Google’s ‘Penguin’ update came to effect on April 24, 2012 and for many digital commentators was a very big deal. The update significantly changed the formula that Google uses to rank web pages in its search engine results – in essence where your company appears when a relevant keyword is searched.
Many websites were hit hard by this update, seen by many as ‘anti spam’ but in reality it did nothing more than automate the job Google’s team has been doing manually for years to fight web spam. Google says the ‘Penguin’ update will impact around 3% of search queries.
Black hat and ‘web spam tactics’ – who is Google targeting?
Google has been aware of ‘web spam’ for many years now and hopes its updated algorithm is a better way to detect abuse. Google states – ‘the rules haven’t changed – Google is just becoming a better and more efficient referee to algorithm manipulation’. The changes are very much geared towards websites that employ a ‘black hat’ approach to SEO in terms of:
‘The change will decrease rankings for sites that we believe are violating 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. Whilst we can’t divulge specific signals because we don’t want to give people a way to game our research 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’.
How will I know if I’ve been affected and what should I do?
Google has seriously stepped up its attempts to notify users through its webmaster tools and has sent over 700,000 messages to webmasters in January and February 2012. This is more than the total number of messages it sent in the whole of 2011.
If you haven’t verified your Google webmaster account then there could be a chance that Google has been trying to contact you with regards to your site’s spam behaviour. If this is the case, my first piece of advice would be to verify your account otherwise you need to action the following steps.
Log into your Google Analytics account and compare your organic search traffic a few days before and after the ‘Penguin’ update took place. There are 3 scenarios to consider:
- Have you noticed a drop in traffic post 24th May? If this is the case, it’s more than likely that the ‘Penguin’ update has had an effect on you.
- Has your website traffic stayed the same? This probably means that you have not been impacted by the update.
- Has there been an increase in your website traffic? This means that the update has had a positive effect on your website traffic due to others being impacted by the update. This could mean that you have increased rankings within the search engines and increased visibility, meaning you can be found more easily than before.
If you have not been affected by the update, it means that you are abiding by Google’s guidelines and there is nothing to worry about. If you have noticed a decline in rankings and web traffic then you must take additional steps to repair the damage from Google’s latest update.
How to recover from the ‘Penguin’ update
Search Engine Land recently posted a blog detailing information on Penguin Update recovery tips and advice. So if you know you have been impacted by the latest update due to a drop in rankings and also volume of traffic, the following approach is recommended.
- Clean up on-page spam
- Clean up bad links
- Wait for news of a future ‘Penguin’ update and monitor its effects
- If your website traffic decreases, try further cleaning or consider starting over with a fresh site
- If you really believe you were a false positive, file a report as explained here
What to take away from Google’s web spam algorithm update
Google is looking for you to focus on creating high quality websites that create a good user experience and ones that follow Google’s quality guidelines and employ ‘white hat’ SEO methods instead of adopting aggressive ‘black hat’ web spam tactics. As long as you stick within these guidelines, then you have nothing to worry about.
Need help creating quality content that works for search engines and gets your business noticed? Get in touch.
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