Ever since it launched in 2012, Google’s Penguin algorithm has aimed to penalize websites in their search index that use black-hat SEO techniques involving link schemes — a practice that violates Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

The most recent Penguin update, 2.1, was released on October 4th, 2013 and impacted around 1% of sites listed on Google. Many sites in this 1% were removed from Google entirely, rendering their site virtually non-existent; if a site isn’t on Google, it will be difficult (even impossible) for anyone to find it.

After Penguin 2.1, many penalized websites subsequently made a diligent effort to abide by Google’s guidelines, primarily by removing text ads passing PageRank, optimized anchor text links, poor quality backlinks and/or any link schemes. But since Google requires a massive data refresh in order to evaluate changes on indexed pages, the penalized sites remained in limbo for nearly a year, resulting in disastrous consequences.

Imagine if your website was non-indexed by Google for almost an entire year. Your visitor count would decrease until it reached zero.

To prevent your website from getting the death strike from Google, it’s worth preparing for Google’s latest Penguin update, which was officially rolled out Friday (October 17th). When optimizing your website for Penguin 3.0, keep the following in mind:

Carefully Review Google’s Webmaster Guidelines

Most webmasters know the obvious within Google’s Webmaster Guidelines — that any sort of paid links or link schemes are big no-no’s. If Google catches you selling links, either by noting an abundance of poor-quality backlinks or capricious link swaps, your site will decrease in PageRank or lose its indexing altogether.

Beyond this, there are many aspects of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines that are worth reviewing. You can peruse them all here. In addition to more obvious guidelines like having original content and permitting search bots to crawl your site, there are specific guidelines regarding corporate content management systems (ensuring that created pages are automatically crawl-able), universal browser compatibility, If-Modified-Since HTTP header support, and other more obscure tidbits. Make sure to review Google’s guidelines personally to ensure your own website is abiding by them.

Google Values Content and Uptime More Than You May Think

Sure, Google cares a lot about squashing link schemes and black-hat SEO techniques, but webmasters sometimes overlook Google’s main aim: to provide their users with the best search engine results possible. To accomplish this, they want to list pages prioritized by rich original content and server reliability.

Rich original content is self-explanatory. Plagiarism will be caught by Google very easily, as will poorly written content based around a keyword or similar act of SEO desperation. If your site is designed for search engine crawling instead of users’ enjoyment, Google will penalize you accordingly, so be sure to always feature rich content published frequently.

Test Your Website Ahead of the Penguin Release…or in this Case, as Soon as Possible Post-Release

Additionally, having a reliable web server with speedy results and stable uptime is extremely important when preparing for Penguin 3.0. Apica‘s high capacity load testing and web performance monitoring makes it easy to test your website to ensure that everything is running smoothly, that your server is healthy, and that visitors from all around the world can access your website quickly and without errors.

An unstable server or poorly coded page can cause Google to penalize your website, even if it’s not in any violation of link schemes. This is especially the case with Penguin updates, so be sure to prepare your website as necessary to avoid the risk of Google de-indexing your site entirely.