Well, Google has thrown the cat among the pigeons again with its recent Google Penguin Update.

Google Penguin UpdateMany affiliate marketers have seen their traffic plummet in the last couple of weeks and site rankings have been affected as well. What’s more, searches for keyword phrases are tending to show sites with poor content above those with useful content, in the search results.

So What’s Going On?

Well, first of all, the Google Penguin update has proven to be very unsettling for those who do SEO and, let’s face it – that’s anyone who is making, or trying to make a living online. Even SEO professionals have been confounded by how their sites, which were consistently ranking on page 1 of Google (for their keyword) are now much further down the ranks or, even worse, nowhere to be seen.

So, once again, rumors that SEO is dead are starting to do the rounds.

What Has The Google Penguin Update Taken Aim At?

What seems to have happened with the recent algorithm update is that any site that used a ?money keyword?, (i.e. an exact-match keyword), as anchor text for over 60% of its incoming links has been negatively impacted.

On the other hand, sites that had a much more random distribution of anchor texts were not impacted by the Penguin update. It appears that if less than 50% of the incoming links to a site were “money keywords”, (that is exact-match keywords), then such a site went pretty much unscathed.

So the first thing to take from this is that you should mix up your anchor texts. This goes against traditional SEO advice but it makes sense when you think about it. It wouldn’t look very natural if the majority of links to your site all used the same anchor text. You’d expect, if other webmasters were adding a link to your site onto their blogs, that they’d use different anchor texts like: “click here to visit widget.com” or “check out this widgets site”, and so on.

So we all need to adopt this strategy when building links to our sites. Yes, some links won’t boost your site’s rank because the anchor text is not a targeted keyword but in the overall scheme of things, the more natural looking mix of anchor texts will prevent your sites from being penalized by Google.

Another Ranking Factor Change In The Google Penguin Update

Sites penalized by the Penguin update seem to have had very few inbound links from other sites in the same niche. That doesn’t mean that getting links from unrelated or non-relevant sites don’t count, it just means you have to be more circumspect about using links from sites in unrelated niches. Again, this is really just common sense.

Combining These Factors

Both of the above factors in the Google Penguin update suggest that Google is devaluing anchor text as a ranking factor in and of itself, and now the relevancy of anchor text to the site that its link appears on is taking higher precedence. In other words, a backlink for a “money keyword” on a site that’s related to the money keyword will carry more weight with Google than a backlink for that money keyword on a site unrelated to that keyword’s niche.

Makes you wonder how effective things like article marketing will be in the future, doesn’t it?

And then, if all your back links use just that one “money keyword” as anchor text, then that’s bad.

So How Should You Proceed?

Start adding more links to sites related to yours and mix up the anchor text you use in whatever links you build. Old ways of building links using semi-automated software like SENuke TNG will still work but you still will need to add links from related sites in your niche into the mix. And that probably means buying an additional tool or two for creating backlinks.

OK, So Summing Things Up

Blog networks now look to be a bad choice for a link building strategy. Several have closed down in recent weeks due to being de-indexed by Google, (thereby rendering the effectiveness of any backlinks on their blogs to “useless” status). Other tools are still in the game though.

The dust from the Google Penguin update hasn’t settled yet and many are taking a wait-and-see approach in the hopes that Google recognizes it’s made a bit of a mess with this update. Others think the changes are here to stay and we, as affiliate marketers, have got to roll with the punches.

There’s no doubt that the Google Penguin update has upset the affiliate marketing applecart. Google makes the rules and we have to play by them or get kicked out. That said, there’s a lot of grumbling about how Google are behaving in all aspects of their business and more and more people are switching to other search engines in frustration. It will be interesting to see what changes the next 5 years bring for search engines and those who rely on them for a living.

All the best,

Gary Nugent

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