If you've seen the phrase "Penguin attack" online recently, don't worry. No one's being invaded by an army of adorable sea birds. Penguin is the nickname given to Google's most recent algorithm update.
Penguin launched late last month with the purpose of weeding out what Google considers over-optimized sites from the natural search results. That is, sites that attempt to game the search algorithms by incorporating excess on- and off-page SEO factors.
The update was estimated to have affected the natural search results for approximately 3 percent of search queries. The sites most influenced by the update have been those that are database driven or mainly aggregate information, according to web data firm Searchmetrics.
To determine whether your site was affected, check your Google Analytics account or other web data reporting tool to see if you experienced a drop in traffic on April 24, when the update launched. Only traffic drops that occurred on this exact day should be considered to have occurred as the result of the Penguin update.
If your site saw traffic drop as a result of the Penguin update, aware that this has occurred because some element of your website -- whether something in your on-page content or any of your site's backlinks -- has been deemed web spam by the newest version of Google's ranking algorithm.
To attempt to repair the damage, or protect your site in the future, consider taking the following three actions:
1. Focus on content quality over on-site optimization. You don't need to optimize every single on-page element on every single page of your site. Build content that visitors naturally want to consume.
2. Eliminate overt web spam. If you have improperly copied or "scraped" content, keyword-stuffed content, doorway pages that redirect readers to sites the search engines can't see or any other items Google considers to be violations of its Webmaster Guidelines, get rid of them as soon as you're able to.
3. Monitor your backlink profile. It takes time but you'll want to build high-value, highly-relevant backlinks to your site and monitor your backlink profile for low-quality links that others may build pointing back at your site. Use the free Majestic SEO or Open Site Explorer tools to do this, and document your efforts to contact link spammers and have negative backlinks removed.
Related: Can Too Much SEO Be a Bad Thing?
There's no single set of actions that will guarantee your site's recovery from a Penguin-related traffic drop. But consistently improving the quality of both your on-page and off-page SEO can go a long way toward protecting your site in the future.
Has your site been affected by Google's Penguin update? Let us know in the comments below.
AJ Kumar is co-founder of Single Grain, a digital marketing agency based in San Francisco. Single Grain specializes in helping startups and larger companies with search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media and various other marketing strategies.