Tips for Pigeon and Penguin-proofing Your Local Search Campaigns

Oct 30, 2014

While any Google algorithm update can cost you valuable search rankings and disrupt the flow of traffic to your website, the Pigeon and Penguin updates are two particularly hard-hitting animals that have affected a large number of local websites. You can go a long way towards keeping your website safe from these predatory animals by understanding the SEO practices that are under scrutiny by these updates.

how to penguin and pigeon proof websitesWhat the Pigeon Update is Looking For
Google’s Pigeon update primarily added new distance and location ranking parameters to the local search equation. By adding a number of organic search indicators to local search, Google has somewhat blurred the line between organic and pure local search. As a result, local businesses in a number of verticals have reportedly lost rankings to large directory sites such as Yelp, Trip Advisor, and UrbanSpoon.

The Pigeon update has not devalued any SEO techniques per se, but has impacted the search algorithm nonetheless by weighing more heavily in favor of sites that incorporate strong organic search signals not commonly found in the typical local website.

How to Protect Your Website from Pigeon Penalties
In essence, local webmasters need to think more like an organic search marketer as opposed to thinking purely local.

Start with on-page optimization of your website. Every one of your web pages needs to have accurate and descriptive title and heading tags. All photos need to have proper alt image tags. Take advantage of Google’s use of semantic search by optimizing your pages in terms of topic phrases instead of specific keywords. All content should be of the highest quality possible, relevant to your niche, and consist of no less than 500 words. Adding location-centered content would be helpful.

Make sure that your business has an accurate listing with all directories appropriate for your niche and locality.

Maintain a consistent social media presence, and be sure to link all of your social profiles to your business website. Don’t forget to update and optimize your Google+ Local profile.

What the Penguin Update is Targeting
The Penguin update addresses a number of link-related issues such as

  • Keyword-stuffed content.
  • Lack of diversity in anchor text and overuse of exact match anchor text.
  • Overly aggressive internal linking.
  • Links from low-quality, spammy directory listings.
  • Too many inbound links from low-quality or irrelevant sites.
  • Unnatural-appearing inbound links.

How to Penguin-proof Your Website
In short, you need to pursue quality links, and remove or disavow any bad ones you may already have.

Think quality over quantity in your link building efforts. A link from a spammy, low authority site will not provide any “ranking juice” to your site and most likely will earn you a penalty. Your ideal link prospects will be sites with decent Domain and Page Authority numbers.

The best way to avoid Penguin problems is to mix up every element of your link building campaign. Seek out links from diverse sites and blogs. Vary your anchor text with non-target keyword terms. Throw in an occasional link from an irrelevant but high-authority site just to keep things natural looking.