Google recently changed its search algorithm in an affect to weed out spam. At first, the update had no name. Google merely said that it was tweaking its algorithm to help improve search results. It was only later when the blogosphere erupted that Google’s hand was forced and the Penguin moniker was born.
According to Matt Cutts, a prominent Google engineer, “The Penguin algorithm update was designed to reduce web spam, which is when websites try to get a higher search ranking than they deserve by deceiving or manipulating search engines.”
Cutts goes on to say that, “In many cases, the affected sites had been spamming for a long time.”
Cutts refers to tactics like ‘keyword stuffing’, which is where you overload a web page with keywords that offer no real value other than to spam the search engines, and paying for inbound links in an effort to achieve higher search rankings.
The Results Of Penguin
Did Penguin succeed at getting rid of all those scam sites that offer no real value? Possibly, but many webmasters are complaining that their sites took drastic hits in the SERPs through no fault of their own.
Ralph Slate’s website dropped significantly in the search results immediately following the Penguin update. Slate runs a database of hockey players that used to appear near the top of the search results page for top hockey players. Now, the site ranks pages deep, where most searchers will never go.
Then there are those that have seen a substantial rise in rankings because of the update. Austin, Texas company SpareFoot Inc. saw its site traffic double in the weeks following the Penguin Update. According to Tony Emerson, who handles SEO for SpareFoot, his competitors were engaged in unfair practices to achieve higher rankings. “It’s been frustrating,” he says. “We’d been doing the right thing for so long.”
As with any Google update, there are bound to be sites that dip due to collateral damage. It’s unfortunate when this happens, but usually the numbers are very small. With Penguin, that didn’t seem to be the case. The backlash following Penguin was quite substantial and Google immediately followed up with a form that webmasters can fill out if they feel slighted by Penguin for no reason. If you have been affected after Penguin, fill out that form that let your voice be heard. Only by getting feedback can Google ever hope to get it right.
Why Did Webmasters Dip?
Many webmasters who were hit by Penguin thought they were doing everything correctly. Most of these webmasters have a website, they engage in article marketing and web 2.0 marketing and lots of link building. That’s not all, however. Some webmasters were engaged in link building and some even bought links, which Google sees as spam-like behavior.
The webmasters that fared well and even doubled their traffic following the Penguin update were the ones that truly were doing everything correctly. They were engaged in article marketing, but those articles were of the highest quality and actually offered value to the reader. Links were gained over time and organically and weren’t sold, traded or reciprocated.
Most of all, the webmasters that fared well were the ones that are engaged in lots of social marketing and get links from prominent sites like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube.
How can you protect your website from future Google updates? If you weren’t affected by this update, you’re lucky. Be forewarned, however, as another update will soon come your way. Will you fare the same way? If you were affected, all you can do is promise to be squeaky clean from here on out. Actually provide value for your readers, subscribers, prospects and customers. Test and tweak your website so that it provides more authority than your competitors. Find out what your competitors are doing as far as link building and traffic generation go and improve on those efforts.
Google is not out to punish webmasters. Rather, Google wants to provide the most useful experience for its users. If your website provides search engine users with exactly what they are looking for, Google will reward you. If you want to drive traffic to your website and you want to keep within Google’s guidelines so that future updates don’t affect you, it’s best to learn right from them.
Google provides a number of webmaster tools in a platform of the same name that offers tutorials, articles, advice and Q&As that will teach you all you need to know about search engine rankings and how to dominate your niche. Google wants you to succeed in the rankings so that you please its search engine users. Let Google teach you how it’s done and you’ll never be affected by a Google update expect in positive ways.
Penguin came and went. Hopefully you remained unaffected. Will the results be the same in future updates? It might be time to audit your online marketing methods and let Google guide the way so that you can earn the rankings you want and the substantial web traffic you deserve.