after providing a list of the websites that were down, they could be rebooted by our hosting servers.
Step Two: Make sure contact forms are working
Another trivial step, but necessary. Turns out 3 of the forms were actually broken. The comback just got about 3% easier.
Step Three: Create a consolidated account
Consolidate all corporate websites into one account. Meaning all of the websites analytics, and webmasters accounts should be put on one account to maintain organization for the rest of the process. This can also make future problems much more manageable as opposed to need to sign into different accounts just to maintain the same amount of websites. Pardon the blanks, I didn’t have the approval to show the urls, so maintaining their privacies is the most logical solution. This is also the top of the page, the list goes on, and on, and on… and on.
Step Four: Create up-to-date sitemaps
Surprisingly, half of the websites did not have a sitemap to begin with. The ones that did were far out of date, and after creating a new one for each website I was not surprised to find nearly double the amount of pages were indexed. I generated these sitemaps through xml-sitemaps.com which is a great free tool for generating sitemaps.
Steps on how to add a new sitelink to your Webmasters Account, Click Here.
Step Five: Remove spammy links
Every website was somewhat spammy, especially when checking the backlinks along with anchor texts. The websites were following old optimization tactics and the Penguin was not having it. Since there are so many websites, and no include files, this meant going to every single page of every old website. Oh my. Considering this was a rush job, to keep it more cost-effective, I made sure I familiarized myself with the most important webpages, and what keywords they ranked for. Nearly all of the targeted key words were already slapped by Penguin and no where to be seen on the Google search engine.
Step Six: Fix error codes
Every website had errors in them. Using Screaming Frogand Webmasters I had found broken links, and anchor text spamming throughout the each website individually. Tedious. Old websites did not have php include files. This was not a fun step. all of the links are now nofollowed or fixed. Screaming Frog is a very useful tool for technical audits and I recommend it for your webmaster needs.
This is just a sample of the errors I cut into one picture. This was 1/3 of only 1 of the websites I was working with.
This was after, The website was textsmsmarketing.com a sms marketing website I was in charge of. I got approval to use this as an example.
Step Seven: Go back to basic SEO
Ah, basic SEO. Fixing duplicate content, and reoptimizing (the most important) webpages towarding new researched keywords and longtails. This was the most time consuming part of the process. But it felt great to look at my new Webmasters report and see the “no errors” for every website. This also was not a fun step. Sorry for not having a picture for this either, The websites have already been cleaned up with some fresh content and new targeted keywords.
After all of this work, I waited a week to check the results of my work. I reported a new webmasters & Analytics report as well (some of them haven’t been crawled yet so some waiting is still involved) However, noticeable changes had already began to come back. Leads were slowly increasing & with every new crawl from Google, our leads began to increase, however it’s very doubtful they were ever return to what they once were. There were too many websites to completely rectify every one, it would not be cost-effective.
Keywords have begun to come back. In highly competitive markets such as text message marketing textsmsmarketing has come back to the second page of Google SERPs.
Others have began to rise again and more examples will be shown later. Our leads haven’t reached the days before Penguin and probably won’t ever reach that point again, however a simple campaign with auditing and basic seo has proven successful for older websites that needed revamping.
*Revision – the spammy footer on textsmsmarketing.com was not added by me, I had gotten rid of those, however it would be interesting to see if Google begins to dock our page rankings*
Bare with me, I am still rather new to this. However, the lesson learned is that going back to the basics of SEO, and simplifying your material to look more natural as opposed to specifically attacking certain keywords gave me a slight advantage in the battle against the Penguin. It could have had other factors that are included, but the stressful hours spent on websites that were announced deceased seemed to have paid off.
Thanks for reading one of my first professional posts. If you have any suggestions or comments I would be grateful to hear them. Or if you have any stories you would like to share, I would love to hear them!