backlinking after Penguin downhill graphic

The Truth About Backlinking After Penguin

Backlinking after the Google Penguin updates has probably had more written about it than any previous update, except perhaps Panda.

But obviously the real issue is how the logic is affecting your ranking positions.

I have been trying a series of experiments on old and new domains to see what is actually working today, and you know what? it is pretty surprising.

I know a lot of people have complained bitterly about losing not just ranking position, but worse their entire livelihood after both Panda (spammy content) and Penguin (spammy backlinks).

And obviously, if you have a site that was doing very well with Adsense or some other affiliate deal, that has got to be really annoying.

But the changes are making ranking for long tail keywords a lot easier.

And I think the changes can be a game changer if you do it right.

Ranking Theory

It’s important you ‘get’ this next bit.

Google (and any decent search engine) wants to return results that solve a problem. I know you understand that already, but think about why it is important.

After Alta-Vista and earlier search engines, the only reason we all changed to Google was because, firstly, the results were far more relevant, and secondly, they were returned far quicker than anything previously.

On a dial-up modem this was really important. Nowadays with fibre optic you would think it hardly matters, but the number of indexed URL’s was already past 67 trillion in 2014 (according to Statistic Brain), so speed still matters.

Ranking on Page 1?

Now here’s the thing. If you look for any long tail keyword (that is, a keyword with very low traffic) and build a page for it, it is the easiest thing in the world to get it ranking very high.

Where it ranks and for how long, post Panda, depends on just two factors:

  1. Relevancy (LSI)
  2. Bounce rate (read more…)

Yes, I know many have said this before, but it holds true even more so after the algorithm updates. And it makes sense too.

If a search engine matches your page with a search query it does the following things:

  1. It ranks it (on what page and what position to show it) depending on…
  2. It checks its relevancy compared to all the other pages and…
  3. It checks what the visitor does should the page get clicked

That means if you have a title that closely matches (or answers) what somebody is searching for (myth explosion coming in a second…) the visitor is more likely to click on the link (it has very little if anything to do with whether Google sees the Title as being relevant – to look at it that way misses the point entirely).

The same goes for the meta description. You can keyword stuff it and do what you like, but to do so again misses the point (another myth busted here – it’s all about the visitor NOT the search engine).

It is a well known fact that search engines like Google don’t rely on the meta description. This was talked about back in 2002 on Sitepoint.

All we have to do is look at what the visitor does. If the information on the page is what the user wants, or solves the problem, they will stay and read it all. The bounce rate shoots down. Google sees that it has delivered something useful. That fact is recorded against the URL for that page.

If the user clicks away, that of course is recorded too.

Either result will determine where it gets displayed next time for the same keyword.

And remember we are talking about long tail here, not hard to rank for keywords.

CTR (click through rate) is also vital. If a page appears at position #8, is shown 1,000 times and is clicked on 10 times, we have another vital metric. It has nothing to do with what Google ‘thinks’ about the title. It has everything to do with what the searcher thinks about it.

If the page at #7 was shown 1,100 times and is clicked on 10 times, then there is a chance that it will be pushed to #8 and your page pushed up to #7 shortly.

And that depends on what the searchers do when landing on the page. If they stay there longer for your page than the page above you, then again there is a good reason to move your page higher up the rankings.

So how do I rank post Panda and Penguin?

  • Relevant content.
  • Make sure the page title promises to solve the problem.
  • Make sure the content solves the problem.
  • Make sure the content is long enough to let Google’s semantics based knowledge graph pick up its meaning.
  • Make sure the visitor stays on the page long enough to chalk it up as relevant – simply by staying there longer than the page that is ranking one position higher.

That’s really all you need to know. But understanding the logic as explained above means that you really will ‘get’ it and also see why this is actually a very good thing for the web.

The playing field is being levelled. You have just as much chance as anyone else provided you stick to ranking long tail keywords.


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