The world of SEO was rocked once again on 24th April when Google set their Penguin update live onto the unsuspecting masses.
The response to the update has been massive – some sites saw rises and others saw massive declines. Anti-Penguin sentiment is high and so far over 600 people on change.org have signed a petition demanding that Penguin be overturned. The update impacted around 3.1% of all search enquiries in English speaking countries, Google confirmed.
What had been previously dubbed as Google Search Analyst Matt Cutts’ ‘Over-optimisation penalty’ instead focused largely on removing what is known as ‘webspam’.
Google’s guidelines on webspam refer to a number of commonly practised SEO techniques, including keyword stuffing and link schemes. Google describes the latter as:
- Links intended to manipulate PageRank
- Excessive reciprocal links or excessive link exchanging
- Buying or selling links that pass PageRank
- Links to webspammers or ‘bad neighbourhoods’ (porn, gambling sites etc.) on the web
If you’ve seen your rankings and traffic drop since 24th April then it’s likely you’ve been participating in one of these link building methods or you have been engaging in other practices that fall outside of Google’s Webmaster Quality Guidelines. Google has been talking for years about cracking down on linkbuilding methods it deems to be against its guidelines and the Penguin update to its search algorithm demonstrates that the search giant is dedicated to tackling what it perceives as webspam.
The message that Google Penguin has sent out to many sites is a strong one. Google has always been an advocate of websites that benefit user experience and frowned upon those that enact deceptive or manipulative behaviour so Penguin, along with the Panda update last year, is continuing the clamp down on these types of sites.
If your site is one of the ones adversely affected by Penguin, what can you do to ensure that it returns to its former glory?
Here’s a short rundown of points you should consider when performing SEO on your site:
- Create unique, worthwhile content – Google loves new, original content which people want to share across social media platforms. If you’re duplicating or spinning the same old tired content again and again then you’re doing something wrong.
- Ensure the links you build are ‘natural’ – A common theme of companies that have been affected by the Penguin update is their severe lack of natural links. If you are buying links, engaging in comment spam practices or linking to dangerous sites then you’re going to get smacked down by Penguin, hard.
- Don’t have too many ads above the page fold – This one’s been around since Panda launched last year, but Google hates sites that have more Adsense than actual sense. If your site has ads, either keep it minimal or below the fold.
- Improve the user experience - Does your site load slowly, are your pages full of irrelevant keywords or do you have a lot of doorway pages that are only placed on your site to draw traffic? If so, Google will punish you for it. Make every aspect of your site user friendly – focus on education rather than solely marketing.
These updates to Google’s search algorithm are becoming more commonplace as time goes on. Google will only continue to get smarter at punishing the sites that break its rules, so rather than getting trapped in a constant cycle of fearing for your company’s rankings when the next update rolls around it’s important to take these measures to ensure that you pre-empt any change the search engine will make. If not then, like the Penguin, your business will be left out in the cold.