There are 185 million active websites in the world today, with over 1 trillion unique pages found by Google and millions more added each day. With the shear size of the web, it’s amazing that Google is even able to identify and rank the 10 most relevant pages on the web for any given topic in any location. And they are only getting better at it. Unfortunately for some website owners, this involves frequent algorithm updates, usually on a large scale affecting rankings for high-value keywords.
The most recent update, dubbed Penguin, is the latest step forward for Google in presenting what they have determined to be the most relevant information for users based on the search terms being used. And as with other algorithm updates, there are always going to be those that suffer from it. With that in mind, I decided to share how to identify if you have been chilled by the Google Penguin algorithm update, what we have discovered about it and how to respond to it.
Penguin is the name given to the fairly significant algorithm update that Google launched on April 25 of this year. Following on from the Google Panda algorithm update in early 2011, Penguin too was focused on increasing the quality of content being presented in their search results.
More specifically, this algorithm update was targeted at reducing what Google dubs ‘webspam’, which in summary refers to low quality websites and black hat content. In particular, as with Panda and Google’s general focus, it appears that relevance is now playing an even larger role in both content and incoming links.
It is worth noting that with recent updates from Google, unnatural incoming links can now even give a negative value to to a website’s rankings. This is a change from their previous policy of simply ignoring or devaluing links and with the penguin algorithm Google can now identify even more inorganic links.
Additionally, while many of the changes were made in the initial algorithm update, some additional changes have already been made with Penguin 1.1 going out with a data refresh in early June.
Importantly, taking a hit in rankings from the penguin update is not the same as a penalty. Where a Google penalty is a site-specific punishment resulting in a complete site-wide drop in rankings, those affected by penguin have either had links devalued or their site devalued and have dropped in rankings for the optimised target keywords.
Most visibly, as outlined by Google, the penguin algorithm update has significantly reduced the value of any content considered to have keyword stuffing and spun content. However, other updates have also been identified through case studies around the world over the last couple of months.
In our research, we have uncovered the following list of SEO tactics that have been targeted by Penguin:
The simple answer is if your rankings took a sudden dive into the cold for your target keywords on April 25 or in the first week of June, chances are that you or some of your backlinks have been devalued by Google Penguin.
Knowing these primary changes, there are steps that any website owner or search engine optimiser can take to avoid being devalued by the penguin algorithm:
As always, the key is to be relevant and useful in everything you do. Any manipulation of content or keywords could be identified by Google and devalue your website. Your strategies should add value to the internet and help users find what they are looking for. In general, if it’s good for the user then it’s good for your rankings.
So you were hit with a drop in rankings at the end of April or start of June, what do you do now? If you were hit by the penguin algorithm updates, chances are you fall into one or more of the categories listed above. If you want to regain your rankings, you will need to resolve any issues with your website and link profile.
The nature of the internet is constantly changing; and Google is the law (at least when it comes to search). Recovering from being hit by the penguin algorithm update can take a lot of time and effort, but there are no shortcuts to pleasing Google. Take your time to resolve any potential issues and update your strategies moving forward. If you find the work is too much to handle internally, we are always here to help