Did The Penguin Kill SEO?
While Batman was able to take down the Penguin in Batman Returns, it appears we have a true David and Goliath battle on our hands between Google and the SEO industry they helped to create.
As the dust now settles from the latest Google Penguin update it appears to many experienced SEO’s that Google has “shifted the goal posts” in the most dramatic way ever.
After years of telling website owners and SEO’s that certain criteria needed to be met in order to rank on the Google SERPS they have now taken a complete 90-Degree turn and overnight, decided that no longer are these strategies correct but if you are implementing them, you will most likely be penalised for it.
The primary criteria that I am talking about above relates mostly to site design and anchor text backlinks.
From a site design perspective, I think that in appealing to sites displaying their Adsense advertising program they encouraged a site structure and layout that they now frown upon. Although I have never been an advocate of Adsense loaded sites, I have certainly had enough clients request them over the years to know that they are out there.
From a linkbuilding and anchor text perspective, while I acknowledge that there are certainly many black hat marketers who have taken advantage of this particular ranking factor, the result of giving links so much credibility was that many companies considered this a necessary evil to compete in the rankings although through the nature of backlinks, even white hat linkbuilders were told they needed to build to variations of exact match anchor text and taught that there aren’t too many people searching Google for “Click Here” in order to find any company…..
While Google has always had ranking factors that calculated the value of links it appears that this latest update has gone from devaling bad links to outright penalising companies for this practice.
With their latest update, Google is now targeting sites that they consider to be webspam or over optimised.
Here’s the official announcement:
In the next few days, we’re launching an important algorithm change targeted at webspam. The change will decrease rankings for sites that we believe are violating Google’s existing quality guidelines. We’ve always targeted webspam in our rankings, and this algorithm represents another improvement in our efforts to reduce webspam and promote high quality content. While we can’t divulge specific signals because we don’t want to give people a way to game our search results and worsen the experience for users, our advice for webmasters is to focus on creating high quality sites that create a good user experience and employ white hat SEO methods instead of engaging in aggressive webspam tactics….this algorithm affects about 3.1% of queries in English to a degree that a regular user might notice.
I am not quite sure what 3% of the English speaking internet that they were refering to in the release of the Penguin Update (originally the Webspam Update) however just over two weeks afterwards many SEO’s are feeling the pinch and hundreds of thousands of Indian Linkbuilders are out of work!
If you consider this in context however the warning signs were there….Google actually started sending signals about this with the Panda algorithm update over 12 months ago and more recent changes that specifically targeted low-quality content but the Penguin update took this another step forward by targeting webspam strategies such as keyword stuffing, link networks, redirected pages and duplicate content.
The lines of the Penguin update were also blurred by a Panda update just before and another in the days just after, the timing doesn’t really matter, the result is that now we have the “New Google” and in order to appear on their search engine you need to play by their rules.
There are really just two groups of sites moving forward, those that were penalised and those that weren’t.
If you were penalised by Penguin….
One of the first things to do is to review the Google Quality Guidelines and posts online about Penguin recovery. There is far more information out there than I can include in this article however I will be posting some more tips in the coming days as we continue to re-optimise some sites to ensure they comply with all of the on-site ranking factors.
Other than the valuable on-site factors the other critical area to analyse is your backlink and anchor text profiles. There are a number of backlink tools online, simply do a search for “Free Online Backlink Checker Tools” and provided Google hasn’t de-indexed them all, there should be a few there….otherwise, there is always that “other search engine”, Bing!
If you weren’t penalised by Penguin….
The thing to remember about the Google penalties is that they can be both manual and algorithymic so if you think you got lucky and might have been sliding a bit too close to the edge then you need to re-assess your SEO strategies.
Our best recommendation for any site is to continue producing rich, valuable content and to ensure that your on-site optimisation is all in order.
Filed under: Search Engine Optimisation
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