Google’s Penguin Update: What Is It?
Google released its Penguin update, a search engine algorithm dedicated to the prevention of “overly” optimized websites reaching high rankings in its search results. A website that is “overly optimized” is one that has used a number of tactics to “unnaturally” increase its site ranking, and Google has warned that these sites would be targeted.
Basically, search engine optimization (SEO) marketing firms use various tactics, some of them good, some bad, to get a website to rank higher in the search engine results pages, or SERPs. The idea is to generate revenue for clients by increasing web traffic, and with it, potential costumers, to their clients’ pages.
*Take, for example of a decidedly awful website, the Sixties Press or have a look at SuperVideo. (It’s the perfect example of what Google doesn’t want to send you to, what a web surfer never wants to land on, and what you don’t want your site to look like. (*Shudder. If it does, well, you should just fix it. Now. Yes, we’re serious. We are pointing and laughing.)
However, it’s been a problem for the search engine that many site owners pay to have their site “optimized” but the tactics have produced yes, higher ranking websites, but the sites themselves have tended to be of very poor quality. This, in turn, puts Google’s reputation as the go-to search engine at risk. Hence, the need for Google to implement its new anti-spam updates. Panda debuted first, then Penguin was added just last week as a means to limit both the use of the tactics, and to increase the quality of the sites being returned in a given Google search.
Google’s Matt Cutts explained the changes on its “Inside Search” blog.
“The goal of many of our ranking changes is to help searchers find sites that provide a great user experience and fulfill their information needs. We also want the “good guys” making great sites for users, not just algorithms, to see their effort rewarded. To that end we’ve launched Panda changesthat successfully returned higher-quality sites in search results. And earlier this year we launched a page layout algorithm that reduces rankings for sites that don’t make much content available “above the fold,” he blogged, prior to the Penguin update.
“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.”
Is Penguin a Good Thing?
After its release April 24, many site owners posted angry musings on forums about Google’s desire to “destroy small business” or other negative responses to the new update.
However, it may be actually be a boon to marketing firms that practice quality SEO tactics, and who have content writers who generate quality for their site owners. The bad guy here is the the bad website, (one that suffers from being hacked, poorly linked, has sad content, etc.) not the use of search engine optimization tactics.
Granted, if you are sufficiently annoyed, you can head over to the Change.org anti-penguin petition and add your name to the list. There’s also an online Penguin feedback form. But, we all know that Google has phenomenal cosmic power and the pitiful cries for help just fall on anti-SEO’d ears, right?
Well, maybe not.
Like it or not, the new anti-spam Penguin update from Google has arrived. To which just about every SEO marketing company has reacted to by collectively saying, “Now what?”
First things first, did the Penguin update affect your site?
You’ve done the work on the site by producing quality content, and a ensured that it has things to offer the online community. You take pride in your work, and if your company, or client has rightfully earned its placed among the highest page rankings, you’ll naturally want to protect it.
You’ll want to take a look at your web traffic. Don’t know how to do it?
Google Analytics is a great place for companies to start looking at their page ranks, and it helps to demystify website search engine results page (SERP) data. The Penguin update was implemented by Google on April 24, and you can look at your web traffic after that date and if there’s a significant drop, you can easily determine that Penguin gave your site the boot.
Many website owners were angry, yes, but to be fair, the changes were announced prior to being implemented, and that represents a break from Google’s previous policy regarding updates.
By most accounts, legitimate SEO marketing firms are pleased with the changes, since it helps sites with quality content rise to the top over their spam-infused counterparts.
There are ways that a website owner can make sure its sites aren’t getting pushed lower in the SERP, and that is by avoiding the more usual SEO mistakes. Glenn Gabe, recommends avoiding any unnatural links, comment spam, paid text links, and the like.
However, Matt Cutts did acknowledge on his blog that the second biggest hit that many sites get from the updates are from sites that have been hacked, so SEO tactics aren’t always to blame. Either way, the new Penguin update gives site owners plenty to work on.
The very best place to go for information on what to do and what not to do to make sure that your website isn’t overly optimized, is to go to the source. The best source for what does and doesn’t fly with Google is its webmaster guidelines. The guidelines include tips on content, technical aspects and quality.
In order to keep your website or your clients’ website off of Google’s Penguin radar, you’ll want to take the search engine’s tips to heart. Allowing your website to become “overly optimized” boils down to poor business practices, and can cost you money if you’ve been targeted.
The best bet is to follow Google’s websmaster tips. Here’s a summary:
- First and foremost, your pages should have been “created for users, not for search engines.” Anything that a person wouldn’t be interested in, just shouldn’t have much real estate on your website.
- Make sure your site has a hierarchy, and there is an easily followed site map.
- Be creative, original, and information rich, and accurate. You want to be correct, but descriptive.
- Get rid of broken links, use robot.txt files, and your content management system uses crawl-able links and pages.