By Amrit Hallan published May 10, 2012

How to Survive the Google Penguin Update with Effective Content Writing

survive google penguin update, CMIIf search engine traffic from Google matters to your business, then there is little chance that you haven’t heard of the recent Google Penguin update. What exactly is this?

Apparently, on April 24, 2012 Google activated new ranking algorithm changes to take care of websites and blogs that indulge in:

  • Excessive link building with no regard for quality
  • Deceptive doorway pages
  • Lots of keyword stuffing
  • Publishing lots of meaningless content just to get traffic from search engines

Which, basically, means all websites that don’t comply with Google’s SEO guidelines.

In terms of improving search quality, this is a good change. It is also good for businesses and entrepreneurs legitimately trying to get good rankings without the headache of competing with websites that try to game the system.

But, as happens with most “simple” changes like this, there has been some collateral damage. Although Google claims that the new update has affected just 3 percent of websites, there have been multiple declarations across the internet of it causing a bloodbath. People are even going to the extent of laying off their employees and considerably scaling down their businesses.

Are you one of those negatively affected by the Google Penguin update? If you are, you can salvage the situation by taking corrective measures. If you’re not, you should also take preventive measures so that you do not get caught in the fray the next time something like this happens.

How do you do this? With effective content writing, of course.

What is effective content writing, and how does it help?

Effective content writing provides the true value. It is not done simply to improve your search engine rankings. Although there is nothing wrong in trying to improve your rankings, the problem comes up when you write and publish content for that purpose alone.

The days of cheap and low-cost SEO articles are rapidly going away — thankfully. With its successive updates, Google is trying to push forward content that really deserves its place in the ranking index. In turn, this means pushing down content that doesn’t carry much value: Content that just rambles on will not be ranked well no matter how brilliantly it has been “optimized.”

So how do you create effective content that Google and other search engines love? Here are a few things you can keep in mind while creating content for your website or blog:

  • Use your keywords only when needed: Keywords are great, but don’t over-use them because this will make your content reek of spam. For instance, if I needlessly go on repeating “great content writer” everywhere on my website, not only will I fail to rank well for the phrase, I might even get penalized and removed from the rankings altogether. Use keywords but only when there is a relevant context. Don’t worry too much about keyword-optimizing your copy – just focus on quality and value.
  • Make your content social: Create your content in such a manner that it gains some popularity on social media and social networking websites. This way you don’t have to depend solely on Google for all your traffic. Create compelling and meaningful headlines. Provide content that is bang on target. Develop an original style and focus on quality rather than quantity.
  • Create a resource that is highly useful: An ability to write and publish content is a great privilege. There is so much you can teach and communicate to your audience. Make use of it. Whether you share your own information, or gather it from the internet, make sure you create content that addresses topics your audience is interested in and will have a use for. This will naturally make it irresistible for search engines, bloggers, and social media users, alike.
  • Create content for other websites and blogs: Prepare an editorial calendar for writing articles and guest blog posts that can be published on websites and blogs other than your own. This helps you gain new exposure and earn quality backlinks – just make sure you only offer your content to trusted and reputable content publishers.
  • Create engaging content for online forums and blog comment sections: Online forums are still alive and kicking, and so are blog comment communities. Great interactions go on at these places. There is a misconception that you interact on online forums and blogs just to get backlinks, and when you don’t get those link benefits, there is no use leaving comments there. Yes, sometimes you get some link juice, but even if you don’t, the added exposure you get — and the potential for greater traffic — is well worth the effort.
  • Regularly publish a newsletter: Newsletter publishing still rules the roost, as evidenced by the many quality email marketing newsletter publishing services that have been cropping up. It is the best way of keeping in touch with your readers and subscribers, and once you have built yourself a mailing list of a few thousand subscribers, you can instantly broadcast your ideas and offers to these people without having to rely upon search engine traffic.
  • Maximize your conversion rate: Re-examine your content writing and see how well it is working to convert your website visitors into customers. A higher conversion rate can compensate for low traffic periods, so look for ways to measure, analyze, and improve your content wherever necessary to make sure that those who do find your site (through search or through other means) are getting what they want from the experience.

All the points mentioned above will not only help you improve your search engine rankings, they will also strengthen your overall online presence — both on your own blog or website and across the web. Content writing with integrity and purpose is the way to go after the arrival of Penguin.

Want more content marketing inspiration? Download our ultimate eBook with 100 content marketing examples.

Author: Amrit Hallan

Amrit Hallan provides professional content writing services. He helps businesses and individuals improve their overall content quality and, consequently, conversion rate. He regularly shares his thoughts on content writing, content publishing, and content strategy on his Credible Content blog. You can follow him on Twitter @ContentGyan.

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  • dougkessler

    Excellent summary — thanks!


  • Nick Stamoulis

    To improve your presence not only in the search engines but across the entire web it’s necessary to create good content.  Content should be created with target audience members in mind first, not the search engines.  Keywords are important, but should only be included if they can fit naturally.  

    • Amrit Hallan

      Good point Nick. By the end of the day what matters is the quality of content on your website. It gets you targeted traffic and it converts your visitors into your paying customers and clients, or maybe subscribers. So every content marketing strategy needs to evolve towards creating quality content for visitors and ideally, good rankings among search engines like Google should be considered as an add-on, a natural byproduct of quality content.

  • John Fox

    I’d also add: Stop relying on Google for your traffic. I know you preach this message, too, Joe, so it’s nothing new to regular readers. Putting all your eggs in one basket never made sense and it especially doesn’t today. There are many other avenues to pursue, and if this latest update doesn’t provide the incentive to broaden your horizons, nothing will.

    • Amrit Hallan

      Hello John. Thanks for your feedback. Yes, you’re absolutely right and I have been of late mentioning this on my Twitter account — that it’s not prudent to just depend on search engine traffic in general and Google in particular. There are many channels that can be utilized for creating a constant stream of targeted traffic.

  • Jeff Berezny

    Great post! What are your thoughts about companies employing SEO specialists?  Is this age going away and being replaced with content optimization specialists?  In other words – after we get past the basic principles of SEO (ie: naming images, pages, alt text, tags, keywords etc) all we should really worry about is awesome, relevant content?  Or are we missing out if we don’t have an SEO specialist comb our sites?   -Jeff

    • Amrit Hallan

      Hello Jeff.

      I will be frank, I’m not an expert on this, but as a content writer I have repeatedly observed businesses doing quite well without caring about Seo. I myself have spent lots of time trying to optimize my website (with not much success I must confess). I think there is nothing wrong in trying to create and organize your content in such a manner  that it becomes easier for search engine crawlers to make sense of it, the problem arises when we begin to rely solely upon search engine traffic while ignoring  other channels. There has to be a mix of different activities and strategies.

      Regarding the need to work with SEO  companies, the actual SEO companies don’t just make tweaks to your website, they also help you analyse your overall web traffic and suggest changes accordingly. So they’re going to remain in the business for a long time I think.

  • Richard M Barrios

    Nice article we are currently doing about 5 out of the 7 items you suggested and working on 2 others.  As well as other things that proven to be helpful over time.  I must tell you making those changes have made a big difference.  After the Google algorithm update my company kept or improved 80% our keyword and phrase positions and the other 20% lost about an average of 10 to 20 spots.  But out of no where we gained 40 spots on 2 key phrases all the way to page one.

    • Amrit Hallan

      That’s great Richard. Thanks for sharing some real-time insight.

  • mogawk

    Great content is key as it is a good way to get natural links back to your site

  • ruck

    Excellent set of tips here to consider. You can see Google going more social with all the Penguin updates. Wait, Social IS the new SEO I almost forgot

  • Amit Shaw

    Really Excellent Points Amrit. For me quality matters not Quantity. We should write for Our readers not for SE.
    BTW thanks for sharing this.

  • Richard M Barrios

    I hope you don’t mind I would like to comment to Jeff.
    Its usually good to bring a Consultant in every quarter to help guide you in the right direction and give you advise on what you are doing right and wrong.  It’s worth the money to get a second opinion.  You will see his or her trust worthiness if their suggestions prove to be effective. But if you got your basics down, regular updates and good content will never hurt only help.

  • iFuture Vision

    Write your article naturally and don’t bother about keyword density. You should use your keyword but in most genuine way 

  • Hi

    many sites good or bad had killed by this google update

  • Cheryl Smithem

    Thank you for this article. As a public relations and web development firm, we counsel clients to create a content strategy and editorial calendar and most tell us that they don’t have the time to do so. We find that many people want a magic bullet. And that there are still those who believe that just by paying a firm $300 a month, they can be at the top of Google…and when you ask them what the firm is doing for them…they don’t know.  Of course, we’ll gladly plan and create content for clients, but many young companies fail to budget resources to either accomplish content development or believe services cost too much. We’ve found that creating good content that positions our firm helps us in the search for new clients. We’ve also found that companies who put in place a content creation/curation plan, also do better. I think the question small companies need to ask themselves is, “what is the price of NOT doing this?” 

  • Alexandre Mouravskiy

    Hi Amrit, good post, but a couple of inconsistencies with what the data is showing: So far, there is little to no indication that Penguin has targeted any actual on-page “spam tactics”. Things like keyword stuffing, duplicate content, poor content, etc. appear to not have played any major role in who got hit and who didn’t. Which makes sense, since Penguin has been openly talked about by everyone from Google employees to top SEOs as specifically targeting a websites “link-graph”, or the types and structure of the links they receive from external pages. 

    In other words, if you have a ton of spammy links coming in, the best content in the world won’t save you, and if you have an immaculately clean link profile, you can have the most abysmal content in the world and this update won’t have touched you at all. 

    It’s also not nearly the catastrophe many people are making out to be. Having been following the buzz around Penguin since it hit (the sites I oversee SEO for actually went up in rankings across the board, btw), many of the people complaining about getting penalized or deindexed were on the border-line between spam and legitimate at best, and downright plagues on the internet at worst. Sure, there were some innocent bystanders caught in the cross-fire, but most of the complaints come from people who were either ignorant of Google’s webmaster guidelines in regards to building backlinks or chose to ignore them, and are now upset about getting slapped on the wrist. 

    And this, to answer another poster up-thread, is why SEO is still important. Writers write. SEO’s make sure that what they write makes sense for improving your rankings, help you to build strong backlinks, plan out your objectives and strategy for competing, and do 101 additional things that content generators don’t bother to think about or simply don’t know.

  • Yimvirak

    Google Penguin isat filtering spam websites, however most of the top 10 result websites are not the great contents as Google and Visitors want yet.

  • Tilak Kumar

    Very informative post..

  • RafaelRezOliveira

    Hey guys! Very nice to see you’ve used my Google Penguin image in this the post! Very glad to see it here at CMI!

  • Evelyn Braile

    As a Kennesaw State University senior, I took a social media course for Public Relations.  Throughout the course, I created online content through blogs and social media.  My personal brand (my name) rose in rank from being negligible to the first 6 pages of a Google search.  Content has to be original. Some businesses in chiropractic (my field) rely on marketing firms to produce mass content for many chiropractic websites/offices.  Through my recent research online for these businesses, it looks like Penguin has decided these websites have spam content, and have drastically reduced their ranking.  Yes!  A victory for those of us creating original content!

  • Sarmista

    Hi Amrit,
    Great article ! Thanks for sharing such a valuable article with us . After Google Penguin Update it is really very essential to provide unique and relevant content on  websites.


    Avoid hidden text or hidden links on your blog. Ok, to make it more simple, if you present text, link or any information to search engines differently than to visitors, then they are called as Hidden Text or Hidden Link. That is a bad practice and your site could be easily penalized for that. Normally people use CSS to make them as small as possible. Some even make the font size smaller directly.

  • Tyrone Catania

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  • NCrypted

    For fast ranking on Google never put link on keyword only give open link like, OR write like “Visit or more detail : From these techniques Google never spam your keywords.

  • Technology Internet

    Content is king. Idea provided by you is really very helpful to writers. Now we can see better ranked content on search engine. Thanks for nice post –