Post-Penguin Traffic: How To Increase Traffic After A Penguin Penalty
We know a lot about what to do when a site is affected by a Penguin penalty or related algorithm update: clean up backlinks, remove as many unnatural links as possible, submit a disavow file and send in a reconsideration request. But then what?
When a a penalty has been dealt with, a lot of webmasters expect to see their traffic jump back up and return to the previous levels. Unfortunately, the reality looks more like this:
There's very little change.
To understand why this is happening, we have to go back to the basics of web authority. Think of links as a currency. Google uses links to determine which sites have the most value. The more link currency you have, the more valuable the site is. However, the importance and authority of countless sites were being inflated artificially, through an abundant use of low quality links. Google wasn't into this fake currency, and decided to strip it of its value.
We could use real counterfeiting as an analogy. Let's say you found a way to get a lot of money, really fast, and you suddenly find yourself a billionaire. Sweet! But then you discover that the money you acquired was counterfeit. Are you still a billionaire? Not really. I suppose you can still try to use that money...until you get caught.
It's the same concept that's being employed here. Google has discovered that a bunch of sites were using counterfeit link currency to manipulate their position in their rankings. And yes, a lot of people did it. Because that's how SEO was done. I get it. But that doesn't mean it was any less counterfeit, so Google decided to put an end to it.
Through the recovery process, Google ensured that webmasters removed that artificial link value. That's what happens during the disavow and removal process, and that's what webmasters are apologizing for in their reconsideration requests. Google essentially empowered webmasters to take control of the situation and expedite their path to recovery, but it doesn't mean the site belonged back on top.
It's been my experience that the people who are hit by Penguin will continue to lose traffic until there's virtually nothing less, if they just ignore the link issues. It's also my experience that there's no way to move forward until that Penguin business is properly taken care of.
Increasing Traffic Again Post-Penguin Penalty
So, how does one move forward after the links are cleaned up? By getting more links. ...Wait, hear me out!
There's a big fat difference between link building in 2014 and link building methods of the past. Instead of paying $500 for 5000 links, you need to find ways to earn those links. There are no shortcuts. You shouldn't even need to build a single link of your own. Instead, just make content that's actually worth sharing.
In fact, let's call this "link earning" and talk about what it means to earn links. You earn your links when your content is so awesome that people can't help but share it.
Think of what you look at on Facebook, or what you're emailing to friends, or the types of sites you're actually bookmarking. What do you want to read when you're not working? Think of how people engage and interact on the internet, and then find ways to contribute to that.
Social media can play a big role in this, but it's not that social media in itself is valuable. Instead, it's the way people contribute to social media that makes it such an integral part of natural SEO. People will share things that they think are useful and funny, and you never once have to ask them to.
Here are a few ideas, off the top of my head:
- Write a blog post that's funny or helps resolve a challenge
- Host a scholarship for local universities and ensure students get the info from your site
- Sponsor a local cause, sports team or event, then get people talking about it
- Contact your local newspaper and offer to be a source for stories (then actually contribute when called upon)
- Create awesome infographics, then share them far and wide
- Develop a series of online videos that are informative or entertaining
The websites that I've seen recover from Penguin, and thrive in a post-Penguin environment are the ones that have adapted to the new era of link earning. They are developing great content, that adds something of value to the lives of others. Whether it's a good laugh, or a tool that nobody else has, or a YouTube channel that profiles every last inch of the city—these sites have found a way to engage users.
I recognize that Penguin recovery is frustrating, it's time-consuming and it can feel extraordinarily disappointing when traffic doesn't skyrocket overnight. I've talked to numerous industry leaders who are going through this, and the feelings tend to be similar. But let me tell you, recovery is possible. It can be done, and it can be done by you.