Penguin created an uproar, no doubt about it. If you’re an avid reader of SEO news, you’ve probably read more than a handful about why Penguin ruined Google. But, like we’ve talked about before, Penguin didn’t ruin Google; it was a reset button.

Penguin is about going back to the basics of SEO. No, this isn’t about white hat, grey hat, or black hat. And it’s not only about webspam either. It’s about basic, high-quality SEO – something severely lacking in the internet marketing world at this moment (hence the update).

This is important stuff, too. In a few ways, Google’s a bit like the IRS. Just because you’re ignorant of tax law doesn’t mean you’re protected from severe penalties. And just because you’re ignorant of basic SEO practices doesn’t mean you’re protected from Google penalties.

So what are basic SEO practices? Hold on tight… you’re about to find out!

Know Thy Links

This is a big one. A BIG one. 

Penguin penalized a lot of websites due to improper use of backlinks. And let’s face it – a lot of it is probably due to webmasters outsourcing backlink building. It can be tempting to buy 500 PR4 backlinks for $50. Don’t do it.

Why not? You have no control over those links. You may get 500 backlinks, but they may all have the same exact anchor text. Talk about a red flag! Also, the links may come from sites Google’s already marked as spam. If you have several links pointing to your website directly from spam sites, you better believe it’s not good for long-term rankings.

It’s crucially important to know where your links are coming from. It’s important to know the anchor text for these incoming links, as well as what pages they point to.

Here’s a lesson in SEO basics. Google wants to see a natural link profile. What would your website look like if all your links were from people naturally linking to your website? Would they all contain the exact same anchor text and point to the homepage? Absolutely not!

The anchor text would vary, they’d point all over the place – it’d look like people linked based on what pages they liked. Fancy that!

“More is better” does not apply to SEO. Sure, spamming your own website with hundreds of backlinks may boost your site in the rankings… until it doesn’t. You will get penalized – Penguin is absolute proof of this.

What About Keywords?

This is another area Penguin hit hard – improper use of keywords and on-page overoptimization. Keywords are great for growing a website, but—just like links—they should be natural.

It’s not natural to have your main keyword in every single page title. It’s not natural to have one keyword sprinkled liberally throughout your main articles.

However, it is natural to optimize individual posts. This means doing keyword research, then crafting a post around a specific set of keywords and LSI phrases. But don’t go crazy. Generally, going over 2% keyword density is a bad idea. 

You want the keywords to be natural sounding to the human mind. When someone reads your content, do they notice awkward keywords? Read over your content before you post it to make sure. If there are awkward keywords, realize this raises a red flag for Google. It proves you’re optimizing your site for a search engine – not a human viewer. This is a big pet peeve for both Panda and Penguin and will result in penalties.

What is “Natural?”

Picture your favorite website. What do you like about the website? Unique, creative, and eye-opening content? A fantastic design and user experience? Do you find yourself incessantly linking to this website on Facebook, Twitter, or through your own website?

This is a natural website – a website designed to deliver value to its visitors. If you were blinded by awkward keyword placement the second you visited the site, would you stick around? Would you link to it? Of course not!

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